I watched a brilliant video this morning called ‘Communication for Mindfulness’, (thank you Think Autism) which was a timely reminder of some valuable communication tools when guiding.
- Slow down and step back. Pause, wait up to 45 seconds – an eternity! – for Ellen to process and respond.
- Use declarative language over instructional language as much as possible.
- Swap direct prompts for indirect prompts.
We’ve been changing Ellen’s bed with her for several months, slowly trying to withdraw so that she takes on more of the task herself. This morning, spurred on by the video’s depiction of best practice I decided to give it a go. Ellen was deeply engrossed in a Brum video.
I start in a bright voice:
I’m going to get the sheets out so we can change the bed!’
There is an interlude of around 2 minutes
‘I’m ready now to change the bed!’
An interlude of 10 minutes follows, during which I put clean sheets on my own bed, tidied up the coffee mugs and rescued a cricket from the bathroom floor.
‘I really need some help changing this bed!’
Finally I hear Ellen sighing heavily and stomping up the stairs.
After she’d finally given in to my increasingly jolly ‘statements’ from the landing, Ellen got on with the job in hand. She shook her pillow out of the pillowcase and stripped the duvet. Taking off the bottom sheet falls to me because Ellen has around one hundred soft toys on her bed, which she hates being disrupted. It’s obvious they all have a particular place, and she very carefully returns them to order once the weekly ordeal is over.
Ellen put her new pillowcase on and helped with the duvet. All the time I tried to talk as little as possible and used non-verbal language or statements rather than direct instructions.
Ellen finds buttons very difficult, but we worked on these together in companionable silence, I held the buttonhole open so that she could put the button in half way and then I held it in place so she could readjust her grip and pull the button through.
We put the duvet on the bed, the correct way up and then faced the depressing task of slinging all the soft toys back on top. I wondered suddenly whether declarative language could work miracles with the toy mountain. I picked up a small floppy tiger, moving its head with my fingers.
‘I’d like to sit on the shelf’
This time it took only about one second for Ellen to respond, No! she said, grabbing the tiger from me and slinging it onto the bed.
‘The bed’s too crowded for me‘. I said, trying again with a blue penguin.
The penguin flew onto the bed. It wasn’t even a second this time.
The mountain remains.