Category Archives: CAN

Building for the Future – A local training organisation focuses on communication support skills in their Cert IV in Disability

In 2015 there were 4.3 million Australians living with disability, and over one-quarter (1.2 million people) had a communication disability.

The Certificate IV in Disability provides students with the skills and knowledge to work effectively with people with disabilities in a range of services. Students learn to develop and implement programs that empower people with disabilities to achieve greater independence and well being. Students later work in residential group homes, training resource centres, day respite centres, other community settings or people’s homes.

Many training organisations across Australia do not include optional communication units in their Cert IV Disability courses, but Federation University in Ballarat recognised that skills in communication are very important. They wanted their students to know more about communication and the different ways people can communicate.

This year, Grampians Regional Communication Service is working with Federation University for their Certificate IV in Disability, aiming to give students a more “hands on” experience of AAC devices and communication strategies.

The VET Teacher for Disability & Community Services and the Regional Communication Service speech pathologist are working together, focusing on developing student skills in identifying communication needs and implementing strategies to support communication needs.  Students will have an opportunity to try, experience and ask questions of a range of AAC devices, enabling future disability support workers to support others with their communication needs. Students will get to experience diverse AAC, such as Talking Mats, chat books, communication boards and books, community request cards and key word sign as well as speech generation devices. Assignments and lectures have been designed to have a more realistic feel and to focus on facilitating and supporting communication to increase independence and participation. Students are also informed of resources available such as allied health professionals, visual supports, Communication Access, Easy English and the National Relay Service. 

For more information on Federation University’s Certificate IV in Disability see: https://study.federation.edu.au/#/course/DLLA

By Georgie Turner, Grampians Regional Communication Service

Supporting communication in the South West: A two day Communication Expo

People living in regional areas often miss out on supports or services available in metropolitan cities. It’s no different for people living with a communication disability and those who support them. The South West Regional Communication Service partnered with the Warrnambool City & Moyne Shire Council Rural Access Officers to bring a Communication Access and AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) Expo to the South West.

The Expo took place over two days in the lovely seaside town of Port Fairy. There were three separate sessions for different audiences: individuals with communication difficulties, their families and support workers; speech pathologists and other healthcare professionals; and staff from a number of South West Councils. Close to 60 people came along to the expo across the two days. A guest presenter, Alison Heppell, from Scope’s Non-Electronic Communication Aid Scheme (NECAS) and Kids Chat attended both days of the expo. Alison talked about the services provided by NECAS and Kids Chat for individuals with communication disabilities. She demonstrated a large number of non-electronic communication aids. After her presentations, everyone had the chance to try the aids out and ask Alison questions.

Exploring non electronic communication aids

Everyone was also able to learn about some of the electronic communication devices available to people with communication difficulties. Liberator (a company which makes communication devices) loaned us a number of devices for the expo. Everyone had fun trying out the different devices, programs and iPad apps, directly touching the buttons or screen) or by using alternative  access methods, such as switches and head pointing.

Staff from a number of local councils participated in communication access training to help them make their workplaces and offices more inclusive and welcoming for people with communication difficulties. They then took part in accessible information training and learnt how to produce documents and written information in a way which can be more easily understood by those who have difficulties reading.

Sonia speaking from experience

Speech pathologists, health care professionals and council staff also heard from a guest speaker with a disability, Sonia, about her experiences and the barriers to access she has encountered. Sonia, and her IT consultant, Justin, demonstrated a number of ways she maintains her independence at home and out in the community. She uses switches to control her iPad, lights, and electrical appliances in her house. Sonia showed everyone the computer program which enables her to type messages, surf the web and keep working as a tutor.

Feedback from the two days of the expo was extremely positive. Everyone said they learnt a lot of new information about communication difficulties, the different types of electronic and non-electronic communication aids and supports available to those with communication difficulties.

Charlotte – South West Regional Communication Service.

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.