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The fun of finding words

Pictured: Cliff and Speech Pathologist Amanda.

The following blog is written by Amanda Elston, Rosebud Hospital Speech Pathologist.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For particular focus in Speech Pathology Week is Article 19 which highlights that communication is a human right. Communication access is communication for all!

When Cliff first arrived at Rosebud Hospital he was unable to verbalise at all. He had no communication. Cliff presented with expressive and receptive aphasia (language difficulties), apraxia of speech (speech motor planning difficulties), dysphonia (voice difficulties), and dysphagia (swallowing difficulties); or as his family like to say “he had the works!”

With the support of intensive Speech Pathology rehabilitation Cliff is now able to talk again, communicating his wants and needs. Because of his apraxia of speech and aphasia Cliff continues to have difficulty talking even though he knows what he wants to say. This can be very frustrating for him.

I often work with Cliff’s Physiotherapist Kellie and we run therapy sessions together in a multidisciplinary environment. Any task can be turned into an enriched communication environment and working together makes therapy fun.

Rehabilitation is a long, emotional journey for patients and their family members so it’s nice to help them find some joy. A simple game of bowling can work on naming, counting, sentence construction, reading, writing, and spontaneous communication; along with all the physiotherapy benefits as well!

When I asked Cliff to look back on his experience without communication access he said – “It’s a dark place… you don’t know what to say.

Supporting patients like Cliff to access communication again is why I love my job. This is why I’m a Speech Pathologist. Communication access is communication for all and I actively facilitate people to re-establish this basic human right every day of my life.

Tips for successful communication*

  • Always treat the person with the communication disability with dignity and respect
  • Understand there are many ways to communicate
  • Ask the person with the disability what will help with communication
  • Avoid loud locations, find a quiet place
  • Listen carefully
  • When you don’t understand, let them know you are having difficulty understanding
  • If you think the person has not understood, repeat what you have said or say it a different way
  • Try asking the person yes or no questions if you are having difficulty understanding them
  • Ask the person to repeat or try another approach if you don’t understand
  • To make sure you are understood, check with the person that you have understood them correctly
  • If you ask a question, wait for the person to reply
  • Allow the person time to respond, so always be patient

*Source: Adapted from SCOPE, Communication for All Booklet.