The relationship between Communication-Regulation Partners (CRPs) and nonspeaking individuals is built on trust and responsibility. As CRPs, we have the privilege of supporting spellers in expressing their thoughts and emotions through spelling and typing. Our support for nonspeakers includes helping them build purposeful motor skills, demonstrate knowledge and understanding, and accurately communicate their thoughts.
Respecting intelligence is the first step in responsible practice.
When a speller entrusts us with their communication, it is crucial to recognize the weight of this responsibility. Our role is to hone the physical aspect of communication, supporting the motor skills required for spelling and typing. Presuming competence is essential; never underestimate the abilities of the individual. We must avoid infantilizing and over-praising spellers for doing every action or action that far younger individuals easily complete. Imagine your significant other praising you as you add an ingredient to a dish you are cooking! It gets old fast, and the praise loses its sincerity! Feeding the brain with age-appropriate and engaging content acknowledges spellers as the capable learners they are! It is vital to remember that we are coaching the motor, not the brain.
Safeguard against influence
In the communication process, CRPs should act as receivers of letters, not interpreters or decision-makers. Protecting the agency and authenticity of our speller’s communication is our primary responsibility! We must be ever vigilant to safeguard against influence. Examine your questions for any potential bias or leading (e.g., My favorite part was ____, what is yours?; Why are you afraid of the dentist?). Avoid binary questions (e.g., yes/no or choices), as these responses are at the level of chance, difficult to confirm, and may easily be misinterpreted. Many spellers have been presented with binary questions and choices over their therapeutic experiences and have developed patterns for responding to choices on either the right or left or the first or last choice offered. These patterns have led many CRPs to make incorrect assumptions about the speller’s intended communication. Effective CRPs engage in co-regulation, acknowledging the significance of their emotional state during the communication process. We should continuously check our regulation to ensure our emotions do not influence the speller’s communication.
Mind your manners!
Our job as CRPs is to coach the purposeful motor skills for communication. We need to be mindful of personal boundaries. The CRPs job is not to interrogate or pry into the speller’s personal life or seek information they may not be comfortable sharing. Before asking a question, ask yourself, is it?
Red Flags for Responsibility
It is crucial to be aware of red flags that might compromise the integrity of our responsible practice as CRPs:
- Talking down to spellers and infantilizing them.
- Speller communication that is overly focused on the CRP.
- Blurred boundaries or encroaching on areas outside the scope of practice.
- CRP’s emotional state affects the speller’s communication or regulation.
As CRPs, our responsibility extends beyond the physical act of supporting spelling and typing. It encompasses respecting spellers, honoring their goals, and providing a nurturing environment for growth. By focusing on coaching motor skills, maintaining emotional and physical regulation, and fostering agency and autonomy, we can improve our practice and enhance the lives of those who entrust us with their communication. Let’s renew our commitment to responsibility and respect, ensuring that every nonspeaking voice is heard!
Elizabeth Vosseller is the Founder of S2C and Executive Director of I-ASC. She considers being a CRP for any speller a solemn duty to protect the accuracy and authenticity of the speller’s communication. Her favorite place to be is by the side of any speller.