Communicating with Individuals with Communication Disabilities

Increasingly as we move forward in society you see more and more individuals with special needs out in the community. However, sometimes it can be challenging to try and communicate with some of these individuals; especially if you have no prior experiences or trainings on the subject. This weeks blog I will be presenting some helpful tips on better communication with individuals with a communication disability.

For starters, patience is the primary ingredient for successful communication. It can take sometime sometimes for a person to respond or understand so patience is always important to communicating. Secondly, getting eye to eye level with the individual is always favorable and demonstrates your respect for the person. In addition, most persons with communication disabilities are not hearing impaired so speaking loudly and slowly is not something I would advise if you are trying to be respectful; instead, simply speak at your normal rate and tone but be sure to speak clearly. If they are having trouble understanding you try and eliminate jargon and pointless words from what you’re saying; also, try and use plain language that’s easy to understand and is straight forward.

Now a days, many none verbal individuals are using speech generated devices. Quite commonly referred to as a “talker”, these devices allow the person to be understood and heard by a wider variety of people rather then their closely connected peers. However, these devices can sometimes mispronounce words as well as words being difficult to make out at times. In those particular situation don’t look over their shoulder to see what they are trying to say, instead simply ask them to repeat themselves or rephrase. If they cannot do so then chances are they will be understanding and allow you to then look over their shoulder and see what they are trying to articulate.

In other cases, some people may have an aid or a translator with them. Do not speak to this helper, you are talking to the individual and your attention should be directed as such. Also, do not speak about the individual in third person when they are present. They are people who deserve respect and can understand more about their surrounding than you might perceive.

Overall, patience is the key. Although that task may seem daunting every individual deserves to be heard and understood, and if that level of respect takes an extra five or ten minutes out of our busy lives to be accomplished then I see no reason for why this can’t be done.

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