It’s all about connecting and conversation
Four expert tips on approaching alternate ways to communicate.
People are diverse and the communication methods they use are equally different. Shirls Wong, who is an Advisor in Inclusive Practice for Northcott, says that many people can be frightened of engaging with somebody who uses different communication methods (Shirls uses a communication board and iPad as her preferred aids). She urged people to remember that all people are trying to do is connect and have a conversation.
With years of experience and many interactions, her advice is to follow these four tips, adapt and enjoy the conversation:
Listen – listening is the key to communication, whether that is through speech or following somebody who uses an alphabet or communications board. Once they have finished, then you can respond.
Keep it simple – avoid jargon, complex sentences and words and communicate in a simple, straight forward style. Don’t talk too fast and give people time to process what you have said and time to respond.
Be patient – some communication methods take longer. If somebody is using an alphabet board it takes time to indicate the letters and so communication is slower, but no less important.
Everyone is different – people have lots of different ways in which they prefer to communicate and interact. They are all equally acceptable and the best way to find out which way works for somebody is to ask them. This can vary in different situations. For example, Shirls usually chooses to use her portable communications board when she is out and about in the community, but finds the iPad is quicker and easier for presentations to groups.
Her final suggestion is don’t be afraid to try. People with disability have pretty thick skins and will help somebody who is not sure about the best way to communicate, as long as they want to engage. If in doubt, just ask nicely, it usually works with everybody.
October is also Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Awareness Month. The Australian branch of AAC has more details about AAC and any events planned.