Communication disorders can be extremely socially isolating, as our culture revolves around language. When language is affected, whether from birth or later in life, social contact and relationships can be affected. But just because someone has a communication disorder does not mean that they are any less deserving of, or capable of making social connections.
Here’s what people with communication disorders want you to know to make communicating easier:
- I am still smart. Intellect and communication are not the same. There are of course some disorders and diseases that affect both intellect and communication, but your assumption going into a conversation with someone with a communication disorder should be that my intellect is preserved.
- Be patient with me. I need time to think to make sure that I get my point across.
- Be honest with me. If you don’t understand me, ask for clarification. I deserve the opportunity to be able to get my point across.
- Slow down. Language is complicated, and sometimes I need an extra few seconds to process in order to make sense of what you’re saying.
- Ask me if it would help to repeat or rephrase your message. But don’t assume that’s what I need! Often we know exactly what we need from you in order to better understand. By offering to repeat or rephrase, you are opening the door for us to ask you to modify your communication style to better help us understand, in whatever way we need.
- Make sure I can see your facial expressions and gestures. Theses are key parts of language, but are not always affected by communication disorders. I can communicate a plethora of information just using a smile or a furrowed brow.
- Laugh, cry and sigh in front of me. Communication is our way of sharing our feelings and emotions, and can be extraordinarily therapeutic! Don’t be afraid to show emotion around me!
- Let me know that you care about me and value my input, thoughts, and feelings. Sometimes we don’t even need language to do that – sometimes just the experience of connecting can provide that social connection that we all so crave.