3.1 Work in partnership with the individual and others to identify their preferred methods of communication

Course: NVQ Level 4 Diploma In Health And Social Care (RQF)

Unit 2: Advanced Communication Skills

LO3: Be able to interact with individuals

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3.1 Work in partnership with the individual and others to identify their preferred methods of communication

People have different preferences when it comes to how they communicate. Working in partnership with others and identifying their preferred method of communication can help you better understand the individual, which will allow for more effective interaction on your end as well.

Identify characteristics of preferred communication methods to allow for effective interactions

People might use different methods of communication due to:

  • physical limitations (hearing, vision, and movement disabilities)
  • cognitive issues (learning disabilities)
  • psychiatric concerns (e.g., schizophrenia or bipolar disorder)
  • environmental barriers (e.g., noise interference)

As identified in the infographic, other factors to take into account are:

  • level of detail required for effective communication
  • degree of accuracy/certainty required by the individual
  • amount of background knowledge needed or assumed

It is important to remember that each person communicates differently, based on their individual preferences.

Identify the preferred communication methods used by the individual

There are many methods that an individual may use to communicate.

  • The deaf community uses British Sign Language, which is a language in itself and has its own grammar and syntax.
  • Other people may prefer the use of Makaton, a form of signing based around English and simplified signs and symbols.
  • Some people who struggle with speaking would rather use writing to express themselves. This can be in the form of text messaging, writing notes, or creating their own alphabet board to communicate with others through touch.
  • Some people who prefer to speak may have slurred speech and so rely on lip reading, facial expressions, and body language to understand what they are saying.
  • Other people have unimpaired speech but use an electronic voice output device that reads out letters or words from a specialized machine.
  • Some people who have lost the ability to speak can use a switch with a tablet or laptop to type and then the device converts what they have written into speech. This is called ‘speech-generating equipment’.

There are many other methods that an individual may use to communicate, such as sign language, symbols, writing/texting, and computerized speech.

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Determine if that is a comfortable way for you to communicate with them

It may not always be possible for you to communicate with the individual using their preferred method of communication. It may be challenging for you to learn sign language or it may not be practical to carry a board around with letters on it so the individual can type in their response. It could even be that they prefer writing but there is no paper or pen around so you want to use their preferred method of communication.

You should work together with the individual and other healthcare professionals involved in their care to determine if that is an appropriate way for you to communicate with them. If this is not possible, then alternative methods may need to be used when communicating. If this is the case, it is important that you do whatever works best for both of you.

For example, if an individual prefers sign language but you are unable to use it yourself, try lip reading instead. Take your time to understand what they are trying to say before answering them or signing another message back. Be patient and ask them questions if necessary so that you can get your point across clearly. It is important to remember that you should never leave the individual alone if they are using sign language.

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Ask if there are any other ways that they would like to communicate with you

The individual may tell you that they are happy for you to use their preferred method of communication but would also like you to ask them questions so they can learn more about what is going on around them, or if there’s anything else they need.

It is important for the individual to feel included and understood so it is essential that you get their consent before communicating with them in a way that is not their preferred method.

It is also important to remember that this could be considered ‘forced learning’ and the individual may feel uncomfortable when learning something new if it’s not something they want to do. So, always ask first so you don’t upset them or make them feel like they have no choice but to learn how to communicate.

For example: Did you understand what I said? Can we use writing/texting because my hands hurt? Who’s she speaking to? What’s going on in XX (location)? Is there anything else I need to know about (procedure)? Do you want me to find out more for you or would you rather I didn’t look into it?

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