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Personal Communication Passports

by Allan Wilson

on Thu Feb 01, 2018

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Back around 1990, my colleague, Sally Millar (now enjoying her retirement), was working with an adult with communication difficulties. (We’ll call her Mandy.) Everything seemed to be in place for Mandy to spend a weekend’s respite with a family – her communication book had been updated with appropriate vocabulary for the visit. The following week, Sally contacted the family to find out how things had gone.

“It was a disaster – we just couldn’t communicate with her.”

“Did Mandy not use her communication book? It’s in the bag on the back of her wheelchair, but you have to get it out for her."

“Oh, we didn’t want to pry into her personal things.”

Sally realised there was a need for a simple, accessible way to store and recall important information for people with communication difficulties who couldn’t speak for themselves and began to work on the problem, eventually leading to the creation of the “Personal Communication Passport” (sometimes abbreviated to Communication Passport). Sally presented her findings at various conferences in the 1990s and 2000s and CALL Scotland is still recognised as the place to go to for information and advice on Communication Passports. The book, Personal Communication Passports: Guidelines for Good Practice, was published in 2003 and is still available from CALL. Further information is available on the Communication Passports web site.

What is a Communication Passport?

Personal Communication Passports are a practical and person-centred way of supporting children, young people and adults who cannot easily speak for themselves. A Communication Passport pulls together complex information about the individual and presents it in an easy to use format. It should be easy to read, informative, useful and fun. Above all, the Communication Passport should be In an accessible format, so that the individual can share some or all of the information contained and should try to reflect their personality and interests.

Templates and ideas for creating Communication Passports are available from CALL Scotland’s Personal Communication Passports web site, and from other sites:

Templates provide ideas and a structure for creating a basic Communication Passport, but it can take a lot of effort, time and negotiation to produce a good Passport that meets the needs of an individual.

Digital Passports

Paper-based Communication Passports are used in many countries, but people are also starting to make digital passports due to the advantages of additional media such as video and speech/audio output, ease of updating and sharing. Pamis in Scotland, for example, have started to make Digital Passports for their clients in the form of an e-book that people can flick through on a smartphone or tablet. Practical uses of the Digital Passport from Pamis include:

  • establishing a communication pathway – for example, between school and home
  • empowering families with a tool they can use for training carers
  • supporting people to understand the needs of the individual – for example, facilitating care assessments.

CALL Scotland attempted to produce an iPad app for creating a Communication Passport a few years ago, but we became frustrated by the procedures for making an app available through iTunes. There are other apps that can be used to create excellent Communication Passports, though they don’t necessarily advertise themselves in the context of making a Passport. Book Creator, for example, is a free / low cost app that is easy to learn and can combine text, images, sound and video to create an attractive, informative and fun Communication Passport in e-book format.

How can you find out more about Communication Passports?

CALL Scotland’s Personal Communication Passports web site would be a good place to start. We are running a training course on Personal Communication Passports at CALL on 10th May. This will be suitable for speech and language therapists and assistants; social work staff; additional supports needs staff in education settings; care staff with charities and other organisations supporting people with communication difficulties. CALL Scotland can also provide training in schools, local authorities and other settings.

Tags: communication passports

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