Communicating beyond words

By Lorayne Bejjani and Sudi Gowen, Northcott Speech Pathologists, 24 August 2017 , Comments

Communication is a basic human right. But imagine if people constantly made assumptions about you, your intellect, or what you needed, because you couldn’t tell them yourself. As we celebrate Speech Pathology Week (20-26 of August), discover the many ways to having a say.

Take a moment and imagine being unable to speak or communicate. Imagine people constantly making assumptions about you, your intellect and what you want, need or like, because you don’t have a way to tell them yourself. This is often the case for people with complex communication needs who do not have an effective communication system in place.

Speech pathologists work with people who have complex communication needs and their loved ones to empower and support them to have a voice which others can hear. We call it augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), whereby we equip people with methods other than speech to communicate, such as using body language, facial expressions, sign language, symbols, pictures, voice output devices and apps.

Here at Northcott, we also use eye-gaze devices with language and voice output software to allow people with motor neuron disease and other neurological conditions to communicate using a synthetic voice. This supports them to make phone calls, send emails and text messages, as well as type Microsoft Word documents.

Specialist augmentative and alternative communication devices with language software have been effective in giving a voice to people with a range of disability including cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders. Communication apps have also successfully been used by people with a range of communication difficulties.

Parents and communication partners have embraced these communication methods. They have also been a great way to learn special and personal things about their loved ones, the ones they care about the most. Little things such as finding out about their favourite colour, hearing their opinion about a song, or showing affection such as, ‘I love you’, has given an enormous sense of happiness to many. These things are what connect families and friends together. 

Find out how Northcott’s Speech Therapy service can support you or your child to achieve their communication goals.

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