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Non-Traditional Communicators

What I Wish My Doctor Knew About Non-Traditional
Communicators

Medical Alert

  • As with all people assume they are intelligent and
    competent until they prove otherwise!
  • Speak normally (tone, volume, speed) unless asked to do
    otherwise.
  • Be patient – almost all non-traditional communication
    methods are extremely slow.
  • Don’t fill the “silence” while the other person is composing
    a thought with more of your own speech; allow both
    parties to say a reasonable amount.
  • Take turns speaking – say a short amount and then give the other person a chance to speak; be
    careful of interrupting; try not to talk about more than one idea at a time.
  • Acknowledge and rephrase communication attempts. When responding to a question, include the
    question in your response to let the person know that you heard and understood them.
  • Don’t ask them to “perform” for you by asking them to say certain words or asking questions just to
    watch them communicate – do not treat people like zoo exhibits.
  • Don’t worry about saying they “speak” or you are “talking” to them.
  • Let the person know if you don’t understand something.
  • Offer to find a place to sit or remain stationary if the person is trying to type or write the
    conversation – most have trouble “timing” communication to occur during extremely short pauses.
  • Don’t “take advantage” of the communication difference (for example, don’t refuse to read a written
    message as a way of silencing disagreement).
  • If someone uses an interpreter or assistant, address communication to the communicator, not the
    assistant or interpreter.
  • Don’t touch people’s communication devices.
  • Extensive question and answer sessions about their communication methods can be annoying to
    many; ask if the person minds before engaging in extensive questions.
  • If you notice someone typing or writing otherwise composing a thought, give them a chance to say
    something when you are done speaking.
  • Ask before assuming the person would like you to finish her sentences.
  • Don’t pretend that there is no communication difference!
  • The best communication is when both parties remain calm, relaxed, and interact as they would if
    both parties spoke normally.

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