Hospital passport

The UK’s National Autistic Society has some great resources, including this hospital passport.  It can be completed either online then printed, or in writing, in advance of any hospital visit- and I think would be good for any medical appointment.  As well as the usual personal details, medical history and contact details for the patient’s significant people, it includes boxes to describe how the Autistic person would like hospital staff to communicate with them, how the Autistic person communicates, experiences pain and communicates pain, and what causes distress. The guidelines document contains many questions to consider when writing statements to include in the hospital passport. For example, when considering how staff are to communicate with the Autistic person- do questions need to be short and specific, do you need things written down, is there a preference for pictures or symbols, will pointing/demonstrating help, will you need a lot of time to think about and answer questions?  The final page describes the five key principles of the Mental Capacity Act, and states “Because I have autism please do not assume that I do not have mental capacity”.

It’s a sign!

It’s a sign” is about the benefits of teaching children with delayed speech and language how to sign.  (This article refers to Makaton, which is known as Key Word Sign in Australia, and is based on signs from Auslan [Australian Sign Language]).  Like the author, we have found that by consistently modelling signs for our daughter, she is starting to use signs to communicate with us- and is starting to try to vocalise some words.  There are many different places to learn Key Word Sign- many Speech and Language Pathologists know some sign, Disability Services Queensland occasionally host workshops for their Early Intervention families, and Deaf Services Queensland run Introductory-level Auslan courses.

Picture card resources

The Living Well with Autism site has some great resources under the “How to use picture cards and schedules” and the “How to use social stories” tabs, available for downloading and printing.  Some of the subjects covered include pragmatic language (eg I want that, I need a break, I don’t know), feelings, behaviour management (eg don’t run from me, say excuse me, quiet voice), self care (eg teeth brushing, dressing, toileting), food visuals, dental resources, picture cards for speech therapy, and feeling sick/in pain.

Planning autism-friendly workshops

After attending a disastrous meeting, the author outlined several strategies to make meetings more autism-friendly.  Some of these included skipping initial introductions, don’t allow one or two people dominate the conversation, provide paper/email address as alternative methods for people to submit their ideas, and ask in advance what accommodations people may need.

Teaching kids kindness

It’s a sad fact that many kids are bullied, and especially those who are different.

I really liked these classroom strategies to teach children kindness, and I’m sure they could be used in many other places as well.

The first one is called Erasing Meanness, and videos over a couple of days about bullying, the teacher filled the whiteboard with synonyms of meanness.  She then erased a few words to ask “How do you want to be remembered?”, and invited the children to replace some of the mean words with kind words of their choosing.

The second is to create an ongoing paper chain of kindness– write down the kind things that they had done or experienced that day, and add them to the chain.

Communication about disabilities

Disability Services Queensland has put together some great resources about how to communicate with people with disabilities, and additional tips about guide/hearing/assistance dogs.  Towards the bottom of the page, there are several links- two in particular are exceptional.

The first is “A way with words: Guidelines for the portrayal of people with a disability”.

The purpose of this booklet is to promote inclusiveness and the fair and accurate portrayal of people with a disability.  It is intended as an aid for professional communicators, such as journalists, writers, producers and broadcasters, and provides suggestions for appropriate language, interviewing techniques and media coverage involving people with a disability.  

While that description does sound rather dry, the booklet is very engaging and readable, with great cartoon illustrations throughout.  Some of the recommendations include emphasising individuality (eg emotions, interests, problems, talents, frustrations, faults and roles), not disability; avoiding superhuman or excessively emotive portrayals, and not focusing on the person’s disability unless it is important to the story. There is also a list of words to avoid, with acceptable alternatives.  One suggestion given was to use the phrase “uses a wheelchair” instead of “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound”, because a wheelchair provides mobility, not restriction.

The other link that I found useful was the Medical Signing Board.  There are Yes/No/I Don’t Know options across the top, front and back models of the body in the middle, 15 options for medical issues on the left (eg hot, cold, vomit, headache, bleeding, broken, seizure), 12 communication options on the right (eg need more information, call someone, worried, too loud, hungry), and a visual 1-10 pain scale at the bottom.  The second page lists some things paramedics might do (eg blood pressure, take temperature, bandage, medicine), a short social story, visuals for wait/be still/calm down, and some interaction tips for the paramedics.  Very thorough- wish I’d had this for Abi’s last admission!