How to Support Individuals With Specific Communication Needs


  • Understand specific communication needs and factors affecting them
  •  Explain the importance of meeting an individual’s communication needs

Individuals who have communication problems need support to enable them to express themselves effectively. It is therefore important for the carer to be aware of the individuals preferred method of communication and also to support the individual to use their preferred method.

Individuals have the right to communicate through their chosen method and their choice should be acknowledged and respected by supporting them. The individual’s right are particularly important when using specific communication methods and language because it’s their major way of communicating their needs and preferences.

Communication is a basic human right. Without communication the individual is unable to realise or exercise their rights. Under the Human Rights Act 1998 all individuals have the right to ‘freedom of expression’. If unable to communicate they would be denied these rights.

  • Explain how own role and practice can impact on communication with an individual who has specific

As a carer it is your role and responsibility to support individuals to express themselves. The way in which you can do this is by assessing their needs, access information regarding their communication needs, providing the appropriate support, aids or equipment, encouraging and motivating communication, working with others and by monitoring the effectiveness of that support.

Without the appropriate support the individual would be unable to express their needs or how they are feeling which can lead to both emotional and physical difficulties. By fully supporting individuals with specific communication needs you are able to support their rights.

  • Analyse features of the environment that may help or hinder communication

It is difficult and frustrating to communicate effectively when there is background noise, therefore arranging the environment to aid communication is very important step to achieving effective communication with ndividuals. As a carer you should arrange the individual’s environment to facilitate effective communication and promote understanding. This can be done by ensuring privacy and going into a quiet room.

Some factors that can hinder good communication are:

  1. Poor lighting, individuals with poor sight are unable to see you
  2. Background noise from the TV, radio, other individuals
  3. Obstacles between you as a care worker and the individual eg furniture
  4. Insufficient distance between you and the individual, leading to you encroaching on their personal space.
  • Analyse reasons why an individual may use a form of communication that is not based on a formal language system

Sensory disabilities Hearing loss Sight loss Learning disabilities Down’s syndrome Autism Physical disabilities Cerebral palsy Mental health problems Dementia Other mental health problems

  •  Identify a range of communication methods and aids to support individuals to communicate
  1. British sign language (BSL)
  2. Picture exchange communication systems (PECS)
  3. Talking microwaves
  4. Hearing aids
  5. Interpreter
  6. Translator
  7. Advocate
  • Describe the potential effects on an individual of having unmet communication needs.

Behaviour – If an individual is not supported to communicate effectively they can become increasingly withdrawn, depressed and isolated. This may affect their self-esteem and they may begin to develop feelings of frustration and uselessness. Their behaviour may change as they vent their frustrations with acts of anger or even violence. Others may become confused, angry and frustrated.

These effects include:

  1. Physical and emotional problems
  2. Depression Isolation, becoming withdrawn from others
  3. Frustration
  4. Low self esteem
  5. Loss of confidence
  6. A feeling of uselessness
  • Be able to contribute to establishing the nature of specific communication needs of individuals and ways to address them
  • Work in partnership with the individual and others to identify the individual’s specific communication needs
  1. Talking to the individual or observing the individual interacting with others.
  2. Accessing previous records after permission has been sought from the appropriate person.
  3. Talking to colleagues who know the individual. Talking to family members
  4. Talking to other professionals
  • Contribute to identifying the communication methods or aids that will best suit the individual

By observing the individual when they are communicating with you or others you will be able to identify the methods or aids which will best suit the individual. You may have noticed that the individual appears hard of hearing. You would then arrange a hearing test for the individual to establish if they have a problem and obtain equipment in the form of hearing aids, if needed.

2. Explain how and when to access information and support about identifying and addressing specific communication needs. During an initial assessment an individual’s ability and communication methods are established. This is done when an individual arrives into care. Everyone involved in the care of this service user is made aware of their needs and preferences regarding communication and any changes are recognised during reviews and shared with the team to ensure the individual’s needs are met.

  • Be able to interact with individuals using their preferred communication 3. prepare the environment to facilitate communication
  • Use agreed methods of communication to interact with the individual
  • Monitor the individual’s responses during and after the interaction to check the effectiveness of communication

By observing an individual’s communication cues (non-verbal signal used with or without speech to indicate the individual’s thoughts and feelings) and exercising effective listening, you will be able to determine if the individual has understood the communication. By asking closed questions you will be able to confirm that they have understood what has been said. Also by asking them to repeat what you have discussed you will be able to confirm their understanding.

  • Adapt own practice to improve communication with the individual.
  1. use closed questions to obtain yes or no answers
  2. use open questions to encourage a more in-depth answer
  3. avoid asking too many things at once to prevent confusion
  4. allow the individual time to respond
  5. not interrupt the individual whilst they are communicating or anticipate their response
  6. show the individual that you are interested in them.

Use appropriate body language such as nodding, smiling and leaning towards the individual.

  1. Avoid using jargon
  2. Be aware of the different meanings of words e. g. Jam, could mean a preserve or could mean a blockage as in traffic jam.
  3. Keep communication simple
  • Be able to promote communication between individuals and others
  • Support the individual to develop communication methods that will help them to understand others and be understood by them

As a carer you should encourage and motivate individuals to communicate by providing the correct support, aids and equipment. It is your responsibility to ensure that the individuals you provide care for and others involved in the individuals’ lives are able to communicate effectively.

For communication to be effective everyone involved will need to have the same understanding of the communication method used. When supporting individuals with their communication you may need to support others with whom that individual wishes to communicate. This could include other carers, family, friends, peers or professionals.

  • Provide opportunities for the individual to communicate with others
  • Support others to understand and interpret the individual’s communication
  • Support others to be understood by the individual by use of agreed communication methods

For communication to be effective all the people involved will need to have the same understanding of the communication method used. When supporting individuals with their communication you may need to support others with whom that individual wishes to communicate. Support may involve the use of human aids, symbolic aids and technical aids.

You will need to explain the appropriate communication method and also show the others how the communication aids work. Wherever possible the support given should encourage the individual to do as much of the communicating as independently as possible.

  • Know how to support the use of communication technology and aids
  • Identify specialist services relating to communication technology and aids

Aids and equipment are often provided through the social services department of your local council. The National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Eye Service can also prescribe a range of aids for people with partial sight. All blind and visually impaired people are entitled to a health and social care assessment from their local council.

This means someone from social services will assess their needs to make sure you get the equipment and services that are right for them. The local social services department can put them in touch with a rehabilitation worker, who can help individuals to communicate more easily

  • Describe types of support that an individual may need in order to use communication technology and aids

Support may be provided in various forms. Some users will require regular support and advice with regard to use of the communication aid. Support can also come from within the user’s own family. It is important to identify the level of support each individual user has within their own environment. Family members can be of great help in supporting the user especially in the initial stages of using the communication aid.

In order to ensure that the user obtains the maximum benefit from the new technology, training must be provided. The most important training needs for the user is competence in the use of the communication aid. This should consist of instruction in the operation of the particular communication equipment as well as maintenance and charging of the equipment if necessary. It may be important to provide training to all the carers, or it may be appropriate to select a few to be trained to deal with different aspects of the communication aid and its use in the environment.

Explain the importance of ensuring that communication equipment is correctly set up and working properly. As a carer it is important that you ensure any equipment the individual use’s to communicate with, is available, working and is in a safe condition. With regards health and safety, electrical communication equipment should be checked by a qualified and approved electrician to ensure it is fit for use. The equipment should have a label attached to it stating when the equipment was tested, who by and when the next check is due.

  • Be able to review an individual’s communication needs and the support provided to address them
  • Collate information about an individual’s communication and the support provided

The initial assessment will be carried out as stated earlier collating all risks and preferences from the individual. This information together with the communication method the individual prefers and any aids which they use to support their communication will then be written into the individuals care plan so that any changes to the base line can be monitored.

This record should include the nature of their communication differences, how they show themselves and ways which you have found are effective in overcoming the differences.

  • Contribute to evaluating the effectiveness of agreed methods of communication and support provided

The agreed methods of communication and support are only effective for as long as the individuals communication skills remain the same. If their skills change then so do their support needs. As a carer you will be expected to recognise and report on changes to the individual’s communication skills.

  • Work with others to identify ways to support the continued development of communication

It is important that everyone involved in the care of the individual works as part of a team to establish the best support for that person. When changes occur it is important that the correct help and support is obtained immediately so that the individual does not feel frustrated or isolated by being unable to communicate effectively. Significant changes in an individual’s ability to communicate should be referred to the speech therapist or GP involved in the individual’s care for professional investigation and monitoring.

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