As someone who struggles a lot with certain aspects of communication, especially when the ways in which I communicate are not understood by those I am interacting with and are not met with patience, I often rely upon many different tools to navigate the world, one of which is a guide which quite literally communicates my ways of communicating.
This guide is a really useful thing to have, especially for giving to people I am going to meet for appointments as they can have some understanding and preparation in place on their part for how they are going to facilitate communication with me. It means I am not always expected to try my very best to align to a neuronormative expectation of how I am meant to be, because they know to meet me at my level. It also means they see beyond a label: they do not just read that I will be nonverbal there and assume I have nothing to say, they know I am funny and smart and opinionated and have my own ways of communicating with them.
In this post I will break down the kind of things I put in each section of my communication guide and then leave a blank copy for you to download and fill in if you want to.
Firstly, I start with the title, I personally do not title mine with anything beyond my name and NHS number as the document has the title, but if you make your own you can come up with all sorts of titles. I do quite like the idea of calling it: Communicating Communication.
Breaking Down Communication Generally
The first page is focused generally on how I communicate and what helps me to be understood and understand others.
What Facilitates Communication
In this section I put what kind of things help me with communication generally. It is the first section so it is kind of like an overview of some of the most important things someone would need to know to help ensure good communication between me and them. Some examples of things I have in here include:
- Having regularity to day and time of appointments.
- Having face to face appointments if possible.
- It is really helpful if I feel understood, and that my specific experiences are recognised.
- I like to clarify details – having patience and time to do this is really useful.
- Having a little bit of time to get to know the person I’m speaking to is helpful, and being introduced to new people I will work with.
How I Communicate
In this section I give an overview of the ways in which I communicate to help the person better understand me and how to communicate with me. Some examples of things I have in here include:
- I am unable to verbally communicate in appointments, but can communicate using text/writing.
- I can struggle with literal statements, and misinterpret some humour (I personally think I have a fantastic sense of humour myself!).
- I take people’s word choices seriously and am quite pedantic about language.
- I find it helpful to clarify meaning to ensure I have understood.
Other Information About Me That Is Useful To Know
In this section I just give a broad overview of anything else I think might be useful to know for others meeting me. As I often use this for health professionals, I tend to focus here about how I may express things like pain or emotions, as they are important parts of communication too. Some examples of things I have in here include:
- I can find it difficult to know what it is I am feeling emotionally.
- I struggle to express distress and pain.
- I have a poor concept of time.
- I need to move about, this is not me being rude or being bored, it is self-stimulator behaviour and something I need to do.
Breaking Down Communication Appointments
This is the second page and focuses on how to best support me through an appointment in terms of communication and is a really useful tool to send out to people before I meet them.
Things To Consider Before Appointments
In this section I include things, such as how to contact me in terms of arranging the appointment and what can be done beforehand to ensure I feel comfortable attending. Some examples of things I have in here include:
- The best means for arranging appointments is by mail or email.
- It is really helpful to know the purpose of the appointment in advance.
Things To Consider At The Start Of Appointments
In this section I advise on what is best to do when we meet, how we introduce ourselves, and how we start the appointment. Some examples of things I have in here include:
- It is helpful to revisit the purpose of the appointment.
- It is a good time to check in with how I am feeling, as this might impact on my ability to engage in the session.
Things To Consider During Appointments
This section focuses on what is important to communication throughout the appointment, both in terms of being understood, but more importantly here (since I have covered a lot of how I communicate), in terms of understanding the other person. Some examples of things I have in here include:
- If there are distracting noises, I will struggle to process what is being said.
- If you are giving me the choice of something it is best to only have two options (listing things can be tricky for me).
- I can find it hard to express when I am struggling – it is helpful if you check with how I am managing during the appointment.
Things To Consider At The End Of Appointments
This is the last section where I relay how to best end appointments with me in a way that works with my styles of communication. Some examples of things I have in here include:
- I find it useful if we can recap on any action points discussed / agreed.
- It is helpful to have some time for me to ask any questions or clarify anything I’m not sure about.
- If the purpose of the appointment has not been met, it is useful to have some reassurance about this.
- I find it helpful if we can schedule any future appointment(s) together at the end.
This is Practical Neurodiversity’s first blog post. It was made by @pallyallywrites who created this space and who has her own personal blog, pally.ally.writes, where they write about psychology, neurodiversity, and life.