Oh Wow! Parents React to Medical Communication Book


Showing new communication tools for close to two decades, I've heard plenty of "Oh Wow’s" from parents. But two fairly recent products at opposing ends of the cost, and the hi/low tech spectrum, have produced more jaw drops and exclamations of “this will change my child’s life!” than I've ever experienced before.

One is eye-gaze technology;  seeing your kid quickly, easily work a computer with a hi-tech camera system when previously, nothing else worked is incredible and often moving.

The inside and back cover of Widgit's First Response Communication book.[/caption] But the other product that has consistently blown parents away – in this case parents with children on the autism spectrum – is The Widgit First Response Communication Book.

Widgit's First Response Communication book.

The inside and back cover of Widgit’s First Response Communication book.

The washable, durable medical communication book was designed for First Responders – ambulance crews, emergency room doctors, fire, police, etc.  The pages are so thoughtfully organized, that it is ideal for anybody who needs communication help in a medical scenario.

I was recently meeting with some parents of children on the autism spectrum who had experienced long hospital stays. They spent an hour recalling one procedure after another that should have been routine that turned into traumatic crises. Often, the root of the problem was mis-communication -- their children couldn't explain what they wanted or needed.  Just as common, the medical personnel couldn't convey what was going to happen and why.  The verdict of these parents was the same as what I’ve heard so many times before – The First Response Communication Book. would have solved so many problems.

Clarify Communication, Avoid Crisis:

Research presented at the 2013 Geneva Centre Autism symposium by researchers from Sickkids Toronto and Glenrose Hospital, Edmonton, (“Autism Comes to the Hospital: Experiences of Hospital Care from the Perspectives of Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Their Parents and Health Care Providers,” Muskat, Roberts and Zwaigenbaum, et. al.) summarized the communication challenges patients with autism face in a hospital whether they were verbal or non-verbal.

“... how frustrating it must be to be non-verbal and in pain somewhere in your body and you can’t tell someone...”

The researchers found that stressful and intimidating hospital environment  dramatically effected patients ability to not only be understood but to understand what was being communicated to them. They recorded how when patients felt intimidated and anxious because of the medical setting, they will  often give the impression that they understand the doctor or nurse even if they didn't at all.

The result of this chronic mis-communication was anything from confusion, anxiety, to behaviours that resulted in the use of restraints and sedation.

“Unintentional Torture 

One parent at a conference described how difficult it was  for different nurses to understand that his son took needles in his right rather than his left arm.  “It was such a simple thing that would have made such a difference.  He could’ve just pointed to this picture here (gesturing at the Treatment section with the symbolized question “May I give you an injection...” in the First Response Communication Book), but instead ended-up in restraints. That’s a sort of unintentional torture.”

The First Response Communication book delivers quick and easy solutions for patients to communicate: A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

A page from the Widgit First Responders Communication Book.

  • Pain – not just intensity but different types of pain (numbness, pins and needles etc.) and where it exists.
  • What’s wrong? – fall, injury, nausea, dizziness etc.
  • What happened?
Also responding to what doctors, nurses and any other caregivers try to communicate:
  • Explaining routine procedures – taking temperature, blood test, blood pressure.
  • Asking common questions:  when did you last eat, drink?  Event history for emergencies. Existing conditions and past medical history.
  • Describing what happens next – bandage,  injections, IV, ECG, going home, waiting for mom/dad etc.
The First Response Communication Book was recently purchased by the British Red Cross to go into every one of their ambulances.

--Bogdan Pospielovsky


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  • Bogdan Pospielovsky
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