Wednesday 18 July 2012
Being able to communicate with others is something most of us take for granted. Imagine being unable to talk, read, write or gesture. Being unable to communicate can cause frustration, depression, social isolation and result in people becoming very vulnerable and dependant on others.
The Speech and Language Therapists (SLT) (adult service) based at the PEH have been working with people with communication difficulties and exploring the aids and technology available to help.
Communication aids can make a significant difference to a person's quality of life and their autonomy. Historically, the equipment has been very specialised and expensive for both assessment and purchase. It is important that the equipment is able to meet a person's needs before it is purchased.
Recently SLT have been working with some adults in Guernsey who have significant communication impairments, together with Mick Donegan, a specialist in Assistive Technology, who is collaborating on a 'gaze control 'project with the 'Zannah Trust', a charity founded by Andrew Pemberton in Jersey. The charity funds specialist assessment and a 3 month trial of 'eye-gaze' equipment.
Carol Lofthouse, Speech and Language Therapist has also been liaising with Derek Le Boutillier, chairman and store manager of the Guernsey-based charity Motor Neurone Disease Association and Guernsey Neuro Concern Society. They have been looking at equipment available in the Bailiwick for people with speech/communication difficulties.
Mr John Derek Barlow has a neurological condition that has resulted in deterioration in his speech which has gradually become slower and more difficult for people to understand. Mr Barlow retired as a Police Sergeant in Guernsey in 1989. He has written a book about his life in the force.
Mr Barlow has given up a lot of social activities due to the difficulties with his speech. He has attended Speech Therapy, but due to the progression of his speech difficulties, it was felt that a portable communication aid, which would have the technology to 'speak' the message that he typed, would be of benefit. After a trial of different options it was decided that an iPad would be beneficial.
This was discussed with Derek Le Boutillier from the Guernsey MNDA and Guernsey Neuro Concern charities who have provided funding for two iPads.
Derek Le Boutillier states that "we were only too pleased to fund the two iPads, one for Mr Barlow and the second for the Speech and Language Therapists to use to assess people. The equipment provided /loaned by us is under advice from the professionals .The charities use money donated for the benefit of local people. We are committed to assisting people and are keen to keep up to date with new equipment."
Carol Lofthouse, Speech and language Therapist states, "Many people have difficulties communicating for all sorts of reasons. I hope this article raises public understanding of the challenges that people with communication difficulties face every day. Mr Barlow, and many others in Guernsey with communication difficulties, need to be given time to express themselves and to be treated with respect, patience and sensitivity."
Mr Barlow states, "I am very grateful for the help I have received and only hope people will realise what a wonderful job these people do and also in helping me."