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Challenge Newsletter Winter 2014: Communication

Vivien Cooper introduces the Winter 2014 edition of the CBF's newsletter, Challenge. You can download a PDF copy of the newsletter here, or read it online using issuu

Page-2-Viv-Cooper-.JPGCommunication is central to all our lives, and most of us have a range of ways of doing this – including through speech, facial expression and body language as well as the written word. We communicate about our feelings and emotions, thoughts, fears, likes and dislikes, our actions and intentions – it has an impact on all aspects of our lives and our interactions with others.

For most of us, verbal communication is a very important communication tool – but my son Daniel does not communicate verbally. He communicates by signing and has a wide repertoire of signs (of course they are not text book signs- and many are his own!). He has the same things he needs to communicate about, but fewer means with which to do so. So it is essential that we find ways for him to tell us all the things he needs and wants to, and to make sure that he understands what we want him to know.

When he first started school, they focussed on teaching him to sign “please” and “thank you”. At home we tried to focus on teaching him to communicate “yes” and “no” – so that we could work things out by a process of elimination! Later on, at a different school, they were much more practical - they taught him “stop” and “finish” so he could control what was happening. Daniel is very sociable and enjoys interacting with a wide range of people in different situations – he has a wicked sense of humour and loves jokes and making people laugh. When he is supported by people who know him well, and can sign, he is able to indicate his needs, what he wants to do – even what he is remembering or thinking of.

But throughout his life an astonishing number of people who have supported him have not been able to sign – imagine what that would be like, to be supported by someone who doesn’t “listen” to what you are saying and pays no attention to what you are trying to communicate. I think if I was in that situation I would inevitably end up displaying challenging behaviour!

We need to think about what the key things are we need to communicate –a good starting point is to think about if you could only have 10 “words” what would they be? Mine would not include “please” and “thank you”. They would include yes, no, stop, happy, sad and help. In this edition of Challenge, which focusses on communication, I hope you find there is a range of information about communication that emphasises its importance and which shares practical information that will help.

 

Vivien Cooper OBE

Chief Executive and Founder of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation


17/11/2014

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