Communication is essentially the ability to make known or share information, thoughts and feelings.
Everyone communicates, but it is not always in a way that is easy to understand. Can range from a mild difficulty to having very little verbal language
As members of society, the ability to communicate is an essential requirement for each of us if we are to function successfully in our everyday lives.
- Get to know the person and how they communicate
- Make sure you have the person’s attention when speaking to them.
- Make sure the person has their hearing aids in, switched on and working, and glasses on if appropriate
- Consider the environment. Is it noisy and distracting?
- Use short sentences and common, everyday words
- Add gesture, tone of voice and facial expression to your message.
- Get to know the person and how they communicate e.g. do they use specific gestures or signs that hold meaning for them
- People with down’s syndrome respond well to visual information so we should recognise this strength and make use of it when communicating
- Use pictures, photographs and objects to add meaning to your message
- Use photographs, pictures or objects to help someone get their message across
- Go at their pace - give the person plenty of time to listen and respond to what you are saying
- Check that the person has understood your message.
- Be consistent when communicating
- Don’t assume that someone understands everything. Some people with Down’s Syndrome can appear skilled at talking to others but still have difficulty understanding everything that they hear
- Don’t have more than one person speaking at once
- Don’t overload someone with lots of verbal information and instructions at the one time.
- Don’t use figurative language but instead be clear about what it is you are saying
- Relationship and interaction based
- Punishment and aversive procedures not used
- Unconditional value and respect
- Look beyond behaviour
- Behaviour is/as communication
Whatever a someone’s communication level, it is still important to address the person directly so that they feel valued and respected as an individual, even when a carer is providing the information
DOs of better communication ...
DONT'S of better communication ...
Poor communication can cause behaviours that are perceived as challenging.
The term ‘Challenging Behaviour’ – “emphasises that such behaviours represent challenges to services rather than problems which individuals with learning disabilities in some way carry around with them.”
Blunden & Allen (1987)
"Behaviour(s) of such intensity, frequency or duration that the physical safety of the person or others is likely to be placed in serious jeopardy, or behaviour which is likely to seriously limit use of, or result in the person being denied access to, ordinary community facilities."
Emerson, E. (1995)
Challenging behaviour can be due to many different causes and can significantly reduce quality of life. When someone displays new or worsening challenging behaviour it is crucial to exclude physical ill health.
Positive approaches to challenging behaviour
Principles of Positive Behavioural Supports:
Specialist Learning Disability services are available to assist with the assessment and treatment of challenging behaviour
Will people with Down's Syndrome have difficulty concentrating on long sentences / instructions
Should you touch the person before speaking to them?
Will people with Down's Syndrome have difficulty filtering out background noise during a conversation?
Should you say the person’s name to gain their attention and then if appropriate use touch?
Should you use eye contact at all times?
Should you keep conversation plain and simple, sticking to key facts?
Should you assume the person understands when they nod or comply with request?
Should you give the person time to process the information?
Should you adapt the environment to minimise noise or distraction?