Currently I am on a communication journey. I was seconded to my current role as a Senior Support Worker and I saw it as a challenge. I have had to get to know four men with differing ways of communicating: one of them is Gregory.
I have put all my skills and experience into communicating and providing support. This has tested everything I have learnt over the years, such as the Great Interactions facilitation skills, Facilitating to Connect and more recently PBS.
In the beginning Gregory understood me more than I understood him: I think!
But I love this bit, the challenge of understanding each other!
When I first met Gregory, it was as much about how well I communicated with him as it was about supporting him to communicate with me and others. Some of his struggles I suppose were the same as mine, as we slowly got to know each other better. Gregory could struggle with expressing himself. It seemed as though it was often easier for him to become agitated and vocal to get his needs met. Then we as staff had to try and figure out what was going on.
When I read Gregory’s communication profile I found out that he knew some Makaton signs. So when supporting him I tried using some of the Makaton signs that he knew and speaking clearly - result! I could see by the look in his eyes and the smile on his face that I had got communication right for him. Other interactions were also successful such as positioning myself at his level, face to face, and saying “first to blink, first to smile wins”. Gregory always wins and we share lots of laughter. It’s such a lovely feeling when you get it right. It’s what you come to work for.
It’s not all plain sailing though. You have to be really attentive to Gregory’s communication in order to create the right opportunity for him to communicate his needs. This can be hard sometimes as he can become agitated when you get it wrong. Because of this my colleague and I are putting together a ‘Talking Mat’ to facilitate Gregory expressing himself and also enabling other interactions which are not just needs based. Social communication is so important.
It seems that Gregory knows a lot of what is being said as he will laugh at staff when they are talking to his peers with jokey banter, but for some reason we often have to really encourage him to communicate.
In the end though good and effective communication is key to improving a person’s quality of life and wellbeing, and we will keep trying to get this right.
Senior Support Worker, Chester