Gah, Communication

(Wrote this on Tumblr yesterday. Figured it would also work here.)

Trying to explain my communication difficulties (to care workers, social workers and similar) when I’m verbal is really hard.

They assume that because I can speak (most of the time) I don’t have communication problems. Some will accept that I also can’t use the phone, but beyond that think I’m okay. Except I’m not.

I really struggle to ask for stuff. There’s a few reasons for this. Sometimes I forget what it is I need. Sometimes I know but can’t figure out how to ask for it (may have forgotten words, or just can’t get them out). Sometimes I can ask, but can’t explain the details. It means I’m not getting what I need done.

I’ve tried mentioning the obvious ones, like don’t ask open questions. Yet they still are asked, and no amount of asking them will let me answer them other than with something just to get them to stop (such as no for “do you need anything?”, when I need something).

Then there are the things being done, but are being done wrong because I can’t explain what I need (example: I need to rest in between tasks like washing and dressing, but as the care workers aren’t used to that and I can’t say I need to rest so I either try and get it done in one go and become more ill, or end up having to abandon it in the middle when I’ve pushed too far and it’s obvious to others).

Ideally, I’d have a list of tasks that I could have done, and then I’d choose from that. With reminders, such as when I’ve forgotten to have my hair washed for 4 months. I have a care plan but it’s not detailed enough, I can’t access it without help, and I’m not well enough to fix it so it’s accessible to me.

Johan has similar issues. Yet during his assessment for care, the social worker put down he has no communication issues because he could speak at the beginning of the assessment (he was barely able to form words by the end and I had to provide the answers to the questions, which was mentioned in the assessment). We both have large vocabularies and sound intelligent when verbal, so there’s the assumption we can’t struggle to communicate.

It’s not helped by there not being a place for autism. I’m under physical disabilities as that’s my biggest need, and they don’t get autism at all (I’ve been told I just have to accept strangers coming to provide personal care and not being told of any changes, which I simply can’t do). There’s currently an argument over whether Johan’s care will be funded by mental health or learning disabilities (in the UK, that means IQ under 75- we’re both good at the stuff IQ tests measure, so don’t count).

Autism isn’t a learning disability, but the kind of help we require is very similar to that needed by those with one, though it might need to be provided slightly differently (I know that’s not the case for all autistics, but it is for us). Autism isn’t a mental illness either, and treating it like one doesn’t work very well in my experience.

I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with those with learning disabilities, like we’re more similar than different. I excelled at academic subjects until life exceeded my ability to cope, yet understood what it was like to struggle to learn other stuff. Many of my friends over the years have had learning disabilities, and I know it’s confused people but they’ve been great friends.

We don’t really mind who provides the funding, so long as we get the help we need. I know we’re lucky to get any help at all. Yet the help I’m currently getting doesn’t quite meet my needs, and Johan’s been struggling for years without and nearly died because of it. I wish there were an easy way to fix it, but neither of us have the spoons.

2 thoughts on “Gah, Communication

  1. Danni, one of the things I use for bad days is a series of cards. There’s a company that does communication cards for people struggling to be understood that can all go on a keyring thing that attaches to a lanyard around your neck. They have simple messages like asking to be left alone or can cover a rough explanation of your condition. The days when I just can’t get the words out and my husband isn’t with me make them invaluable. Something like these either bought or handmade might help you and Johan perhaps?

    1. I have some of those communication cards (and intend to get some more as well once I get the spoons/money/ability together at the right time). Unfortunately they’re not suitable for this particular issue, as they’re too simplistic. I have found them useful with general people though.

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