For SLPs

Words that Stick: Creating a Story of Possibility for Our Students

Words that stick are positive, inspirational words that we share with our students. Our speech and language therapy students struggle with communication, which is one of the cornerstones of modern society. How we calm, inspire, and motivate them matters, and so do words that stick.

I’ve been having a blast with guest posters on my blog. I have an amazing post for you today from Valerie Wacker, an SLP who wanted to share her thoughts on providing positive words to our students. Read on to learn more!

As SLPs we are known for talking.  After all, talking is what we do, teach, and love.  On any one day we say thousands of words to those around us.  We know words matter.  However, how mindful are we of the words within our daily exchanges?  Will that word choice inspire or deflate the listener?   Will those words be the words that stick and resonate with that person for years?

Erik X. Raj in April of 2015 posted a blog article called “The Power of Words within the Speech Setting”.  In it he wrote, “Every child is one caring word away from feeling successful.”  So many students go through the summer, break, or weekend without words to build them up.  In fact, maybe they’ve endured just the opposite.  Fortunately, just like the negative comment can stick so can the positive one.  We can make a difference in speaking words that help create a stable, consistent, and safe environment for our students to learn, take risks, and succeed.  Our words can form the connection that you are seen, heard, and valued.

Words can be powerful in shifting a student’s self-perceptions toward resiliency and a growth mindset.  In fact, “language is the most powerful weapon we have in changing student achievement” (Fisher, Frey, & Pumpian, 2012, p. 78).  This is because the language we hear shapes the story we tell ourselves.  If that story is one of possibility, students perform in ways that are consistent with that belief.  On the other hand, if the language the student hears tells them they can’t do it, then they’ll perform that way.  We have the power to change limiting stories.  (Fisher, Frey, & Pumpian, 2012)  That’s specifically why I wanted to be a SLP in the schools.  It’s inspiring that our authentic, encouraging words could indeed be the ones that stick fueling that student’s positive self-talk and belief in their own strengths and capabilities making them more likely to succeed.

Here’s a great example from my own personal experience.  In graduate school a professor left me an ordinary note to do some things for clinic, and at the end she added a quick comment about a presentation I was scheduled to give to an undergraduate class.  It read, “Hey!  Is your debut in Dx class tomorrow?  If so, good luck.  I’m proud of you already.  (I know you’ll do well).”  It’s a simple string of words yet 17 years later when I have a moment of self-doubt I think of this note, and I say to myself “You’ve got this.  I’m proud of you already.  I know you’ll do well.”  These words stuck and continue to have a positive effect in encouraging me to be successful.


As SLPs we touch many lives.  We do great things.  Our words matter, and our words stick.  Whatever challenging task you have in front of you today I want you to know “I’m proud of you already.  I know you’ll do well.”  May those words stick with you too.


Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Pumpian, I.  (2012).  How to create a culture of achievement in your

school and classroom.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

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