Address patients directly
Address patients directly.13
Engage the patient
Find ways of engaging the patient. Attend to both verbal and nonverbal cues.23
Use preferred communication methods
Use the patient’s preferred communication method and tools (eg, EasyHealth easy read leaflets) to facilitate communication.18, 24-26
Involve caregivers familiar with the patient to help communicate, but be attentive to inappropriate taking over of decision making.28
See the patient privately
Try to have a short period alone with the patient to address safety or other concerns.29
The tip sheet Communicating Effectively with People with Developmental Disabilities, developed by the Developmental Disabilities Primary Care Initiative at Surrey Place, (Toronto, 2011), describes adaptations in communication that facilitate the interaction with people with developmental disabilities.
The UK publisher Beyond Words provides books to support people who find pictures easier to understand than words. Whether you are supporting somebody with a developmental disability or communication difficulty, these books empower people through pictures. Watch the video What are Books Beyond Words to learn more about using picture books for communication. Topic specific book sets about Health, Health Care and Healthy Living are available.
Learn how to implement these guideline recommendations into your practice from selected articles in the special issue on primary care of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Canadian Family Physician, Vol 64 (suppl 2): S1-78, April 2018:
13. Perry J, Felce D, Kerr M, Bartley S, Tomlinson J, Felce J. Contact with primary care: The experience of people with intellectual disabilities. J Appl Res Intellect Disabil. 2014;27(3):200-11.
18. Baumbusch J, Phinney A, Baumbusch S. Practising family medicine for adults with intellectual disabilities: Patient perspectives on helpful interactions. Canadian Family Physician. 2014;60(7):e356-61.
19. Lennox NG, Diggens JN, Ugoni AM. The general practice care of people with intellectual disability: Barriers and solutions. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 1997;41(5):380-90.
20. Wilkinson J, Dreyfus D, Bowen D, Bokhour B. Patient and provider views on the use of medical services by women with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 2013;57(11):1058-67.
21. Espinoza KM, Heaton LJ. Communicating with patients with special health care needs. Dent Clin North Am. 2016;60(3):693-705.
22. Iacono T, Johnson H. Patients with disabilities and complex communication needs. the GP consultation. Aust Fam Physician. 2004;33(8):585-9.
23. Forster S. Chapter 54: Communication with patients, parents and other caregivers. In: Rubin IL, Merrick J, Greydanus DE, Patel DR, editors. Health Care for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Across the Lifespan. Rubin and Crocker 3rd ed. Switzerland: Springer; 2016. p. 619-28.