Communication is the foundation for everything

For Autism Awareness Week, we will be sharing stories each day from across Certitude focusing on the importance of great communication. We think that supporting people to communicate their needs and desires effectively is the key to making your own choices and having a good and fulfilling life. 

Melanie, Total Communication Practitioner at Certitude tells us about how communication has been a large part of her life, both personal and professional.

My brother has Autism. If you showed him any flag or any planet, my brother will tell you in a second the correct names. In fact, last weekend, when watching Home Alone 3, he was able to tell me how old I was when the movie was released! He can memorise any date concerning the tiniest of events. He can guide me like a Sat Nav from A to B with places he has memorised and knows whether we need to get on the M25/M4, or what exit at the roundabout to take. My brother has distinctive capabilities unlike anyone I have ever encountered.

Professionals told my family that my brother would never speak, would never want to play with other children and would never make friends. But to look at him now and to see the achievements he’s had, over time he has blossomed …

In my eyes, he is dazzling. He is precious. I tell him all the time that I would never change him for the world. His mind functions in ways that mine never will!  Unfortunately, sometimes it has been difficult for my brother to feel like he fits in, because of society’s norms and expectations. Most of these distinctive capabilities I mentioned above are generally unacknowledged. But it is these small things that make him special in my eyes and since these things were not deemed as ‘special’ to society’s ‘norm,’ I wanted to work in an industry where people can relate to me and see how special and unique people with learning disabilities are.

I developed a keen desire to support people with disabilities who need assistance to communicate effectively, while maximising the strengths they already possess.  After exploring several options, I realised communication was the foundation for everything!

I have spent the majority of my career working with people who have moderate to complex learning disabilities, including people with autism, because I can relate to some of their challenges. I have developed the skill to look at someone’s strengths and systematically build on those strengths to address any areas which they may find challenging. This is primarily due to the inspiration of growing up with a brother who was non-verbal until the age of 6 and was told that he would never speak. I know first-hand that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up!

Adapting and understanding is crucial to acceptance. This means knowing and understanding that everyone is different and some people require different support, additional time and patience, additional attention and a huge amount of LOVE. Take the time to understand that everyone is on a different path, a different journey and not all disabilities are the same. I’m extremely blessed to witness this at work every day as a Total Communication Practitioner and to raise awareness of autism wherever I go.

 

You can find out more about the work Melanie does to raise awareness about Autism here:

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