"I want him/her to talk!"
I was explaining our philosophy and our program to a prospective client the other day, and I heard these familiar words. Of course, it seems everyone's goal is to speak better--that's the hallmark problem of aphasia. However, we want to explain why using gesture and other multimodal forms of communication are so important. Speaking better and being able to use gesture, written words, or writing are all part of the same goal!
Communication is important, we all know that. But communication doesn't consist entirely of speech. If you've been having issues or frustrations because your loved one plays "20 questions" with you, then wouldn't it be nice for both of you to have alternative and augmentative systems of communication. Our goal is to reduce the amount of frustration for all parties involved, as well as to improve the communication pathways. If your loved one cannot say at the time "I want to get the boat cleaned" but can point to the boat or give you the number for the boat-cleaner, isn't this a good place to start?
What most people don't know is that by using these alternatives, or multimodal, forms of communication, comprehension and expression of language are improved for both the listener and the speaker. The person with aphasia may produce speech more quickly and easily when the gesture and verbal attempts are paired. For example, unable to say "toothbrush", the person with aphasia may make the gesture, then spontaneously produce the word while gesturing. Additionally, seeing the word "toothbrush" may cue the verbal production. This happens ALL THE TIME!
So please remember, your goals are our goals, we may just go about them differently. The end result, however, should be improved overall communication. This is what we're striving for!