As social beings, we communicate for many reasons: to engage and socialise with others, to have a conversation, to negotiate, to problem solve, to explain, to get what we want, to ask questions, to sympathise, to encourage. Communication shows who we are and what believe and feel. We communicate differently with different people and again differently in different situations; we can be formal, full of fun, enquiring or instructive. We can discuss and gossip, debate and argue, share experiences and laugh.
To communicate well we think, talk, use gesture, use facial expression, write, read, email, text. When it is difficult to do any of these things it impacts on our ability to communicate. For example, if movement is challenging, it may impact on our effort to speak and use facial expression. Changes in cognition may affect thinking, planning what to say and expressing feelings.
It is not easy to know what someone is thinking or feeling if they can’t communicate. It is not easy to know how to relate with a person if they can’t tell you what they want.
Top Tips -- 1.Things to know:
Two or more people communicating have the best relationship and conversations when they know each other. It can be fun getting to know someone or if you already know them, remembering what they like and who they are. One person I know with speech difficulties told me to remember she liked chocolate and Mozart. Immediately I knew a little about her person. When a person is disabled there is more to know about their specific abilities, what care is best, how they want to be helped, preferences and which timings work the best.
2. Things that might help when talking is difficult:
- Being honest is the best policy.
- Speak slowly and recap if needed; allow time for a response.
- Ask yes or no questions; Give choices and number them so the answer can be one word.
- Repeat and double check you’ve got what the person is saying.
- Ask the person to be louder or to repeat.
- Ask for the most important part of the message (the key word).
- Ask the person to point or guess what she wants.
- Move on if you feel the thought is stuck and the person is very frustrated. Try again later.
- Alert others to the best way to communicate when you have found it.
- Try not to talk for the person.
3. Things to enhance better conversations:
Having conversations that are real life, informative and fun is important as daily life can be frustrating. People report that listening and engaging are good, even when they can’t participate easily or speak well.
- Sit at the same level, face each other.
- Encourage everyone to have a turn.
- Check the person is understanding.
- Give the person time to form a thought or add a comment.
- Increase the person’s involvement by making a comment, asking for an opinion.
- Use phrases to encourage involvement, e.g. ‘I noticed’, I saw…’ etc.
- Use visual pictures or texts to get comments from a hesitant speaker.
- Notice when someone has something to say.