Being outspoken isn’t always about speech

An example of how one-page profiles can help a person to communicate when they are having difficulties doing this verbally. This story not only highlights the difference a one-page profile has made in David’s life but also how the tool has been adopted and used by the whole family.

Written by Jeannie Bennett

david gIn my role as a physiotherapist I use one-page profiles with the people I support to help them to communicate what is important to them and how best other people can support them. They may use this information with their family and friends, medical professionals they come into contact with or even in their schools.  I’ve found the technique particularly useful with early high school pupils who are not able or confident always to express themselves verbally and so need a different approach. David’s story is a great example of how it can aid communication in this way

David was 14 years old when we updated his profile. He lives with his mum, dad and five siblings. David is the eldest. Born very prematurely he has needed extra support with caring for himself, moving around and communication. He now has his own power chair and iPad and is a very active high school student.

David’s teachers and parents were challenged with the task of helping David plan for his future.  My job was to help him to update the one-page profile he had been using to make sure it reflected his changing likes, dislikes and support needs. He chose the theme, the colours and the layout. David loves his one-page profile and will take it out and show it to new people as well as using it to contribute to the planning of his care. It is very important to him that he is involved in these processes and his one-page profile empowers him to do this.

During one school holiday a case manager and I visited the family at home. David’s sisters were keen to complete their own one-page profiles. We spent three hours with colored paper, stickers of their choice and photos and apparently after we left the girls spent the rest of the afternoon on their profiles. David’s mother bought the materials with the girls. One of David’s sisters was scheduled for significant oro-facial surgery and wanted to take hers with her to show the hospital staff as she would be unable to speak for some time following the surgery.

I recently laminated David’s profile for him as the first one became very tattered from frequent handling and taking it in and out of his backpack. The latest version has visited school, Special Olympics, respite and next month it will go with him to Sydney Children’s Hospital where David will be having the pins and plate in his left hip removed.

David is using his one-page profile in his individual planning meetings for post-school options. One of the main purposes of David’s particular profile was to give information on how to support him with his verbal responses to pain and frustration as he’d found that people couldn’t easily understand his speech when he needed to ask for assistance. When he completed his profile David felt unique and special in a good way.

David became more confident and outspoken following our visit, he trialed Special Olympics, became game to trial new Wii games to assist his weight transference and balance and to express how this made him feel and what caused him pain.  He also became more aware of the support his sisters continually give him.

David can open the bag on his wheelchair and show his profile to anyone he wants and he uses it to introduce himself in meetings. It has made a difference to how decisions are made and David’s role in decision making is more central.

The follow up to this has been exciting. When I spoke to David’s mum recently she mentioned that his eldest sister had just updated her own one-page profile and was very pleased with herself. The whole family continues to use and get value out of the profiles and by involving all the siblings it has normalised the process for David himself who continues to share his with the new people he meets.