In a previous Blog, Joan talked about the four purposes of communication (Light 1988):
1. Expression of needs and wants
2. Information transfer
3. Social closeness
4. Social etiquette
Social closeness can often be overlooked when we support people with communication difficulties, as there can be a temptation to focus on what some see as the ‘important things’ – helping people to express their needs and wants or to transfer information. Social closeness is the glue which binds us together and helps us to form and maintain relationships. It’s really important that we establish this before we start exploring some of the difficult issues that many of the people we are working with face. In my work with people with severe aphasia, I spend time getting to know what matters to them and finding out what their interests are. This is a crucial part of building a relationship with the person and their family. It also provides a much more concrete starting point for beginning to explore rehabilitation goals, as this example shows:
When working with Jack (a man with severe receptive and expressive aphasia), I started by using Talking Mats to ask him how he felt about leisure activities. This was a great way to get to know Jack as a person and to find out his interests. During our conversation, Jack told me that he enjoyed going out for a drink but hated shopping and bingo – and we all had a laugh as he told me this. Jack also told me that he used to like ten pin bowling. He pointed to his leg to indicate that this was something he could no longer participate in as he was now in a wheelchair. I could see that this was important to Jack, so we talked about possible ways round his physical difficulties. Jack agreed that this was something he could work on with the help of his family and the rehabilitation team.
Given that Jack had severe receptive aphasia, if I had started by using Talking Mats to identify specific problems (using a top scale of ‘managing’ and ‘not managing’) as part of the goal setting process, it is highly likely that Jack would have found this too abstract and difficult to engage in. By using the more concrete topic of leisure (with a top scale of ‘like’/’dislike’), Jack was able to reflect on his life since his stroke and tell me how he felt about his restricted physical abilities. I was also able to build up a picture of him as a person and we had fun at the same time.
When using the Health and well-being resource, think about the person you are working with in relation to the ideas and concepts that they can cope with. Exploring leisure activities is a great way to start as it means you can establish rapport by finding out what matters to them.
Have a look at this Blog to see how other people have used a topic such as leisure to build social closeness.