The support worker must be able to step back to allow the person they support to be independent. Sometimes the support person doesn’t realise that they are the barrier to inclusion. Sometimes the support worker can feel like they aren’t doing their job if they stand back and let the person communicate and interact directly in the community…when that’s really the aim! It’s important that the support worker facilitates a person’s independence and that can sometimes include stepping back.Tip: Stand behind the person you support, to encourage people in the community to speak directly to the person you’re supporting.
Encourage people in the community to speak to the person you support directly. As well as stepping back, you can direct people in the community to communicate directly with the person you support, especially if they have communication difficulties. By doing this, you educate people in the community of equal opportunity and rights.Tip: Try politely saying “Please ask [person’s name]. They will let you know what they want”, or “[Person’s name] understands everything you said, please just wait while she types her response”.
Use augmentative and alternative communication aids. Use community request cards and visual schedules to promote independence for people with communication difficulties.Tip: An individual or a support worker can apply for a non-electronic communication resource through the Non-Electronic Communication Aid Scheme for free for those who are eligible
Don’t make assumptions about a person’s ability It’s important that a support worker never assumes a person can’t do something. There’s an art to support working, and you will learn that each person would like to be supported in their own way. If you’re not sure, ask!Tip: There’s a difference between ‘awkward silence’ and ‘pause time’. For some people with communication difficulties, it’s ok to have silence between you while a person processes what you’ve said or prepares their message to say back to you.
Think outside the box Your role as a support worker is to enable that person to achieve their goal. It means to do things that other people think they can’t do (sometimes yourself included). It’s important to think outside the box. A positive can-do attitude goes a long way. Whether it’s supporting a person to join a new club, or even independently order their own food at a cafe, focus on the goal and work on the barrier. Your role is to support that person to do what they want and make it happen. Perhaps it’s not something you can do all at once – and that’s ok. It all can be part of an exciting journey!Tip: If what the person wants to do seems like a challenge, try writing small, achievable goals that you and the person you support can achieve over time.