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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 strategies in Corryong

On May 9th Ranelle and Meredith (East Hume Regional Communication Service) met with a group of Year 10 Corryong Secondary College students. The aim of the meeting was provide information about a project that is taking place in Corryong. Corryong is a small country town in the Shire of Towong. The project involves interviewing people with disabilities. This is where the students at Corryong Secondary have been asked to get involved. Their role will be to interview people with disabilities about the positives as well as some of the downsides of life in a small, rural community.  The interviews will be compiled into a short video which will be shared through the Shire of Towong website and other sites.

The speech pathologists from the East Hume Regional Communication Service were involved in teaching students about disability awareness and how best to engage with people who have communication disabilities.

group in library

The importance of positioning

group having discussion

Talking about communication strategies

The students took part in a number of activities that highlighted the importance of positioning, providing context for communicating and some strategies that can help when having a conversation with people who have a communication difficulty. We enjoyed sharing the role of the RCS with such a positive and friendly group of kids and we are looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Ranelle King and Meredith Lane (East Hume RCS)

Make your own communication resources

The Ballarat library has been working with the Grampians Regional Communication Service to provide a way for members in the community to develop communication resources. The resources have been developed using the Tools2Talk+ app.

The Tools2Talk+ app has been loaded onto a number of iPads at the library. Those interested can learn to use the app (with help available if needed).

A colour printer has also been set up that is dedicated to printing out the communication boards and resources. Alternatively, people can develop the resources at the library and send a copy to their own email addresses as pdf files for them to reprint at their leisure.

This is a free service promoted locally.

The Ballarat library offer one-on-one sessions to use the Tools2Talk+app and print communication boards

Tools2Talk+ is available on the iPad only and is currently $74.99 from the App Store

On behalf of Megan Nestor – Grampians regional Communication Service

What is Key Word Sign?

Key Word Sign is a method of using sign and natural gesture in conjunction with speech. It is used with people who can hear but have little or no speech. Key Word Sign uses Auslan signs.

Why is Key Word Sign used?

Key Word Sign is useful for toddlers, pre-school children, school-aged children and adults with little or no speech. Key Word Sign may be used for a number of reasons:

  • Until speech develops – the person is able to communicate through signing whilst speech and language skills continue to develop;
  • As a supplement to speech – where the person’s speech is difficult to understand, the use of sign and gesture can assist;
  • As an alternative to speech – signing is an effective means of communication in the absence of speech;
  • As a temporary means of communication – for short-term use with familiar communication partners;
  • As a means to help comprehension –use of key word sign to help others understand and learn. Model the use of sign.

Who does Key Word Sign Australia work with?

Key Word Sign Australia works with state-based committees in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. Key Word Sign state committees offer training and support to the communication partners of children and adults with little or no speech. Demographic studies show that there are between 1 in 500 and 1 in a 1000 people who have significant communication difficulties i.e. cannot use speech as their only means of communication.

This may be due to:

  • Developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Autism or Cerebral Palsy
  • Acquired disabilities such as Acquired Brain Injury, Stroke
  • Progressive Disabilities such as Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson’s Disease

These children and adults rely on other means of communication to replace or augment their speech. This is known as (Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) or multi-modal communication. The options available for support includes the use of communication aids both electronic and non-electronic or unaided options eg. sign and natural gesture.

Their communication partners include:

  • Parents & carers
  • Kindergarten and Childcare staff
  • Teachers & Education Assistants
  • Supported employment staff
  • Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists
  • Disability Support Workers

Key Word Sign Australia has been actively involved in training, information sharing and developing resources to support the communication partners of people with little or no speech.

Resources available:

  • Key Word Sign Australia App                                   bit.ly/kwsapp
  • Getting Started with Key Word Sign book             bit.ly/gettingstartedkws
  • Let’s Play with Sign book                                          bit.ly/Letsplaywithsign
  • The Key Word Sign AFL Footy book                        bit.ly/kwsfooty
  • Key Word Sign Posters – Full Set                             bit.ly/kwspostersfull
  • Key Word Sign Posters – Set of Five Posters         bit.ly/kwsPosters5
  • Key Word Sign Posters – Single Poster                  bit.ly/kswposter1
  • Key Word Sign Australia (Scope)
    The research evidence base for
    Key Word Sign Webinar(2016)                               bit.ly/KWSWeb1

 

To find out more about Key Word Sign click here.

By Karen Bloomberg

Bridging The Gap

“What to do after 3 days of communication coordination training”

We felt this was a question that most of us ask after attending any training session…… “Okay, I have learned some new information, but how do I put it into action?

With this in mind we planned a 4th day as a Resource Creation Day. The primary aim of the day was to provide an opportunity for Communication Coordinators to come together to create resources to support communication in their workplace.

The workshop format was informal and allowed everyone to raise an idea, brainstorm the concept using everyone’s knowledge and experience, and then to create it. The simple concept of creating resources seems to be a major barrier to communication coordinators fulfilling their role back in the workplace. Often they feel unsure about where to start or fearing that what they create will not work.

The ability to meet with others who have completed the training and identify that the feeling of potential failure is quite common, reassured most that ‘having a go’ was the essential first step. For some, the day provided an opportunity to discuss their ideas before taking the plunge to put it together for implementation.

Having staff on board and “on the same page”, was identified as one of the key indicators of whether communication strategies would be successful. It was also identified that this is difficult to attain at times. To attend a training session and then go back to the workplace with knowledge and a concept is very different to going back to the workplace with knowledge and a physical object/support. It is easier to have staff on the same page when they can see what the strategy is and implementation can begin immediately

The rural context means the tyranny of distance reduces the opportunities for staff from a variety of settings to come together and share their knowledge and experiences. This 4th day enabled networking across day services and accommodation services in the development of resources.

So what did we make?

  • Weekly timetables for whole of service
  • Individual visual schedules
  • Writing of a social story
  • Individual annual planner
  • Development of communication profiles
  • Developing scripts for client interactions
  • Activity choice board

 

 

 

 


Would we do it again?

Feedback from participants indicate that we have helped to bridge the gap between learning a new skill and implementing that skill. Of the 14 participants, all of them have requested another opportunity to come together and make re- sources with guidance and a collective brain. Comments included:

“Extremely useful, I went away achieving 3 plans for communication.” “Discussing and sharing ideas as a team and working together was the most useful.”

“I would like to see this happen every 3-6 months as it will open up new doors for better communication between staff and residents.”

So, yes, we will be offering this day again over the coming year as a strategy to support our Communication Coordinators in their day to day work.

By Emma Douglas & Sharon Champion

Supporting the Supporters: Helping Martin enjoy the pool

Martin pictured with his social story book he uses when he goes swimming

A simple picture-based story has made Martin’s trips to the leisure centre a more pleasurable experience for him and those around him

The Regional Communication Service (RCS) supports people who live with communication difficulties and the people who support them.

To provide this support, the RCS uses an innovative capacity building model of service provision. This is different from traditional service provision, such as the medical model. In the medical model, the speech pathologist is the expert who assesses, provides therapy and resources. In the Regional Communication Service, the Speech Pathologist builds the capacity of staff and/or other significant people with a person’s life to ensure sustainable change.

A recent example of working in this way was a request I received from a staff member at Noweyung, an adult training and support service in Bairnsdale. We share an on-going professional relationship where we collaborate to provide communication strategies for people with disabilities who attend Noweyung. As a speech pathologist, I provide advice and feedback on communication strategies that staff suggest, thus building the capacity of the staff in the process.

The staff member described the scenario of Martin, an enthusiastic and outgoing man with a disability. He communicates using key word sign, some words (although often difficult for those who don’t know him to understand) and pictures. Martin loves swimming at his local leisure centre. He attends a swimming program with staff there to support him.

In attending the local leisure centre, there are many social rules that people observe – this includes an understanding of change room etiquette, when it is OK to get in and out of the water and where it is OK to swim, exercise or just play around. Staff supporting Martin understood that using speech alone could not communicate the many rules and expectations at the pool. So, it was decided to develop a picture-based story that looked at important information for Martin be able to understand the rules of pool behaviour. The picture-based story, also known as a social story, incorporated photos of Martin and simple written information about what to do and what not to do at the leisure centre.

The staff member took photos and drafted the story with the help of the speech pathologist from the Regional Communication Service. The book was then read to Martin who was able to recognise the photos and understand what it meant. He particularly enjoyed the section on when it was okay to jump in and to splash.

This book changed Martin’s swimming program completely. It increased his understanding of the behaviour that was expected. Staff noticed that Martin seemed more confident swimming at the pool and it also reduced many of the tensions that arose from misunderstandings that had previously occurred.

With the support and supervision of a RCS speech pathologist, the staff member was able to produce a simple picture-based story that made Martin’s trips to the leisure centre a more pleasurable experience for him and those around him. The added bonus now, being a staff member who has learned how to develop and implement a useful communication strategy.

By Mel Newcomen
Speech Pathologist
Gippsland Regional Communication Service

 

 

Communication Access using eLearning is launched!

A big focus of the Regional Communication Services around the state has been Communication Access. Communication Access is about making our communities more accessible for people living with communication difficulties. The role of our service is to support businesses to become more Communication Accessible. This can involve staff training, developing communication boards, advice around signage, and support to develop written information in an accessible format (e.g., Easy English). Previously, we have trained staff at businesses face-to-face. A barrier identified by businesses with this method was being able to back-fill staff so they can attend training. With our very large geographical area, training dozens of staff from different businesses was difficult due to travel time.

In partnership with Carl Russel, a gentleman living with communication difficulties, we designed an eLearning Package to be piloted at a local council. This package essentially has the same content as the face-to-face training which covers communication strategies, other tips to make businesses more accessible, and Carl speaking about his experiences. Using iSpring, an add-on to PowerPoint, our face-to-face training was converted into presentation with voice recordings and video clips. The presentation was then published to a USB stick, mailed out along with instructions, and voila – staff can complete! The training takes around one hour and can be completed when this suits the business. We anticipate that eLearning will reduce issues around staff cover; and eliminate hours of travel meaning more people in our community can be trained.

Those who have completed the training so far have said that they really liked the eLearning format. Unfortunately, access to YouTube and Internet speed has been a barrier but we are working on having the training available offline.

This slide talks about communication strategies to use when speaking to a person with communication difficulties.

This slide talks about communication strategies to use when speaking to a person with communication difficulties.

This is a slide from the presentation. The link takes you to a YouTube clip of Carl telling his story.

This is a slide from the presentation. The link takes you to a YouTube clip of Carl telling his story.

By Karen Oswald

West Hume Regional Communication Service Speech Pathologist