The importance of communication for people with learning disabilities
It is widely acknowledged that in order to offer a quality service to our users, we need to be able to communicate effectively with them. Communication is a two way process, the giving and receiving of information. It is thought that only 7% of communication is verbal, the rest is made up of body language, pitch and tone.
It is thought that between 50 – 78% of people with a learning disability experience significant difficulties with communication and a large number of our service users have no, or very limited verbal communication skills, and this is where we start to fall down. Our service users rely on us to understand what they are trying to tell us, and if we cannot do so, then this is when our users get frustrated and may challenge.
The inability to communicate effectively affects our users in many ways. They will have difficulty making choices, being independent, forming relationships, and participating within their communities. In effect, it seriously impairs their quality of life.
Working with someone with communication difficulties
Very often we assume that our users understand what we are saying because they comply with requests. In reality, this may be situational understanding. Take them out of the situation and they may not understand anything apart from maybe their name.
We need to find out what means of communication our users prefer. This may be signing (makaton, etc), picsyms, symbols, photographs etc. Our users should all have a communication passport depicting their preferred means of communication, and it is up to us to use it. Failure to do so could result in us being prosecuted under the Mental Capacity Act for neglect
To find out more the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) have produced a communication factsheet
Supporting someone to communicate with other professionals
For people with learning disabilities there is a scheme called health passport. Users can experience a great deal of frustration when transfering between services. Having information available that can promote consistency of care by communicating what is important to individuals, what their likes and dislikes are and how best to support them. The health passport is a document that can provide a great deal of information to other professionals quickly.and effectively. The link in this text is a format recognised by the staff at Queen Alexander Hospital - Portsmouth. For further information of health passports used across Hamsphire and recognised by the local hospitals please contact
Jane Eastwood- Health Facilitator/Acute Liaison Nurse
02392 441416 Community or 02392 285825 Queen Alexandra Hospital