Demand Far Exceeds Supply: Addressing the Need for Non-Traditional Assistive Communication Supports

We surveyed all graduates of the Communication Mentors program of Pennsylvania. They are support workers who have received special training to assist people with disabilities to communicate with, and be “heard” by, other people in their lives. The results suggest that individuals with a wide variety of backgrounds, given specialized training, can provide useful complementary assistance in meeting the communicative needs of people with disabilities. Participants will: Remember that demand for assistive communication far exceeds supply. Understand the Communication Mentors objectives. Know how the Communication Mentors training works. Comprehend the professional jealousy and territoriality on the part of the speech-hearing-language profession has impeded meeting a tsunami of need. Know how we did a survey of all the Mentors graduates. Know that we found their overwhelming opinion was that the training helped them to help more people, and in better ways. Have a sense of the number of people who got help who otherwise would still be waiting. Be able to state the current policy issue simply and clearly:  non-traditional approaches are needed when a formal profession simply cannot meet the full array of needs.

James Conroy