Speech Therapy : Know the unknown.

Don’t Assume Anything!
In our field of Speech Therapy and Mentoring, I have learned not to assume anything about clients. Looks and age can be deceiving so I like to ask my clients a lot of questions. I have to remind myself that before I can teach a mentee communication skills, I am going to need to understand what method of communication they use. Most of the time, my locked-in clients have developed a simple, low-tech system which they can teach me and once I understand it, I am able to get to work. My first few sessions consist of detective work because I’m figuring out how to communicate with them while figuring out the cognitive age level he or she is at.
Generally I am given children who are high-brain functioning but with low functioning bodies so this allows me to ask them simple, general questions to figure out the best way for them to communicate. Others simply answer yes and no questions. Most clients will use gestures to let me know how they want to use their talkers and it is my job to teach the client to ‘speak’ successfully. Success is when the communication device becomes invisible and only the person’s ‘voice’ is effortlessly heard. As a mentor, I go into a new case with a presumption that I am going to be dealing with a client who is cognitively “normal” so I’d bring along age appropriate materials to figure out what will stimulate my mentee’s desire to communicate with me.
Assuming a patient’s abilities by their appearance can also be professionally dangerous. Assuming someone is crying due to an infantile cognitive-level might just actually be due to pain and need of medical attention. As a speech-language pathologist who is seeing a client for the first time, you can read their psyche assessment to get an idea of ‘where they are’ but conduct your own assessment to understand what you are indeed working with. When working with a child with vision disabilities, I would provide the mentee with a lot of auditory choices to figure out their cognitive level. The children we work with generally ‘show us’ what we’ll be working with within the first few sessions. As a speech-language pathologist and a mentor, we can learn a lot about our clients if we take the time to actually listen to them. Our preliminary sessions with our clients are usually us playing detective work to figure out who the person is inside this severely physically disabled body. When we get a pretty clear idea of who our client is, we can then play with different communication devices until we find the right fit. I have severely physically disabled clients that truly only have control over their eyes, but this does not mean the individual cannot understand or have normal intellectual abilities. As a speech-language pathologist, your biggest accomplishment will be seeing a client living out their dreams.
Challenge yourself and figure out how you can get someone with no muscle control to communicate and when you do, they will show the world their true self.

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children