Communication can present in many different forms and is definitely not restricted to just one method. Effective communication includes a whole range of methods that assist in conveying or receiving a message.
All of us at any one time will have used a combination of methods to enhance or compliment speech or have used in place of speech when it became difficult to express our needs or wants (due to heightened anxiety or stress).
For my non-verbal son, communication is conveyed in many different ways with behaviour often the primary strategy, particularly when he is overloaded or in meltdown.
Over the years I have come to understand and can generally pinpoint his needs from specific mannerisms and verbalisations. For example, he has noise sensitivities and will cover his ears when background noises are a problem. However, he will also cover his ears when feeling anxious about trying something new or if in a new environment. Knowing the difference is what makes it tricky for people who support him on a daily basis and it might mean eliminating other factors ie, when he covers his ears and there is no background noise apparent, then it’s likely that he is experiencing anxiety or fear.
Working out what factors are involved have been somewhat trial and error and also having the knowledge of how my son tries to communicate through his body language. I have been able to observe and mentally ‘take note’ of the specific behaviours over time to know what it is that he needs.
As a support person, it is really important to observe, ask questions and talk to others who also support the individual to find out how they communicate and how they use body language so that everyone understands what it is that they need or want.