Communication Passports – Part 1
Communication is a basic need. Without it, life has less meaning. With most of our PMLD learners communication should be their focus, so it makes sense to have a communication passport.
Communication passports were developed by the Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning ‘CALL’ Centre by Sally Millar back in 1991. A book was released written by Stuart Aitken and it’s still available from the CALL Centre. I will give you the website address later in this blog.
The communication passport is mainly aimed at non-verbal PMLD learners, but it could also be used with learners who are autistic. Although it could be perceived as an old format, it is still extremely relevant for our learners. One of the biggest differences between a communication passport and the single baseline information sheet is that a communication passport may be a lot more personal and less formal, as it involves the use of photographs of the learner and the relevant special equipment needed to ensure good communication, dignity, and respect to the learner. The document is likely to be bigger and more informative.
The ‘CALL Centre’ in Scotland are the best people to teach you about communication passports. They rightly say that ‘the communication passport presents the person positively as an individual, not as a set of problems or disabilities.’
The communication passport provides a flavour of a person’s personality, as well as their likes and dislikes. It needs to be thought through so that it reflects the learner and the people reading the passport. It can be as long or as short as you wish, but the ‘CALL Centre’ suggest a maximum of 20 pages.
They offer suggestions for the following…
- All about me
- You need to know
- My Family
- My Friends
- Special people, special things
- Things I like to talk about
- How I communicate
- How I communicate (2)
- You can help me communicate
- Fun things I like to do
- Places I like going
- Things I don’t like
- I’m working on this…
- Eating and Drinking
- What’s my eyesight like?
The original format for the communication passport is a multi-page document in PowerPoint. However, the information is laid out very clearly and is almost as easy to read as a single page. CALL Scotland provides a series of freely downloadable templates in Microsoft PowerPoint, including the ‘Basic’ (all-purpose), and the ‘Consulting Template’, which emphasises how to find out what the child thinks (i.e., rather than telling you what he thinks), and the ‘Adult Template’, which may appeal more for adults.
It is all available here:
An important aspect that you may need to consider when developing a communication passport is the input from members of the family, close friends, and other members of staff. This is all-important, but probably the most important person is the learner themselves. The CALL Centre write…
‘You really cannot even start to make a Passport for anybody until agreement and permission has been obtained. It is ideal if the individual him/herself can agree and sign a permission. However, realistically, in many cases, it may be parents of younger children or family members that will need to give their permission on behalf of the person. Because Passports are so personal and potentially powerful, it is always advisable to have clear written permission (not just a spoken ‘go-ahead’ in the middle of an informal chat).’
Finally, the quality of the passport is very important and there is a very in-depth quality control section written by Sally Millar here…
This ensures that the quality of the passport is ethical, correct, legal and up to date.
The ‘passport’ is another option for professionals to have baseline information. The format may be perceived as more friendly and personal than other options, but you need to consider who will be reading the passport, how much time they will have to do so, and what is the information going to tell them. Most importantly, what will it change for the learner themselves?
A Communication Passport is a very personalised document so it’s vitally important to get it right.