The timing is right! I am a believer that for people to learn the timing has to be right. By this I mean they have to want to learn, they have to be in an environment that promotes learning and there has to be an agreed outcome.
My daughter goes to high school next year and one of the concerns raised is her ability to communicate with the other students, teachers and carers at the school. So I became motivated to improve her use of her communication device and I became a motivated communication partner.
In partnership with our speech therapist we are now having weekly sessions and learning ways to promote my daughter’s use of her device. We have been using the same app for a number of years but it has never really been set up for efficient use and she hasn’t been motivated to use it, BEFORE NOW. Now she has a team behind her. It is amazing the progress a person can make when they are given the opportunities to have a go and they experience success (and failure) and have people around them motivating and encouraging them. She takes her device everywhere now including school and appointments and people are amazed at her use of the device and now she even tries to initiate conversations. Don’t get me wrong there is still a long way to go.
In a couple of months she has progressed from a very basic format on her communication app to a more complex format. She has progressed from one word statements to now making simple sentences. We are even introducing plurals, past and present tense into her vocab. She is enjoying using it and is using it regularly even at home to tell us what’s on her mind, to tell us how she is feeling or what she want’s to do. I am so proud of my girl, she is such an inspiration and she never gives up. She is patient with her communication partners it’s a shame we aren’t always patient with her when she is communicating.
I now understand the importance of being a good communication partner for people with complex communication needs who use alternative methods of communication (AAC) like my daughter. I have learnt that my role and the role of a communication partner isn’t just listening to them. It is giving them the opportunities to learn to communicate their needs, wants and choices in a non judgmental environment. It is modeling correct sentence structure and helping them catch up on the lessons we are taught from birth with speech. It doesn’t take us months to learn to talk in sentences however, at times we give people a device and expect that they will pick it up and suddenly be able to communicate in full sentences and proper grammar. We are kidding ourselves.
By a communication partner I mean the person that they are trying to communicate with which includes family, friends and all other members of the community they try to converse with.
If there is one thing I hope you get out of the blog entry, it is that you learn the importance of YOU as a communication partner to people who use alternative methods of communication like iPads. They need you to be patient and give them time to communicate their message, respond to them appropriately, don’t be scared to ask questions or make a comment, they would love the feedback and show interest and respect in what they have to say. Basically, give them the right to have a voice.