5 Good Communication Standards – The vital ingredient

I’ve had the pleasure of talking with many people about the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapist’s 5 Good Communication Standards (here is a link to the full standards, but there are also several other presentations of it and a couple of videos). They were written for residential and hospital settings where people with intellectual disability and or autism lived, in the UK.

The 5 standards are:

Standard 1: There is a detailed description of how best to communicate with
Standard 2: Services demonstrate how they support individuals with communication needs to be involved with decisions about their care and their services.
Standard 3: Staff value and use competently the best approaches to communication with each individual they support.
Standard 4:Services create opportunities, relationships and environments that make individuals want to communicate.
Standard 5: Individuals are supported to understand and express their needs in relation to their health and wellbeing.

What is the vital ingredient, you may ask?

In my mind, the vital ingredient for being able to work or and achieve the standards is valued the relationships held been support staff and people with disabilities. The standards can not be achieve if these relationships are not valued.

That may sound simple, but what do we do in environments where staff are told “you’re just a staff member, not family”, “we don’t want them to get attached”, “you can offer your opinions in the person’s planning because your paid”, “the person should have relationships with people who aren’t disabled and aren’t paid”. Each of these statements serves to devalue the staff-person being supported relationship. Each statement threatens to dehumanise the genuine relationships that occur often over many years.

So on one hand, there are standards that say “the relationship, knowledge, skills, attitudes, hopes, that you have with the person you support are core to the person’s quality of life – the safeguard the person and help them reach their best possible life – the model to others how to engage with a person who might not use or understand speech – they are necessary for a quality service” BUT on the other hand there are subtle and not so subtle stabs that are too often made that threaten the relationship, the quality, and the possibilities.

So perhaps hand in hand to any attempt to work on the 5 Good Communication Standards should be a deep evaluation of any ways that services, trainers, educators, and policy makers may be devaluing the support relationship…

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