Helping people with disabilities, esp. nonverbal


#1

I am interested in helping people with disabilities, especially those who are nonverbal. I have mild cerebral palsy myself due to a variety of causes and it has taken me YEARS to speak with any kind of fluency. Physically I'm not that impaired but have a few mild problems. So I'm interested in helping other people especially those who can't speak.

From what I understand, speech/communications therapy is most important to a lot of people with disabilities. I'm interested in finding out more about communication devices and maybe purchasing them for children or adults who can't speak, and helping them get training in how to use them. I have a physics degree and think I could learn to do this. I'm not qualified to be a speech therapist, and there are plenty of those out there anyway. My focus is more on helping people who are intelligent but not able to communicate learn how, when poverty might be a barrier b/c they can't afford the really good communication devices out there.

Any ideas on where to start? thanks.


#2

I just wanted to say that I think its wonderful that your are doing this! My sister is autistic and doesn't "speak". We need more people like you!! :)


#3

Check with your local Vocational Rehabilitation office. With your degree and level of interest, you could fit well into a company that manufactures or sells such devices. Also, larger special education service providers often employ people who specialize in that.


#4

We had a woman at the long term care facility who had a stroke and was young still. She had expressive aphasia, where she knew what she wanted to say but was unable to get the words out or say the correct words. She had an assistive device that was a little screen hooked to her wheelchair. It was a little screen where she could choose words if she was having trouble communicating with others. There was a woman from the company who would help her with it if it was screwing up, but mainly that kindd of thing would fall on the occupational therapist (teaching her how to use it).
My brother in law is 21 and in his last year of high school at the school for DD in our county. He got an Ipod and there is a program on it that allows him to do the same thing. His speech therapist is teaching him how to use it.
If you're really interested, I would read alot about different types of aphasia and apraxia so you can learn more about these things. Maybe contact a place where this sort of thing would go on, and ask them about it.


#5

newhorizons.org/spneeds/inclusion/teaching/kahn.htm

rjcooper.com/

words-plus.com/

Maybe this professor could give you some advice:
uakron.edu/colleges/faa/schools/sslpa/aac/aaccourse1.php


#6

I would look up Occupational Therapy in your local phone book. One of the many areas they work on is speech therapy. My son attends a pediatric OT clinic. They know of community resources and support groups that would make use of your help.


#7

This is an area where there is a lot of professional overlap. Speech therapy addresses expressive and receptive language, Occupational therapy addresses adaptive devices as well as visual-motor deficits.

But the OP is probably aware of this.


#8

[quote="LongJourney, post:7, topic:215591"]
This is an area where there is a lot of professional overlap.

[/quote]

Yes - this is correct. I guess my experience is a little skewed because the clinic my son goes to has both Occupational and Speech therapists - sometimes PT.


#9

[quote="LongJourney, post:7, topic:215591"]
This is an area where there is a lot of professional overlap. Speech therapy addresses expressive and receptive language, Occupational therapy addresses adaptive devices as well as visual-motor deficits.

But the OP is probably aware of this.

[/quote]

Hello,

Yes, I'm aware the fields overlap. In fact part of why I went into physics is that a physicist noticed some of my issues when I was a young teenager and helped me with them to the extent he could. NASA has worked with United Cerebral Palsy to design adaptive equipment.

I also have aphasia and I know how hard that can be; it has taken me YEARS of dedicated speech and e-mail therapy to improve but I am MUCH better now. I have a library science degree as well. Librarians tend to be concerned with communication of all kinds. Probably what I would do is work with experts (rather than pretend to expertise I don't have) and maybe see about funding a really good communication device for someone - they are much better than they used to be and I think some children/adults are going without b/c they don't have the money or the insurance to pay for it. I may also eventually write up my experience in learning to talk with the combination of problems I had: slurred, unclear, slow speech plus speech and language comprehension issues plus not being comprehensible in speech or writing. Music is a lot easier for me.


#10

It sounds like you might be more interested in the design aspect of making equipment such as communication boards but I could be wrong. One of my relatives has multiple disabilities. He is unable to use an electronic communication board but his parents made him a simple one. For example, when it was time for lunch, he was shown a board with a photo of an apple, sandwhich, yogurt etc. He could pick what item he wanted. For him, the photos had to be actual photos of what he normally gets because he wasnt able to associate a drawing of an apple with a real apple (I might not be describing that well).

Best of luck to you whichever avenue you pursue. This is a very rewarding field. You are giving a true gift to an individual when you find ways to help them communicate when they can not do that verbally or with sign language.

Sincerely,

Maria1212


#11

[quote="Maria1212, post:10, topic:215591"]
It sounds like you might be more interested in the design aspect of making equipment such as communication boards but I could be wrong. One of my relatives has multiple disabilities. He is unable to use an electronic communication board but his parents made him a simple one. For example, when it was time for lunch, he was shown a board with a photo of an apple, sandwhich, yogurt etc. He could pick what item he wanted. For him, the photos had to be actual photos of what he normally gets because he wasnt able to associate a drawing of an apple with a real apple (I might not be describing that well).

Best of luck to you whichever avenue you pursue. This is a very rewarding field. You are giving a true gift to an individual when you find ways to help them communicate when they can not do that verbally or with sign language.

Sincerely,

Maria1212

[/quote]

Hello,

I do think it will be rewarding. That's a good idea, to check into design aspects. I'm going to contact United Cerebral Palsy, which helps people with different disabilities, and see what they may recommend given my interests and background. There are a lot of physicists trying to do "glamorous" work but some people do work like this which is also very needed.

One thing that really bugs me about nonverbal people with disabilities is how many people take advantage of them, in ways including sexually and financially, b/c they can't "tell." That's one reason why I think communication is really important; also it's important to be able to express what's on your mind and understand others to the extent possible.


#12

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