Neurological disabilities are caused by damage to the nervous system (including the brain and spinal cord) that results in the loss of some bodily or mental functions. Heart attacks, infections, genetic disorders and lack of oxygen to the brain may also result in a neurological disability.
There are many hundreds of categories of neuromuscular disease. Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and Epilepsy are two of the most common neurological disabilities.
Neurological disabilities may affect a person’s capacity to move and manipulate things. A way a person acts, the way in which they process information or how they tolerate and express feelings may also be significantly changed.
The effects of many neurological conditions can vary greatly from person to person as well as from time to time for the same person.
People with a neurological condition may struggle to express themselves clearly, either, spoken, written or both. They may experience challenges with:
- Severe fatigue and/or weakness
- Impaired hand dexterity
- Tremor of hands or other body parts
- Controlled use of the hands
- Other motor-control impairments such as loss of balance or co-ordination and difficulty walking, visual impairment or seizures
- Psychological and social functioning such as speech difficulties, including slurring and other losses of communication skills, memory deficits and mood disturbance
When communicating with a person with a neurological disability it is important to acknowledge that each person is an individual and should be approached as such.
- Meet in a setting that is comfortable and does not cause anxiety or distraction.
- Make eye contact.
- If there is a support person you must address the person with the disability and not the support person.
- Use appropriate volume and tone in your voice.
- Speak clearly, using Plain English.
- Communicate in ways that suit them (e.g., written/spoken).
- Check understanding, by asking person to repeat in their own words what you have said.
- Ask short questions to gather information.
- Don’t be frustrated if you have to repeat yourself.
- Rephrase information if it is not understood, or present the information in another way.
- Ask the person to repeat something you do not understand.
- Break up new information into small chunks.
- Be patient, wait for them to finish what they are saying.
- When providing information do so in writing as well as verbally if required.
- Ensure information and language used is appropriate to the individual’s needs.