Monthly Archives: June 2018

Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service Communication Coordinator Network

The Communication Coordinator Network – New growth and deep roots in the Loddon Region

Grey Box tree of the Loddon region

Grey Box tree of the Loddon region © Meg Irwin

Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service started the first Communication Coordinator Network. It has trained and supported Communication Coordinators for more than 10 years.

Communication Coordinators are disability support workers from day and accommodation services. They are skilled to give great communication support to people with communication disabilities and to improve environments, so that everyone can communicate.

The Communication Coordinator Network uses a capacity building approach. It has impacted on thousands of staff in disability-funded services. It has improved communication support and opportunities for hundreds of people with communication disabilities in the Loddon region.

How do Disability Support Workers become Communication Coordinators?

Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service forms partnerships with local disability-funded service providers.

Managers of services give their Communication Coordinator time to carry out Communication Coordinator tasks, and provide resources (such as a colour printer and communication apps). They agree to support communication access for all the people using their service – within and beyond their walls.

Each year, Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service offers training for 24 new Communication Coordinators. They may be from 24 different residential and day services across the region. Trainees attend a 6 day training course over two months. Twelve workers are accepted into each group.

They learn about communication basics, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and how to observe communication and plan effective communication support.

They learn how to support people with sensory processing disorders or behaviours of concern.

They learn about the Regional Communication Coordinator Network and its powerful person-centred approach.

They practice communication skills, identify appropriate communication aids for people they support, produce aids, explore staff support strategies, and start improving communication access and support in their services.

At the conclusion of the course, new Communication Coordinators receive badges and certificates listing their new knowledge and skills.

Alice works in a respite accommodation facility. Three months after finishing her training, she reflected on her role as a Communication Coordinator and the difference it makes:

  • Staff support participation regardless of speech ability

“Now everyone is involved in activities, even when they’re not verbal  –  e.g. playing Uno, staff play with them and explain how the game works and what’s going on – they also give them choices in what card they want to put down.”

  • She has confidence and skills to try out communication supports

“I went through one communication app in our iPod, I created a YES and NO option and I tried it with one of our people who is not verbal.  I asked her “do you want more dinner?” and she touched NO. I gave her a follow up question; “Are you full?” and she touched YES. It’s still a grey area for me until I see her communication plan and we need to spend more time with her using that app, so we know if that app really works with her.”

  • She supports staff to implement communication strategies

“The last couple of weeks we have a new person staying at the house. I spent more time with her to get to know her and I think it went really well. And she has a personal communication dictionary in her support plan, so I printed it out with bright colour paper and laminated and showed it to the staff in the meeting.”

  • She takes the initiative to seek person-centred collaboration with other services

“Now I’m contacting communication coordinators in day programs, so they can share with us our peoples’ communication plans.”

After training, what else?

 The Regional Communication Service supports all Communication Coordinators (new or experienced), including:

  • Quarterly full day training and collaboration meetings
  • Phone and email support
  • Site visits
  • Whole service or other training or consultations

Staff at quarterly meeting

Christine Lambie has worked in a Castlemaine day service for many years. She trained in the early years of the Network and is still a Communication Coordinator.

She says:

“The Communication Coordinator Network has made a significant difference to the way we support participants at Windarring.”

Here’s why:

  • All the staff at the Service get to learn about communication support

“With Regional Communication Service-trained Communication Coordinators at three of our sites, all support staff have been made aware of the benefits of communication (including sensory) support for people with complex needs. “

  • Many communication aids and strategies are provided

“Communication support we provide includes documents presented in Easy English format, Key Word Sign training, development of Choice & Request cards, sensory support plans, personal communication dictionaries, behaviour support strategies, communication evaluation using the Checklist of Communication Competencies,  ‘Book About Me’, ‘Talking Mat’ and  ‘Chat Book’ tools, introduction and instruction on electronic aids, and specialized training sessions.” *

  • People with disabilities benefit

“Countless participants have grown in confidence, independence and social and emotional wellbeing as a result of this support.”

  • Communication Coordinators learn and get support through the Communication Coordinator Network

“Networking with Communication Coordinators from other services provides unexpected ideas, solutions and support.”

Deep roots: New growth

Over the years, Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service has trained and supported approximately 250 communication coordinators.

At any one time, there are about 60 Communication Coordinators in the Network.

Not everyone who trained is still in the role. Many have moved into management, NDIS-related roles, or other positions in the disability field. Some have left the area. About 100 people trained as communication coordinators are active in the region in various roles.

This means trained Communication Coordinators (past and present) influence and build capacity in thousands of people in the region every year – people with disabilities and workers.

The Regional Communication Service has provided the necessary long term commitment to the Communication Coordinator Network. It has also provided expertise in communication and capacity building partnerships.

The Communication Coordinator Network provides an integrated and powerful collaboration so that everyone in Loddon region can communicate.

NDIS is bringing many new services into the region and is changing the context and nature of disability support work. There is lots more to do!

*Want to know more about some of the communication strategies Chris mentions? Enter them into the “search” box here: www.scopeaust.org.au

 

 

Communication Training for Local Area Coordinators – East Hume Regional Communication Service

Latrobe Community Health is working with local communities to ensure it is welcoming and inclusive for people with disabilities.

It partnered with the East Hume Regional Communication Service to improve its communication access.

Latrobe Community Health is the Region’s NDIS Local Area Coordinator organisation.

Local Area Coordinators are responsible for linking individuals to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and providing information and support in the community.

East Hume Regional Communication Service delivered training in two sessions at Wodonga and Wangaratta. Twenty seven Local Area Coordinators from across three sites (Benalla, Wangaratta and Wodonga) attended.Group of people attending onsite training

The training sessions increased awareness of the impact of a communication disability on an individual’s ability to be involved in decision making about their life, and how communication partners can provide meaningful support.

Wodonga team attending via video link up

Attendees participated enthusiastically in the communication training activities and enjoyed the sessions. Comments included:  “Extremely relevant to what we do.”; “Great information, engaging presentation.”; “I have done this type of training a number of times but never tire of the content and always learn something”; “Very positive and caring …presenter”

As a result of the success of this training, EHRCS has also been able to provide training for Murray Primary Health Network, and Partners in Recovery (who provide support for people with severe mental health issues).

East Hume Regional Communication Service is continuing to build the partnerships with providers of NDIS services in the North East region.

More choice and control at dinner time

How do people make a choice when they can only accept or reject what’s offered? That’s the problem some people living in residential facilities with little or no speech can face.

It may help if staff ask questions, such as “Would you like sausages? or “Would you like chicken?” But that’s only two choices. And the person has to know what the words mean and have a way to indicate yes or no. That’s hard for some people.

It can be easier if there are pictures to choose from.

It can be even easier – and more empowering – if the pictures are used with Talking Mats ®

Many options can be explored and a person can have a record of all the preferences they’ve identified. (That’s why Talking Mats is also a great planning tool!)

Dietitians at Bendigo Health wanted a way for people with communication disabilities living in the community to have more food choices, including the healthy ones! They wanted people with communication disabilities to have their choices heard by the people supporting them at home.

In partnership with the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service, the dietitians developed a set of Talking Mats with photos of many different food options.

The Bendigo Health Food Preferences Talking Mats kit:

Food preferences Talking mats pack

In Talking Mats, each card shows a picture of a different item.  A person places their preferred items on the left and non-preferred items on the right. Items without a strong preference go in between.

There are 9 sets of cards in the Bendigo Health kit. They are: snacks, vegetables, cereals, takeaway, drinks, meat & alternative, fruit, dairy and exercise.

Here’s how one person completed her Talking Mat about her meat/alternatives preferences:

Example of a talking mat showing meat and meat alternatives

Some of these may be foods she had not thought of – or ones she had not been able to ask for.

Having her own photos of her mats mean she can communicate her food choices and have more variety in what she eats.

[We used the header cards (which were user tested) with permission from Talking Mats https://www.talkingmats.com/ It is well worth a visit for resources and more information about Talking Mats.

 

 

Communication Champions: Changing the Culture of Day Services

Steph Bryce from North West Regional Communication Service interviews Hannah Chalker, Communication Coordinator at Distinctive Options

Photograph of Hannah Chalker, Communication Coordinator at Distinctive Options

Hannah

How did you get started as a disability support worker?
I’ve known since I was a young child that I wanted to support people with disabilities. As a teenager, I did lots of volunteering, including with Riding Develops Abilities. When I was 18, I completed a Cert IV in Disability. I’d planned to work with kids, but my parents encouraged me to submit my resume to Distinctive Options, and here I am six and a half years later!

How did you end up in the Communication Coordinator role?
The opportunity came up for me to become the Communication Coordinator and it sounded like something I would enjoy. I had studied Auslan, so I have a keen interest in using sign. I have been the role for almost a year. 

What is a Communication Coordinator?
A communication coordinator is a designated person within a disability service provider who is given specific time away from the clients to develop communication aids and strategies for the service (and individuals), to give staff guidance on using AAC and to keep up to date with the latest technology and strategies.

Sometimes I go into programs and model using communication aids with our participants, with both low tech and high tech aids, such as Proloquo2go. I also send out emails with useful resources and information.

I hear that you have an exciting project at the moment!
At the start of the last term, we came up with the idea of having a team of dedicated people who we call ‘Communication Champions’. They are staff members who want to develop their communication skills, really make an effort to use AAC within their programs and model to other staff. We thought it would be good to have different people spread out around the service who feel confident in their AAC skills. There are eleven people in the Champions team.Communication Champions Flyer

What inspired you to do this?
One of my managers felt that we could make communication a higher priority within our service and really wanted to push staff to use AAC more often. That’s where the seed was planted.

What was the aim?
We want communication to become something that we do every day as part of our routine, not something extra. Obviously, it will still take effort to use alternative methods of communication but that’s what our participants need and what we should be providing.

How does the ‘Communication Champions’ project work?
At the moment we have a meeting once a term. Sometimes I’ll send out emails that have more detailed information than I would send to other staff. I try to provide support, asking the champions how they are going with AAC or what they feel like they need more support in. We are just in the beginning stages, so we are still building on the skills of the Communication Champions.

Have you had any good outcomes so far?
One of the Champions came to me the other day telling me about how she used a photo for successful communication. She was trying to get one of our participants to come inside and was using different signs such as ‘stand up’, ‘go’ and ‘bus’ and this wasn’t working. Then she brought out a photo of him at the place they were going to. He responded straight away, stood up and went inside.

The Champions are thinking more about different strategies that can be used and trying other methods of communicating. It’s great to see the different interests within the team emerging. One Champion is passionate about Key Word Sign– she’ll come to me and show me what sign she learnt today. Another Champion who has been there for over 20 years commented that just being a part of this team has inspired her to think differently about communication.

What are your aspirations for this?
I hope in the future that the culture of Distinctive Options will have a bigger focus on communication and that this will be built into everyday routines. I’m going with the flow for now. It would be great if the Champions had more admin time for training and more regular meetings but that is not always possible and this is one of the challenges. But I’m looking forward to seeing this area of our service flourish!

Any final thoughts?
I’m so grateful to be part of the Communication Coordinator Network trained and convened by the North West Regional communication Service. It is great to have that support and to know that Libby and Steph (the two Regional Communication Service speech pathologists) are just a phone call away. Every time I come to a Network meeting, I pick up new pieces of information and ideas and that’s something I really appreciate!