Activity 21.4: Critical thinking

What communication techniques might a nurse use to enable a patient to understand, retain, weigh-up and communicate a decision?

Communication impairments are commonly associated with learning disabilities; whether with regards to expressive communication or comprehension. It is likely therefore that you will have to adapt your communication to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities.  The following guidelines may help to ensure that your communication is appropriate to the needs of people with learning disabilities. Ensure that your communication is clear. Use simple language and keep your sentences short. Explain any difficult or unfamiliar words.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) offers a wide range of approaches, techniques and tactics for supporting communication. The main purpose of intervention is to bring about tangible benefits to the person’s existing situation and to provide ‘the best opportunities for developing language and communication’ (Martinsen & von Tetzchner 1996: 39).

There are different groups who may benefit from some form of AAC:

  • augmented group: those who understand and use spoken language, but need a system as a backup.
  • expressive group: those who have a good understanding of spoken language, but need the system for expression.
  • receptive group: those who need a system to understand as well as to express themselves.

So what are the choices in terms of AAC?

Briefly the options fall into one or other of two camps: unaided communication and aided communication.

  • Unaided typically describes face to face communication where the participants use the characteristics of natural communication, for example, speech, manual signs, facial expressions and eye gaze.
  • Aided, on the other hand included all types of communication where the linguistic utterances (letters, words / graphemes / graphic symbols / objects) have to be selected from a display, for example, communication boards, books, electronic aids, set of objects.