1. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    19

    helping a magically disabled guy communicate - layperson strategies

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ettina, May 1, 2016.

    OK, I'm autistic and also a psychology major with an interest in alternative and augmentative communication, so I'm having trouble guessing at how a layperson would approach this problem one of my characters is facing. I don't want him to seem unexpectedly knowledgeable given his background.

    Background: The setting is a pseudo-medieval setting, where magic is uncommon, known about and feared but not actively oppressed. The character in question is a teenaged apprentice to a pair of sort of mercenary detectives/assassins/spies, who don't have magic but have experience handling magic-related problems. He's also a pretty good artist and a generally smart and thoughtful kid.

    They were called in to this one country because someone suspected that the king's new 'advisor' was doing more than just advising. It turned out this guy had a magical artifact and was using it to control the king's mind. He made the king start a war and then was using magic to help the troops by doing things like manipulating the weather and so forth.

    Anyway, they try to steal the adviser's artifact, and he catches them in the act. He takes the artifact and tries to destroy them, but the artifact malfunctions and attacks his mind instead. When the dust clears, they find him unable to speak, understand speech or dress himself, and he doesn't seem to recognize them either. They take him prisoner and start fleeing the country because the king is after them.

    Anyway, this apprentice kid takes pity on the wounded adviser guy, who's clearly scared and confused about what's going on, and starts trying to help him out. So far, he's been mostly just comforting the guy and trying to reassure him, but he's also done a bit of experimenting with seeing if he can find a way for them to communicate better. He's already tried to show the guy how to write a few words, with absolutely no success.

    Then, the adviser guy finds some 'wanted' posters of the kid's masters. The adviser guy clearly has no idea that these are wanted posters, but seems excited by the fact that there are pictures of people he knows on the poster. After they hurry out of town to avoid being caught, the kid realizes the adviser guy took the wanted posters with him and is refusing to let go of them.

    So, here are my questions:

    a) How likely is it that the kid might think to try drawing pictures to communicate with the adviser guy?

    b) If he does think of drawing pictures, which pictures might he try to draw first?

    c) The adviser guy will not be able to draw recognizable pictures in response. How likely is it that the kid would think to try to get him to point to pictures the kid drew?
     
    Seraph751 likes this.
  2. LostThePlot
    Offline

    LostThePlot Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2015
    Messages:
    431
    Likes Received:
    343
    Speaking is the big deal in communication and it's weird to me your character wouldn't think to start there. Presumably the guy can make noises and can listen, is that right? If so then (assuming he wants to learn) then just mimicry and body langue will at least get him communicating to some level. I point to the table and say table and do so often enough that the guy puts the noise and the object together. He might say 'table' at other objects and I make negative body language and he learns which things are not tables. Even if he has the mental faculties of a child; this is how children learn to speak. Trial and error and living in a world where they hear a LOT of words.

    If he can't talk (or can't listen) then sign language is where I'd go next. Children can learn it just fine and while it's a bugger trying to teach it to deafblind kids with no understanding of language it's absolutely possible. It's a better choice because it's a language and it's way faster to sign and to parse signing than to draw pictures. Suffice to say; we teach monkeys sign language not how to draw. Animals naturally pay attention to other creatures and especially to their extremities so sign language fits well here.

    Finally; if all else fails you can try writing (of which picture writing is just a subsection). It's not a great place to start. Without a way to communicate you can't really tell if the other person is even processing there is something here that they should try to understand, let alone if they understand it. There's a reasonable chance this guy will just stare blankly at a piece of paper, not realizing the significance of the lines on it. It's a bad form of communication too because it's very very slow to both write and parse which makes teaching it very very painful. I can teach my niece to sign hello, how are you in ten minutes. I don't think I could draw a picture that implies that perhaps ever, at least not without reference to non-inherent things. I can draw a person waving but if I don't know how people say hello then I'm stuffed.

    I guess the problem here is in defining terms. If this guy has just lost his memories then all you need to do is teach him again. I say all but really that's not so hard as to be insurmountable. If he's regressed in mental age then no problems; he'll want to speak and express himself and you just need to surround him with words and he'll slurp them up eventually. It might not be much fun to live in a fantasy setting with a grown ass man who can't eat and continues to poop himself but assuming you can get a magic diaper you'll be fine.

    On the other hand if your guy has been made genuinely aphasic then there's nothing on God's earth that's going to change that. In global aphasia, especially cause by trauma, it's almost unheard of for patients to regain even a reasonable competence at communication of any description (yes, it's exactly as sad as it sounds - they will never speak or listen or read or write fluently ever again) and that's just how it is. That's not to say teaching them is not of some value in terms of quality of life but man it's not something you'd want to do off your own back.

    So really, pick what this guy is. If he's helpable then I think that speech or sign language would be the first port of call before I tried writing.
     
    Seraph751 likes this.
  3. doggiedude
    Offline

    doggiedude Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2016
    Messages:
    1,452
    Likes Received:
    1,248
    Location:
    Florida, USA, Earth, The Sol System
    I'm curious as to why they're taking him anywhere. Why don't they just kill him? The view of helping the helpless hasn't always been around. Considering what he's done causing a war I'd think they'd either end him or leave him.

    It also makes me wonder why the king is after them. If this advisor was controlling him and the king is no longer being controlled then??
    These may be things already explained in your story. If not, think about them.

    Since his disability was caused by magic you can make it any level of disability you want it to be. If you think it makes sense for the apprentice to be able to break through his communication problem with pictures, I don't think that sounds unreasonable.
     
  4. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    440
    Likes Received:
    19
    He does have global aphasia, as well as apraxia (a motor coordination issue where the brain can't plan out complex movements - it affects his speech as well as his ability to do coordinated stuff with his hands). His cognition is actually mostly unaffected apart from a loss of a great deal of knowledge (not that they know that - it's hard to tell how much someone understands when they can't talk or use their hands properly).

    I don't think this kid teaching him knows about sign language, though they've been using simple gestures. But he has tried to get the guy to imitate speech and to write, neither of which have worked.

    By the way, most patients with global aphasia recover somewhat. They pretty much never return to normal functioning, but many of them transition from global aphasia to some milder category of aphasia (most often Broca's aphasia). But that's a moot point because this guy won't be recovering (at least probably not, I might change my mind).

    I know how they could get him a decent communication system, but I don't want to say it because I want to see if someone who hasn't read all about this system before would think it up on their own.
     
  5. qp83
    Offline

    qp83 Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2014
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    17
    He recognizes drawings, so my first thought would be to draw cards of different things, like a mouth, and an apple, and then by grouping those two cards you make the sentence "(want) to eat apple", and continue along this logic.
     
  6. Seraph751
    Offline

    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2016
    Messages:
    555
    Likes Received:
    372
    Location:
    Texas
    Gestures/Hands waving, body language, learning towards something or away, the way the eyes widen, clapping hands 1x for yes, 2 times for no, head movement- does he shake his frantically at something he feels wrong/dangerous. Sense it was magic that basically shut down or overloaded those functions similar to a part of a motherboard being fried. Then if that is the case, how does the magic affect other parts of the brain? Does it [the magic] cause other things to occur that may change how he can communicate?
     

Share This Page