Non-verbal individuals require special attention and additional patience from caregiver staff. Many non-verbal can communicate in limited ways through gestures, signs, and communication devices. Unfortunately, most non-verbal individuals have no means of communication whatsoever, other than by exhibiting agitation when frustrated due to the inability to communicate when needed. Our staff are trained to detect such agitation quickly at the onset in order to prevent escalation, and respond to the best of their abilities to address primary issues, such as hunger, pain, discomfort, need use the bathroom, etc. However, sometimes such agitation can occur from less significant needs, including changes in schedule, new staff, or in some way neglecting to address the emotional needs of an individual…such as by forgetting to say hello or not paying attention to an individual. The most important aspect of serving those who are completely non-verbal and totally functionally limited in communication is to get to know each person as an individual, which takes time and special caring. Knowing the specific needs of such individuals, and knowing historically what is likely to create agitation can be the first and best step toward preventing it. Also, it is usually very helpful to obtain as much information as possible from family members and former caregivers who know the individual best and can help train new caregivers regarding the unique needs of each non-verbal individual. Finally, it can be very helpful for caregiver staff to speak to non-verbal individuals, even though those individuals cannot speak responsively; sometimes just explaining to such individuals what’s going to happen next and throughout the day (e.g., “now we’re going to make dinner”) can be stress relief because many non-verbal individuals can understand what’s being said. This ongoing explanation can be comforting for those who prefer a structured routine.

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