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communicating with a non-verbal person

there are sooo many ways a person who cant talk, or talk very much, or talk very well, can communicate.    those who can, use the speech they have, to the best of their abilities in addition to  combining other methods.   they are quite adept at it.   i think it often takes greater intelligence, and a bit of art, to communicate on their part, more so than it does for those whose speech flows like water.

what are some common methods non verbal or verbally challenged folks use to communicate?

the most reknown is body language.  i tend to think that term is weak though.  at least in relationship to folk who lean on it when words fail them.  for these countenance and eye contact come more into play.  so i'd like to call what they use to speak as facial language.  one of my group can look at me and i know they have a question, a problem, that they agree, disagree, are confused are elated, are bored to death  all at a glace from the neck up.   i can tell if they are satisfied with something, hungry for more, scared, or eagerly engrossed.  infact, a face can communicate a very large spectrum of messages.  this simple form of listening takes only that to become good at... listening.   

other common methods are communication boards, or books, filled with pictures and symbols they point to when they have something to say.  or perhaps give a verbal affirmation you are correct, if they cant point.  check out scotts post on 'a word with scott'.   while these symbols may be exactly what they want to say 'i'm hungry', or 'call my mom', they are also used to steer direction.  'it has something to do with your house', or 'your having problems with bla bla bla'. communication boards and books are invaluable for those who use them.  nonetheless they contain lots of empty spaces despite heroic  efforts.  one board or one book can NOT adequately reflect what a fully matured, intelligent trapped soul may want to say.   YET  it beats no communication device at all.

some are fortunate enough to know and be able to use sign language, or a home grown version all their own.  sign language whether formal, regional, or home grown  can be learned by the willing.  actually its a quick learn as its often visually simular to what they wanta say.   3 members of live2give incorporate home grown signs into their verbal communication.  one example is lifting a fist to an ear to communicate telephone.   

i'm gonna gloss over those who can use a computer or computer device.  those who are lucky enough to have the  ability and the equipment to do so are to be envied.  not to say it still cant challenge the user, for it remains very time consuming.  often just the learning phase to become adept is painfully slow.   if they use an adaptive switch to operate the computer it should be pointed out that this method can still take a good chunk of time to get the message out.    all communication for the non verbal takes the effort of a warrior and the patience of a saint!

which brings me to my final focus on communication methods,  this is the one employed most by wilde.   its a composite of facial language, boards when applicable, and the related idea method (question/answer/multiple choice).  i think for simplicity i'll call it the homogenized method.

this method utilizes the speech ability of the individual ('yes's, no's',  'short phrases',  'very long stories for those able' ), integrates facial language or perhaps home grown sounds symbolic of understood responces, and brings in the related idea method where one offers up every sort of multiple choice or related idea that the communicator may wanta lead them in.    the latter is one we use a lot.   it opens up far more possibilites for them to make comments on.  it also leads directionally for someone who has something you'd never guess to say.   they steer facially or with their words.   they lead clearly as you know quick what to rule out by their feedback.  they want you  to understand and they make sure you do~

using this method is empowering and freeing for the communicator.  its so much easier for them to simply affirm or reject the related idea, than to get you to understand their long explanation of what they want.  in some instances its like playing 20 questions, but shooting more for catagories than specifics at first, narrowing it down until you come to something very close to what they want to express or lead ya in.   for example, i'd ask  'is it related to the program in anyway (staff peers activities etc)'.  i would not begin by asking 'did you forget your lunch?  or 'did you wanta get on the computer?'   

now the better you know someone the faster you are at this knowing what is already of common interest in their world ( their family, their health, and regular topics of interest to them).  what these suggestions would look like vary from individual to individual.  its also situationally specific in relationship to the time involved.  for example, if your doing something abstract or creative  your related ideas will have to be equally abstract or creative. 

while this method holds the potential to be very liberating and an excellant method for them to communicate, it does require both time and patience from both the communicator and the listener.  it also takes effort from both to follow it through to the end of the matter.   

this is how some of wilde communicate.  not only is it their prefered method, but they are quite adept at it.   while it shouldnt be a surprise, often one is surprised by how much they are  willing to speak and share, if they have a listener.   communicate they do!  communicate well they do. sometimes it may take much effort, time, and strain.  other times it freely flows and theres no noticable lapse of time to communication.   the longer you work with someone the more there is of the latter.

for those of you who wanted a few glimpses into communicating with non verbal or verbally challenged people, i hope this helps some. 

my objective is to let their words come out their mouths, and freed them to share their own ideas in their own name. 

for better or worse
the mascot

Posted by group mascot on January 27, 2005 at 07:17 PM in Mascot's Musings | Permalink


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Thank you for sharing Mascot.
Its my first visit to your blog and i really like what I see so far. Tell everyone I said hi and keep up the good work.!!
your new friend~~
Delta~~Sapphier Stirling a Brigadoon resident..

Posted by: delta7899 | Feb 1, 2005 6:19:46 AM

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