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10 August 2020

Treat me like everyone else

As someone who has experienced firsthand both the challenges and opportunities of non-verbal communication, Emma has offered best practice tips for how to support and communicate with someone who is non-verbal:

"People assume that I have an intellectual disability just because I’m non-verbal. They also get up in my personal space and speak to me as if I’m a child. I have had instances where they dismiss me completely. I want to be treated like everyone else.”

25-year-old Emma has cerebral palsy atypical and ALS 2, an extremely rare degenerative faulty gene disease. As someone who has experienced firsthand both the challenges and opportunities of non-verbal communication, Emma has offered best practice tips for how to support and communicate with someone who is non-verbal:

1. Talk to me.

Just because someone is nonverbal doesn’t mean they don’t understand what is said to them. Many people who are non-verbal do comprehend spoken words and can respond using other forms of communication, such as facial expressions, body language, and written responses.

2. Recognise visual cues.

The more time you spend with someone who is non-verbal, the more you will begin to pick up on their expressions and body language. As you recognise these cues, you will start to figure out what they mean and how to respond accordingly.

3. Use a buddy system.

One of the quickest ways to get to know someone and how they like things to be done is to team up with a family member of theirs or an existing support person. As a buddy, they can guide you on best practice as you get to know them.

4. Find common interests.

One thing Emma appreciates is uncovering shared interests and activities to enjoy together, such as music, television shows, films, games and hobbies.

5. Don’t make assumptions.

Having a disability doesn’t define who a person is or what they can achieve. People living with disability need support from people who they can trust, and who believe in them. Don’t make assumptions about what they can and cannot do. If in doubt, ask them.

For more information about disability support solutions, tailored just for you contact Just Better Care Brisbane CBD & Outer North