Working together to Build Communication Access – There’s a communication aid for that!

The Communication Access Group in Bendigo was initiated by Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service (see our July, September & October blogs) in partnership with Distinctive Options, a day and lifestyle service. But the Group couldn’t have happened without Kharlie, Communication Coordinator and Disability Support Worker!

Kharlie worked closely with the young women in the Group, getting to know them well and supporting them to use communication aids and strategies and to learn about communication access in the community. Kharlie stayed in touch with the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service and went to Communication Coordinator Network meetings. Distinctive Options provided time every fortnight for Kharlie to develop communication  aids and resources. The Communication Access Group, and others supported by Distinctive Options, got the benefits.

Here are just some of the things Kharlie developed:

  • Picture based (individual) choice boards
  • Picture and object based shopping lists
  • Picture based what to bring lists to prepare for outings
  • Picture based instructions such as safety in the kitchen
  • Picture based routines such as arrival or washing the dishes
  • Community request cards (shared and individual)
  • Who here photos of everyone (both participants and staff)
  • Picture based activity planner so everyone can plan the details of what will happen and have an accessible way to remember it
  • Picture based story guides for individuals such as a road safety book for one participant

And she’s inspired others:

Now staff include pictures in notices to go home. That means participants have more access to information that concerns them.

Now one member of the Communication Access Group gets resources organised to ensure that staff and participants keep developing more communication strategies.

Over the year, Kharlie’s understanding of communication strategies and contribution to communication access has grown. She will be able to support Distinctive Options to be an even more inclusive and innovative service for participants with little or no speech into the future.

Key Word Sign in Wangaratta

East Hume was treated to an outstanding basic Key Word Sign workshop at the Wangaratta Library in October. Marlene Eksteen, a qualified Key Word Sign Presenter, facilitated the workshop, and 16 people with a broad range of backgrounds, including support workers, day care teachers and parents, attended to further their knowledge of Key Word Sign.

The day incorporated lots of fun and practical activities where everyone was encouraged to practice and refine their signing skills!

‘Would you like a chocolate or a lolly?’ Participants received a yummy reward when they made their request with Key Word Sign!

During the morning we learnt about AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) and its importance for people who have difficulty communicating. Participants were excited to learn how they could use Key Word Sign as a form of AAC.

We learnt about the different stages of communication and how Key Word Sign  can help at every level.

After lunch we attempted to bring on some Christmas cheer in October by learning how to sign ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’, which ended in lots of laughs!

We learnt how to finger spell the alphabet, and of course to introduce ourselves by spelling our names.

Participants were also given the opportunity to make their own scripts, which they could take home and practice with their loved ones/clients or other people they support. We also shared these with the group and learnt lots of new signs as we went.

Feedback from the day was resoundingly positive; with everyone saying that they loved the day and found it very relevant, practical and informative.

And we heard some comments that showed just how valuable Marlene’s session was:

“I feel much more confident to use Key Word Sign now – I always thought we could only use it with people who are deaf”

“I work in a disability home, and the staff who use Key Word Sign with the clients often seem to have a better rapport than staff who don’t”

We are looking forward to holding further Key Word Sign workshops in the East Hume region in the near future.

Kelsey and Meredith, East Hume Regional Communication Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Together to Build Communication Access –          Our First Award!

The four young women taking action on communication access in Bendigo (see last month’s blog) have made their first award to a local small business for being so communication friendly.

They regularly visit the Terminus Milkbar in Golden Square. They have always felt respected and have been able to communicate successfully without speech.

The staff were delighted with the certificate. They put it up where everyone could see it.  

Presenting the certificate


Using the communication board to explain:  “You are welcoming, take time to communicate, talk directly to us, and listen really well.”High fives all round!Everyone is proud

Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service

Working together to Build Communication Access – an update

In July we wrote about the Communication Access Group in Bendigo.

In the first half of  2018, These four young women got ready to work for more communication access in their  town.

The group is supported by the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service and Distinctive Options.

What’s happened?

The Regional Communication Service has continued to attend the group each month. The trained Communication Coordinator in Distinctive Options has continued with the group.

The group has steadily built skills. It is now easy for group members to identify items on picture  communication displays and use them to communicate their opinions and wishes.  (Through using the communication aids, some members of the group are saying some more  words and recognising more symbols and printed words.)

In August, the group contributed to a video. It showed people from all over Victoria using communication aids. The video was for Speech Pathology Week, which had the theme “Communication access is communication for all”. Group members showed community request cards and a communication board in the video.

Makng the video: Bendigo’s fountain and community request cards

In September, the group consulted on communication aids being developed by the local water authority. They were paid for this work by Coliban Water.

After reviewing the details, this group member was happy with the communication book

The Group also prepared to acknowledge good communication access at a local small business. They used a communication board to identify the good things the business does so that everyone can communicate.

A communication board to talk about communication access

The Group is now well on its way and contributing to communication access in Bendigo!

 

Mentoring speech pathologists in AAC

CAN’s work is all about inclusion and participation of people with communication disabilities in their communities.

People with communication disabilities benefit if their speech pathologist is competent in AAC and related areas. If a person has effective AAC, opportunities for social relationships, choice, and community participation open up.

Regional Communication Services provide specialised peer support to local speech pathologists to develop their skills.

With the roll out of NDIS in Loddon, new speech pathologists have arrived.

Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service has been mentoring them on request.

This time, when another speech pathologist asked for particular support, we decided to make it a two hour session and invite anyone from local speech pathology services who wanted to come.

There was an immediate response from five different service managers. Ultimately new speech pathologists from three services attended our session on positive behaviour support and strategies for communication.

The session included:

-orientation and reminders about elements of positive behaviour support

-real life stories about working with staff and services delivering positive behaviour support

-exploring options and resources for communication support

In evaluation feedback all these were identified as key learning areas.

The speech pathologists also enjoyed meeting each other and learning together.

We all agreed this was a two hours well spent.

Personal Information Cards – For Emergencies and More

Gippsland Regional Communication Service and Wellington Shire Council have been working with local Emergency Relief Centres.

One of the things they did was develop a template and information so all members of the community could create a Personal information Card.

The card is wallet sized so a person can have it with them all the time.

On the front is the person’s name, date of birth, address, and two emergency contacts with phone numbers. On the back is the person’s communication/language, required supports and alerts.

The cards were developed for use in emergencies, particularly for people with disabilities. But the cards can be useful for everyone and at other times.

The template is on the BoardMaker program, which is used to produce visual communication aids.

 

Through previous partnerships with the Regional Communication Service, BoardMaker is available for public use at the Sale Library. An information sheet now sits with the Library’s BoardMaker discs: “How to make your own card”.

The Regional Communication Service also ran an information session for community members.

It was well attended. Everyone went home with their own personalised card.

 

The session was advertised on the local radio and in the newspaper Council notes. From the advertisements for the community session, there was further interest – this time from local police.

This simple idea may have a big future!

 

 

3 Days without speech for a Speech Pathologist

North West Regional Communication Services’s Steph Bryce decided to take a three day challenge of communicating without speech.

It was a way to raise awareness among her colleagues at IPC Health. It also gave her a chance to partially “walk in the shoes” of people with communication disabilities.

Steph reflected on some things she noticed…

It helped to have an introduction card.

It explained how she was communicating and why. It  provided the context for communication partners. Then they made more time to communicate.

It was natural to use many methods to communicate. 

Steph found that she  pointed to objects, typed out words, used facial expression and gesture –  often all in the same sentence!

At home, communication methods were different – and it was easier.

Steph used a ‘text to speech’ app on her iPad to type out messages. She found she used the iPad much less at home. There, she relied on gesture, facial expression and yes/no questions. It was quicker and required less effort.

There were a number of things to consider with communication technology.

Steph tried a few different text to speech apps and found apps with better predictive text easier to use.

She was speaking with an English accent (which did not suit her!) because the easiest app had no  alternative voice options.

She used an external speaker. The volume on the iPad was not sufficient for noisy environments or large groups.

She had to make sure that the iPad was charged at every opportunity. And she had to remember to take it everywhere.

Steph’s colleagues learnt a bit about communication and alternatives to speech. They are looking forward to working with the Regional Communication Service to improve communication access at IPC Health. 

Sustainable Collaboration for Communication Access – Aqua Energy Leisure Centre, Wellington Shire: 2007-2018

Back in 2007, Gippsland Regional Communication Service began working with Aqua Energy as part of the Inclusive Leisure Initiative.

(Inclusive Leisure was a state-wide project lead by Leadership Plus (previously Inclusive Leisure Victoria) and Aquatics & Recreation Victoria. It was funded by a “Participation in Community Sport and Active Recreation” grants from VicHealth.)

A successful partnership was established between Aqua Energy, Wellington Shire Council, GippSport, Gippsland Regional Communication Service and community members, which continues today.

Aqua Energy partners for Inclusion in 2018: Geordie Cutler (Aqua Energy Customer Service/Administration Leader), Mark Thorpe & Shane Young (Auditors), Jocelyn Collins (Regional Communication Service), Leanne Wishart (Rural Access)

What did we do?

Communication Aids

Gippsland Regional Communication Service developed a Communication Kit with Aqua Energy. It included communication boards, and information sheets in Easy English.

There were different communication boards for different areas including the Reception/front counter, Café, Gym, Group fitness rooms and Pool. The range of communication boards ensured everyone has the vocabulary they need to communicate in all areas of the Centre.

Audits

Every month, an audit ensured all communication boards, information sheets, and equipment were maintained in the Centre. This audit was done by a person with a communication disability and an Aqua Energy staff member.

Outcomes

The Communication Access strategies seemed to be working. People said:

“All staff now chat and interact with my daughters. They always assist with our needs.” (Mother of a person with communication disability)

“All the staff at Aqua Energy are very friendly and helpful. I look forward to doing the auditing each month because I now have some great friends who work at Aqua Energy. The communication boards have made it more accessible for the public who have limited or no speech.” (Auditors)

“Through the making of the communication boards, the Aqua Energy staff and people with a disability developed relationships and understanding. It has developed confidence and broken down barriers.” (Support Worker)

Three years later

Three years after the partnership was initiated, the Regional Communication Service provided training and information sessions for management and staff at the Aqua Energy pool and gym. Communication boards were modified for new needs and some more boards and Easy English documents were produced.

The new Aqua Energy Communication Kit was launched in Sale on International Day of People with a Disability in December 2010.

But…

Three months after, things had changed at Aqua Energy! Many staff did not know what the communication aids were for, or where to find them. Customers with communication disabilities were frustrated!

Aqua Energy is a busy leisure centre, open 7 days a week for long hours. It has many part time, casual and sessional staff.

There had to be a new strategy to ensure all staff knew about communication access. The Regional Communication Service and Auditors had to find a way to  maintain a working relationship with staff and with management and to minimise the time required of them.

Sustainable Communication Access at Aqua Energy

The solution was to engage three customers with communication disabilities as independent Communication Auditors.

The Regional Communication Service trained the new Auditors. The Regional Communication Service and the Auditors worked together to develop and test an Easy English Communication Audit tool. Each Auditor, wearing a uniform, visited the Centre once a month. They reported their results to the Centre’s Manager. 

Soon, Management and staff warmly welcomed and supported these Auditors. There was again strong staff awareness and commitment to communication access and Easy English documents.  Communication aids were again available. Every month staff have opportunities to interact and learn from the communication Auditors. 

Into the community

The Auditors were invited to join the Access and Wellington Shire Inclusion Advisory Group, and now advise Councillors and Council Officers about disability policy.

Auditors had several new work experience opportunities.

The Auditors were involved in community awareness training, talking to to staff and community groups about their roles.

The Auditors received awards and were recognised by Wellington Shire at a community celebration during Volunteers Week.

What’s happened so far in 2018?

Aqua Energy was awarded the Communication Access symbol several years ago and maintains its commitment.

Two Aqua Energy Auditors ceased auditing. A new Auditor was engaged.

The Regional Communication Service ran an education session for the new Auditor and his carer. Then the two Auditors completed an audit together. The remaining Auditor assumed a mentor and training role for the new Auditor.

Each Auditor visits on alternate months. Results are reported to Aqua Energy Management and at the Wellington Shire Access and Inclusion Advisory Group (as a standard agenda item). Auditors report the number of crosses (ie unsatisfactory) and the reason for them.

The Aqua Energy Manager is very committed. She takes “crosses” seriously and fixes the issues quickly. Sometimes Auditors can include what has been done to rectify the issue in their regular reports.

When the new Auditor started, the Regional Communication Service provided a communication access refresher (in power point), which was emailed to all staff. The Regional Communication Service also provides face to face training on staff request.

Aqua Energy management recognises the value of the Auditors’ work to its business. It now remunerates the Auditors through free membership, worth about $800 per year.

Into the Future

Aqua Energy has sets a high standard for communication access in Sale. Its commitment to community partnerships and to receiving and addressing feedback, means that it remains a business where everyone can communicate.

Communicating Choice in NDIS: Building NDIS Staff Skills – East Hume Regional Communication Service

East Hume Regional Communication Service facilitated a very successful Talking Mats training day in Wodonga this week.  Karyn Muscat from Zyteq presented to an enthusiastic fourteen participants from across the Wodonga and Wangaratta regions.

They included Local Area Coordinators, support coordinators from disability and mental health agencies, as well as speech pathologists and disability support workers.  A number of those attending also had family members with communication disabilities and were interested in gaining new skills to support their communication.

The session also provided networking opportunities. There were some very interesting conversations about the current disability services landscape.  The session also highlighted the role of the Regional Communication Service in advocating for people with communication disabilities and their support networks and the practical services we can provide.

Here’s some of the feedback on the day:

“I came to the training with a specific resident in mind, but I got so much more.  I can see this being beneficial for all of our guys”

“This will help me better support the vulnerable people who use our service with their decision making”

We were thrilled to be able to provide such a useful resource to a wide range of services and feel that it is a positive addition to the skills of disability services in our region.

 

Meredith and Kelsey

 

 

Working Together to Build Communication Access – Southern Mallee Regional Communication Service

Everyone was ready around the table when Meg arrived just before 10.30. We waited for the others to leave and shut the door. We moved so we could see each other.
We talked about Communication.
We looked at a picture of two women talking – Communication is about understanding and getting your message across.
We talked about the different ways of communicating – We found 5 ways:
• Talking
• Signing (“Sign of the week” was “boat” so we used that.)
• Drawing
• Writing
• Choosing and pressing a button on the Tech Talk (a speech generating device)
We all had a go doing each one.

We know that not everyone speaks, but everyone communicates – and everyone has the right to communicate.
Meg left pictures and a folder for each of us. She left more information and the Tech Talker so Kharlie can practise with us until Meg comes again.

So ends a typical meeting of the Communication Access Group at Distinctive Options with the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service.

What is the Communication Access Group?

The Communication Access Group is a group of four young women in Bendigo.
The group started meeting in January, 2018. They are supported by Kharlie, a Communication Coordinator, trained by the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service [see the 21.6.18 blog]. Kharlie works at Community Connect, Distinctive Options. Meg is the Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service speech pathologist who comes to the group each month.

How did the Communication Access Group happen?

Last year Distinctive Options partnered with the Regional Communication Service to join the local Communication Coordinators Network.
A Distinctive Options disability support worker was trained by Southern Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service to be a Communication Coordinator. Communication Coordinators have advanced communication support skills.
The partnership between the Regional Communication Service and Distinctive Options enabled more collaboration to start a communication access group.
The Regional Communication Service developed accessible consent forms for participants and parents to sign.

The manager at Bendigo Distinctive Options sent forms to 7 people and their families.
Four people agreed to participate. Two of them also consented to being photographed.
At the end of 2017, Distinctive Options asked the Regional Communication Service to train all staff. The training was in January. It focussed on effective communication support so everyone can participate.
Then the Communication Coordinator went on maternity leave! Luckily, there was time for a new Communication Coordinator to train. The Regional Communication Service held another Communication Coordinator course at the start of 2018.
Staff rosters at both the Regional Communication Service and Distinctive Options meant that meetings had to be monthly. (Fortnightly would have been better.) The Communication Coordinator is there every week. She supports the group to review everything when the Regional Communication Service does not come.

What has happened so far?

January: We all met each other. The Regional Communication Service speech pathologist saw how well some people watched and listened, that some could read words, that one could sign very well, that most could understand speech most of the time, that some already knew about their right to do what everyone else can do. Everyone was keen to interact. Speech was not everyone’s most effective way to communicate, but that did not stop everyone communicating!

February: We talked about communication. (The February meeting was described at the start.)

March: We tried AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) – low and high tech. We looked at the wheelchair access symbol and found out what it meant.
Later, everyone looked out for the symbol.

April: We found out what “access” means and looked at the Communication Access symbol.

May: We found that the Communication Access symbol and the wheelchair access symbol look different and show different kinds of access.
We looked at personal communication cards

 

June – Something extra:

The Regional Communication Service speech pathologist saw the Group was ready to use a communication board so they could prepare to have impact in the community. She looked at the research and consulted other speech pathologists at the Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre and chose the best items for the board. She made the boards using the [email protected]+ on the iPad.

Everyone needed to learn how to use the communication board, through modelling and practice.

The communication access meetings continued. But more meetings started (at a different time) so everyone could to learn to use the board. This time, the Regional Communication Service allied health assistant will come. For the first meeting, the Regional Communication Service speech pathologist and another Distinctive Options disability support worker came as well.

Eventually the communication board will have 40 pictures. Everyone got their own copy with 8 pictures to start with. The Regional Communication Service also gave the two Distinctive Options workers other resources, including a chart of the Key Word Signs (for words that will be on the communication board) and a training package about how to model AAC.

 

 

What next?

Group members are learning about communication access and rights together. The  Communication Coordinator supports everyone to communicate in effective ways and in different places in the community. Everyone’s confidence and communication skills have grown. The group will work together for communication access in the community in the second half of 2018.