During Better Hearing and Speech Month, CORA Physical Therapy is celebrating the complexity of communication, even in its nonverbal, augmented or alternative forms.
A raise of the eyebrows among strangers. American sign language with friends. Optikey machines that let paralyzed patients type messages with just their eyes.
What does each of these things have in common? They are all forms of augmentative and alternative communication, a broad array of methods used to convey meaning without spoken words. Here’s what we mean by that:
- Augmentative: Think of these as enhancing the verbal communication we already do, with body language, facial expressions and other subtle hints that offer context on how we feel. These can either match the words that we say or override the message, but most experts agree that the vast majority of all communication (70-93%) is nonverbal.
- Alternative: Think of these as replacing the verbal communication that we might do, either for temporary purposes (gestures when there is a need for quiet, or temporary methods while overcoming injury) or long-term strategies (sign language for hearing loss, writing down messages to overcome speaking conditions, etc.).
Speech-language pathologists can be instrumental in helping patients overcome obstacles to effective communication, prescribing aided and unaided methods to convey meaning without spoken words. Aided methods are anything that requires tools other than the patient’s body.
At CORA , our dedicated speech-language pathologists are spread across nine states and 200+ clinics work on creative, personalized solutions to overcome any communication barriers you may be experiencing. Here are just a few ways that we can help you, or someone you love:
While childhood development happens within a range and every individual is different, there are certain benchmarks that are typical. When communication is delayed, it can affect the ability to obtain other milestones, including cognition and understanding.
If your toddler is nonverbal or seems confused by your words, it might be a good time to find a SLP to assist in diagnosis. Alternative forms of communication could include single-meaning pictures, letter boards, or even pictures with more than one meaning.
By giving the patient different ways to express themselves, it can help establish where communication is breaking down (cognitively or physically) and help lead to a diagnosis and treatment. Treatment might include help with forming sounds, stuttering, swallowing, or even other therapies (such as physical or occupational therapy) to assist with positioning and postural control. It may also include long-term strategies such as sign language or hearing aids and implants.
Planned medical procedures (such as dental surgery) or traumatic injuries (such as a car crash) can render someone temporarily unable to communicate verbally. During this time, it is important to have AAC methods in place for both the patient and their caregivers.
Depending on the full scope of the patient’s condition, simply using a pen and paper could be enough to bypass verbal communication. If the limitations are more extensive, using a system of pointing, flashcards, taps or blinking could be needed. Regardless, the key is finding a system that is simple enough to remember and robust enough to serve the needs of the patient in the near term.
Becoming increasingly nonverbal are hallmarks of age-related conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s disease, which affect 5-10% of the American population. Caring for patients with these conditions requires a long list of considerations, not the least of which is maintaining methods for effective communication.
Two creative options for maintaining communication with someone in cognitive decline are memory wallets and personalized books. These tools are filled with pictures and declarative statements and can be used to remind a patient of who they are. This can offer context for details about their lives that can feel very confusing in that moment.
SLPs can help by creating these resources and monitoring their usage. As cognitive and physical ability declines over time, those resources can be modified to shorten the sentences and increase the letter size, ensuring that they remain comforting and useful to the patient. Digital picture slideshows, particularly those with the option for narration, have become popular tools for SLPs and caregivers.
Ready to Serve You
CORA’s speech-language pathologists are ready to address a broad array of communication issues that can affect patients at any age. Clinicians do more than just diagnose and prescribe treatment–they adopt functional tools and approaches that work best for you or your loved one.
With 200+ clinical locations, the ability to utilize remote TeleHealth options, and the option for in-home visits, CORA is committed to treating everyone right, right where they are. Having trouble deciding which options are best for you? Please contact our team at [email protected] with any questions.