Saturday, May 5, 2012

How do you communicate with your clients?

Wow, it's been a while! Things have been a bit crazy lately, so I apologize.

Lately, and in the past, I've worked with a lot of people who have a hard time with communication. Obviously, I'm no speech therapist, but I work with some great ones and they have taught me a lot. Seriously think about it for a minute though, without communication, all other interaction or intervention isn't as effective. So, as an OT, I feel that it is important for me to try and find a way I am able to have at least some successful communication with the clients I work with.

Sometimes, it's someone with a brain injury, where they maybe had a stroke, or a TBI. You therapists know that communication difficulties depend on where your brain is damaged. Maybe they have trouble understanding, maybe it's just expression, or possibly both. Other times it could be develepemental, autism or Down Syndrome, or from other disorders such as MS, ALS, Alzheimers, etc.

More often if it's expressive language, they can get a communication device through a Speech Therapist. This could be something like Dynavox or Tobii device. They also have apps on iPads and smart phones (proloquo2go is one) that provide access to communication as well. You can even use communication boards with pictures, letters or words that you or them can point to. If you don't have a Speech Therpist or access to one, try and advocate for your clients and get them something that may work. :)

Where I work, the Speech Therapist will look for the best option from some of the above choices as well as many other parts, and the OT plays a role for finding which access method is best. Can they use their finger to point? If not, what about a switch? Which movements are accurate enough for switch activation? What type of switch? What about using your head to choose (reflective sticker/camera)? What about eye gaze? Can they see the whole screen or just part? Can they handle 20 'buttons' or only 4? What type of mount will they need? I have a lot to learn before I would feel proficient with all of those areas, but it is fun to be able to give people that success to communicate more independently.

I also see this a lot now that I've been doing more with people who have ALS. It's hard because cognitively, things are still great, but their bodies and voices give up on them. I'll have to talk more about that in a different post so I don't get too lengthy here.

Another thing that I think of often is music. I LOVE music. There are often times you might hear me humming down the hallway or sitting at my desk. I would hate to lose any of my senses, but hearing would be one of the hardest. I listened to this show on NPR a while ago about Music Therapy and how successful it can be in regainin communciation. Think Gabby Gifford, and watch this:

I love it. Stories like that are just so incredible. So I guess what I'm trying to get out of this, is that you should try to find a way to communicate. Whether it's any of the above methods, or some others.

Here is one more little pearl--a video of a man who has been 'absent' from himself for quite some time, and how music brings him back. Love this!!!!

Happy Saturday!