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PHOTOS, A GATEWAY INTO THE WORLD OF SOMEONE WHO IS NON-VERBAL

A picture is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes. In BJ’s case this has certainly been true.

Our family are reliant on photos for many reasons.  Photos capture our special holiday moments, old photos are a reminder of BJ’s progress and the tough times we’ve survived.

In recent years, photos have provided a link for BJ between home and school, home and respite and home and his day program.  Communication books are good and staff telling us bits and pieces about his day is always welcome but photos say so much more. Photos can provide a gateway into the world of someone who is non-verbal and allow them to share their day-to-day life with family and friends.

WHAT PHOTOS TELL US

Photos allow BJ to show us his highlights and low lights of the day.  Often he demonstrates this with the speed he swipes past a photo or the time he lingers on another. His excitement over seeing a staff member in a photo tells us they are a favourite.  All of this is valuable when he can’t verbally tell us about his day.

A FEW EXAMPLES

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BJ showing his wicked sense of humour.

We knew BJ was heading off to a sports fun day but the photos gave us an insight into all the activities BJ enjoyed.  On a day like this the staff are flat out all day and although they fill out the communication book, two lines in a communication book don’t tell me anywhere near as much as these photos do.  We were so appreciative of the staff taking these photos on such a busy day.  BJ’s wicked humour and sense of fun shine through in the above photo.

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BJ sitting on the train seat on an outing.

It is interesting to see the BJ who is out with his day program or his buddy/carer AL.  BJ has worked hard for his mobility and independence so it thrills us to see him have the opportunity to use those skills. It also shows the dedication of the people taking care of him to facilitate his mobility.

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Cooking the bbq.

We are always looking at ways to include BJ in activities so we were pleased to see him helping cook a barbecue lunch on a day outing.

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Picnic with his pal AL.

Body language gives a clue to BJ’s level of comfort with  people and he is clearly very content in AL’s company.  Also loved seeing him out of his chair on a picnic rug on a recent outing to the beach.

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BJ having a go at quoits.

The photos not only provide us with something to chat about at home but they also give us ideas on things to try with BJ.

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BJ excited about tug-o-war but letting the girls do all the hard work.

Sometimes the photos just show BJ having a fabulous time which is wonderful for us to see and share.

We have also found that a photo can capture a moment that means something to us as parents but would be insignificant to an outsider.  BJ wearing his glasses at a fun music day is a great example of a moment which would seem like nothing to others. After years of him casting aside his prescription glasses and refusing to wear 3D glasses we were amazed to see a photo of him joining in with his peers.

WHAT PHOTOS TELL OTHERS

BJ’s holiday and weekend photos are a way of him sharing his home life with others.  It allows his carers and others to understand more of what he is capable of in his home environment, his interests and our family dynamic.  His photos were always a hit with staff at school.

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BJ cable hang-gliding in Tasmania.

INTERPRETATION

It is easy to misunderstand someone who is non-verbal if a worker is new or just not tuned in.  I have been told BJ has thoroughly enjoyed an outing at a farm for example and when I’ve seen the photos I can see that he has just tolerated the activity.  His expression and body language tell me so much.  Even that gives me something to chat to him about.  We had a good laugh together at a photo of him feeding a horse where he had the biggest grimace on his face.

THE DOWNSIDE IS STILL AN UPSIDE

We have seen photos which have alerted us to things that we don’t like in the past. Nothing major, just things that we can change with information. Staff are usually open to change if they understand where it is coming from.  On a whole the photos have opened up an insight into BJ’s days for us and given him something to share with family and friends.

RULES

BJ likes having his own iPad and it’s helped him take ownership of his news and feel independent. We have found that people still try to take over and we need to remind them that it’s BJ’s news and he has the right to show them what interests him. It isn’t always easy but it is important that he feels empowered.

If you’d like to read more about BJ’s iPad set up and access tips you can do so here.

I’d love to hear your experience.

 




2 thoughts on “PHOTOS, A GATEWAY INTO THE WORLD OF SOMEONE WHO IS NON-VERBAL”

  1. Hi Julie

    I work for a disability organisation (behind-the-scenes, I’m not a front-line support worker) and can I just say thank you for this post – it’s truly opened my eyes to the importance of photos for the people we support and their families! Also the way they can be interpreted by the stars of the photos – lingering on some, flicking past others. Thank you!

    And thanks for your blog – I often share your stories with our fans on Facebook and with our community.

    🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Amy, Your comment has made my day. It is fantastic to know the information we provide is thought provoking and helping families and those working in the disability sector. Thanks for taking the time to let me know. Kind regards, Julie

      Reply

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