Laurie, would it make sense to change the title of this Lesson to match the third bullet in the intro Lesson of this section (or vice versa)?
We will now shift to “expression” – the ways in which the participant will communicate to you. Participants may express themselves verbally or nonverbally (gestures, facial expression, pointing, drawing, etc). As facilitators, we can adjust OUR approach to enable the participant to have an easier time expressing themselves. A key element is for you, the facilitator, and the volunteers, to be patient, and show that YOU are engaged. As discussed previously, participants are socially aware well after their dementia progresses, and everyone will benefit from your engagement with them. It will help them to feel more relaxed, safe, appreciated, and valued… and that in turn will help enhance their ability to express themselves.
You can adjust your questions to support each participant’s level of expression. Two-choice questions, or yes or no questions can be effective for participants who have difficulty composing a comment. Show or demonstrate choices, so that the person may refer to, or point to their choice.
As with any interactive program, it is important to remain relaxed and in the moment – the conversation may venture off track, and that is fine. Artful Moments is not about teaching but rather a connection, with the art or objects and with each other. Tangents will happen and it is up to you to enjoy the experience and model that openness for others.
Recognize that expression is not only verbal, but eye contact and gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures. Read the group and offer encouragement if no one is talking. Use a full group invitation such as, “I notice a lot of people smiling, do all of you like this piece?”
As you take the time to get to know your participants, you will understand their abilities and preferences. Find ways to incorporate a variety of options for expression – hands up to express opinions, thumbs up or down, pointing at things. These are easy and low risk acts of participation which can engage and include even the more reluctant participants who are nervous about answering questions or volunteering ideas. These easier starts can sometimes lead to longer expressions. These are also great ways to include participants whose speech has been affected by their dementia. Ensure everyone has an opportunity to express themselves.