Sunday, May 21, 2017

What's up with Whats App?

There are well over 1 billion Whats App users around the world affirming that it is one of the most popular and widely-used messenger applications in the world.  Our family was easily baited into becoming one of these users.

We generate a plethora of communication breakdowns on a daily basis primarily due to Ayal's aphasia. These breakdowns are a direct result of expressive and receptive language difficulties. Many families also suffer from these breakdowns on a daily basis.  The hectic schedules and the rat race in which we live do not always cater to the perfect dinner scenario of the 50's that allowed us to share our day. My parents and I have enshrined these moments in our memories.  Our family is successful in achieving this only one night a week.

Imagine, you are lost, you immediately contact a family member, however, you are unable to say where you are.  Imagine if you need to communicate with your spouse or friend about an issue when you meet with them later in the day or week.  Forget typing.  Spelling and formulating words or even short phrases are also nearly impossible.  "We need more milk".  "Call the accountant about our tax returns".  "Need a prescription refill".  "You need to call the air conditioner guy because it stopped working." 

Communicative Frustration. Again this powerful and debilitating concept bleeds into our minds as we try to express ourselves.  How can we reduce this?

Pictures are undoubtedly worth a thousand words, however, they can also provide cues for an individual trying to converse and connect with their communication partner to emphasize the main point they are trying to convey.  Whats App allows us to do just this.

CLICK. CHOOSE. SEND. When you are lost you can take a picture of the street sign or a store you are waiting in front of. You want to remind your spouse to buy more milk, so take a picture of the carton of milk in your fridge.  You are at a toy store searching for a toy for your grandchildren and are having difficulty choosing a present, so take a picture of several options to choose from in order to share with a family member to help you in making the appropriate decision.  We often forget what it is we want to share with our family members by the end of the day so capturing snippets of our encounters throughout the day provides instant documentation of our communicative intent to be saved and stored for later use.

Whats App can also nurture relationships and strengthen connections among family members and friends. This is essential as we experience these communication challenges throughout the day which can harness negative feelings and reduce our levels of patience.  We become dependent on technology to form these connections, especially when we are not together.  Understanding sentences or word phrases within a text can often be difficult to process (one of the main setbacks of aphasia). Our children can easily connect with their father throughout the day by taking pictures.  Sharing a picture of their test results (only if it is a good grade of course) instantly provides a platform for Ayal to express how proud he is by sending an emoji 😁.

Providing instruction and guidance initially for people with Aphasia or other communicative difficulties requires a lot of effort and persistence.  They may be reluctant towards implementing this technology into their day-to-day routines and may need daily reminders to use it.  Our ultimate goals are to refine and develop the lines of communication, strengthen relationships, and give them back some level of independence.  Thank you Whats App!