Ka Lip Chew
Communication styles and communication difficulties may
impact on the ability of general practitioners to provide best
possible health care, particularly for patients with intellectual
and other developmental disabilities.
To highlight potential difficulties GPs may face in consultations
with adult patients with an intellectual disability and to
raise awareness among GPs of the different communication
methods used by people with intellectual disabilities. Current
recommendations for improving communication with this
marginalised group and practical issues in implementing these
recommendations are also discussed.
People with intellectual disabilities have different communication
abilities, using a range of different styles as a group, as well as
on an individual basis. They may use speech, augmentative and
alternative communication strategies, or visual or behavioural
cues to indicate their wants, needs or feelings. Improved
collaboration between GPs, patients, and patients' support
people, is encouraged to develop an individualised approach to
communication with each patient and to promote best possible
health outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Some medical practitioners may feel uncomfortable seeing patients with intellectual disabilities. This discomfort often stems from a lack of experience and training in working with people who have communication difficulties. These difficulties may affect interaction in consultations, which then affects the development of rapport and quality of health care provision.1,2 There may also be a reliance on patients' support people in obtaining a medical history.1,3 Although obtaining a medical history from support people may be necessary for patients with limited communication skills, it is critical that patients are not excluded from the communication exchange.4
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