Dyssemia: Assessment and remediation

MENA Dubai 2003 Abstract

Author Devika Singh

Copy Nonverbal communication is a fundamentally important way that people communicate and relate to one another. Stephen Nowicki and Marshall Duke propose that some children may be deficient in recieving and sending nonverbal messages. The term "Dyssemia" has been coined to describe such nonverbal social communication deficits in children. There are three ways in which a child can develop Dyssemia: a lack of the appropriate situations and experiences, a brain dysfunction and emotional difficulties. Just as it is hard for Dyslexics to process the written word, Dyssemics have trouble using nonverbal language.

Two types of nonverbal communication deficits have been proposed; receptive and expressive. Informal assessment measures have been outlined to help recognize symptoms of Dyssemia as well as treatment outlines to help the child and adults in their life cope with it. Six channels of nonverbal communication are described; rhythm and use of time, interpersonal distance (space) and touch, gestures and postures, facial expressions, paralinguistics (voice tone, pitch, etc.) and objectics (style of dress). The need for informal and formal remediation is discussed highlighting the fact that people who are unable to process nonverbal cues effectively are more likely to have problems in relating to others.

Fortunately, these skills can be built and strengthened with instruction resulting in better interpersonal relationships. The process of remediation has been broken down into four stages: discrimination of nonverbal cues, understanding the meaning of nonverbal cues, meaningful expression of specific nonverbal cues, and the application of nonverbal cues to social situations. Answers to the basic problem of social rejection are offered here as: awareness and remediation of Dyssemia. Duke and Nowicki guide parents and teachers through this process and offer similar advice for adults who show symptoms of Dyssemia.