Tag Archives: communication access network

Preparing for NDIS Planning with Regional Communication Service Support

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been described as the biggest change in social services in 30 years and offers people who have received very little services in the past the opportunity to access life changing funding. But big changes can be disruptive and a bit scary, and the question on everyone’s mind is how to navigate the planning process to ensure that loved ones get the funding they need.

Planning for an NDIS planning meeting is one of the most important things people can do to ensure they get funding for communication supports that will make a difference in their lives. So, the North West Regional Communication Service has been offering  information sessions to support people to do this. Two information sessions have been run, and included information and discussion about setting goals, the range of communication aids available and where to go for support. These sessions were attended by adults with disabilities, their families and support workers. Many of the people who attended had not accessed speech pathology services in a long time and were excited about the possibilities that are now available.

Exploring communication aids and strategies

The information sessions generated a lot of discussion about how to navigate a new system that can seem quite alien and daunting. People who attended said that it was extremely beneficial to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with others going through the same process.

The groups recognised how very important it is to be prepared and organised well before your NDIS planning meeting to make sure you get the most out of your NDIS plan.

Here some of the tips suggested:

Be prepared and organised well before your planning meeting

It is recommended to start planning 3 months before your next review. There are lots of different ways to get prepared including planning workbooks and group sessions.

Collect any recent assessment reports and recommendations from existing service providers to bring to your planning meeting.

Think about your goals

Any services requested must directly link to your goals. Think about what your long and short term goals are and what supports you need to achieve these. You can talk to your current service providers for support in writing goals.

Use the language of the NDIS

It is a good idea to link your goals to the buzzwords of the NDIS. This will help your planner to understand that your goals are in line with the goals of the NDIS. Think about how your goals fit in with the following areas: Daily Living, Home, Health and Well-being, Lifelong Learning, Work, Social and Community Participation, Relationships and Choice and Control. The NDIS price guide can be a good tool to learn the lingo. 

Write a written justification if you didn’t use all the funding in your plan

There are many reasons why a person might not use all the allocated funding in their plan. There might be long wait lists for services, limited services available in rural and regional areas or an illness in the family. It is a good idea to write down why specific funding hasn’t been used and specify that it is still needed for the next plan.

Know that Support Coordination is available 

Support Coordinators are people who can help you make the most out of your funds by linking you in with service providers and helping you understand your plan. You can  ask for this to be included in your NDIS plan.

Seek support from others

It can be overwhelming to have to find services, manage funding and navigate a whole new system. Talk to family and friends about your experience and ask them to share theirs with you. Do they have a great speech pathologist that they can pass on to you? Can they pass on pearls of wisdom for preparing for planning meetings? It can make us feel supported to connect with others who are going through similar experiences.

Other tips

  • You can have more than one communication aid funded
  • Provide a quote where possible
  • Ask to see the plan before it is finalised
  • Bring someone with you to the planning meeting
  • Ask for a review if you are not happy with the plan
  • Swallowing assessments and reviews are currently being funded by the NDIS

Organisations or groups in the North West Metropolitan Region can contact the North West Regional Communication Service if interested in hosting an information session facilitated by the North West Regional Communication Service.

The Year in Review: The North West Communication Coordinator Network

The Northwest Communication Coordinator Network has been running for nearly 10 years! Two Speech Pathologists facilitate monthly meetings and site visits focusing on training, peer support and mentoring. Communication Coordinators from 8 different disability services are involved in the network. Communication Coordinators are Disability Support Workers who receive extra training and support to implement communication strategies in their service.  Communication Coordinators reflected on the barriers, enablers and successes of 2018.

A visual aid to support understanding and participation

Enablers to creating a culture of communication

Communication Coordinators listed many factors that promote a culture of communication at their services. A key factor identified was interest and support from staff. Communication Coordinators noted that having a collaborative and supportive team was essential in implementing strategies across the service. Support from managers was another factor that was identified as important. 

One Communication Coordinator stated that they have a supportive manager who is pro-active in promoting communication and that it filters down to the rest of the staff.

The monthly Communication Coordinator Network meetings were identified as highly valuable, as they provide the opportunity to share ideas and resources, receive specialised training and peer-support. Training on the topics of communication levels and appropriate strategies, sensory focused approaches, positive behaviour support and supported decision making were identified as appropriate and valuable. 

Communication Coordinators commented that the specialised support provided by the speech pathologists who facilitate the Network is highly valuable. One Communication coordinator said that receiving professional support in their own working environment provides an opportunity for practical suggestions that are relevant to their service.

Barriers to creating a culture of communication

Communication Coordinators identified the biggest barrier to creating a culture of communication at their services as insufficient time. Most Communication Coordinators are given one day per week away from clients to fulfil their Communication Coordinator role. It was reported that planning, creating and implementing communication strategies across the service needs more time than this.

Many Communication Coordinators noted that there is no time allocated for staff training. Training time would be invaluable in supporting staff to increase their knowledge and skills around communication. Another identified barrier was changes in service delivery attributed to the roll out of the NDIS. Some Communication Coordinators noted an increase in casual staff and decrease in permanent staff at their service. Many reported that this makes it difficult to implement consistent and sustainable communication strategies.

Achievements in 2018

There have been so many positive outcomes from the Communication Coordinator Network in 2018!

A strong theme has been increased opportunities for participants to make choices in daily activities. Two Communication Coordinators reported that participants are now choosing and purchasing their own drinks out in the community, where they were not previously. They reflected that participants are becoming more confident and independent.

Each monthly meeting includes Key Word Sign practice on different vocabulary, such as birthdays, holidays and football. Some Communication Coordinators have seen increased use of Key Word Sign by staff and participants at their service. One Communication Coordinator is a Key Word Sign presenter and another one is attending presenter training in January.

One Communication Coordinator has been heavily involved in NDIS pre-planning at their service. She has completed communication audits for each participant. These audits are used throughout the pre-planning process to identify goals, resources and services that would benefit the individual. A pre-planning Talking Mats set has been developed and a plan has been made for each participant to have a Talking Mats conversation prior to their next NDIS planning meeting.

Some cards for Talking Mats

Visual aids are common strategies used across services. One service has created communication boards to be used in every program. Another service has created a birthday calendar which is generating a lot of excitement; some participants are even making each other birthday cards. One Communication Coordinator has focused on supporting staff to use communication apps such as Tools2Talk+ and Key Word Sign Australia. They commented that staff are beginning to create their own visual aids for programs.

A big focus of the Communication Coordinator Network this year has been on how to successfully implement strategies. It can sometimes feel like a lot of pressure to produce lots of strategies and content but it is important to give each new strategy enough implementation time in order for them to be effective and sustainable. There have been ongoing discussions about the importance of working with staff in programs to modelling new strategies and seek staff input. Staff may require ongoing support to understand what a strategy is, how it is useful and how to use it with a participant. Giving enough time and support is essential for our work as capacity builders.

It is amazing to see such dedicated Communication Coordinators and we look forward to an exciting year ahead!

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

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

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.

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

 

 

Ordering Lunch – From “potluck” to “easy” with Visual Menus

Gippsland Regional Communication Service is working with Cells Café in Bairnsdale to increase communication access.

Cells Café is a social enterprise creating employment opportunities for people with disabilities in East Gippsland.

The café has a strong commitment to everyone being able to participate. It is working towards being awarded the Communication Access Symbol.

As part of the process, communication access at the Café was informally assessed by Frank Powell, a local man with a disability. Frank has completed training in communication access.

During Cells Café’s communication access journey, there have been many positive changes. Mel Newcomen (Gippsland Regional Communication Service) and Frank reflected on what has happened so far.

Mel Newcomen (Gippsland Regional Communication Service, Scope) and Frank Powell with the visual menu

Frank thinks the visual menu has made the most difference. Frank said that he could only make “potluck” orders the first time he visited, because the menu was only in written format.

 

The original menu

He suggested the menu could include photos of the food, so more people could order independently.

The Café added photos of the food with the prices. They also changed the format from trifold to A4 pages, which is more accessible for people with low literacy and for people who use one hand to open the menu.

The improved accessible menu

When Frank returned to the Café after the changes had been made, he found “they have done a good job.” Mel asked if Frank could order what he wanted this time. “Of course I could, easy”, Frank said, smiling.

Visual menus are a small change that have a large impact on communication access. More people can order the food they want and participate in our community.

Visual menus can make the  difference between getting a “potluck” lunch to choice being “easy”.

 

Mel Newcomen, Speech Pathologist, Gippsland Regional Communication Service, Scope

Chancez café

There is a new and exciting communication friendly café in Epping called Chancez.

Araluen, an organisation providing services to people with intellectual and other disabilities, has been involved with the North West Communication Coordinators Network for about eight years. As part of the network, teaching support workers an understanding of how to use visual supports and augmentative strategies to help people manage communication and literacy difficulties has been important. This can be seen in practice with the café Araluen has set up to provide employment for some of their clients.

Working in a café calls for many skills, the obvious being making coffee and serving customers. Behind the scenes there is a much wider range of challenges – working the register, managing the food on sale and adhering to safe food handling practices, managing money and giving correct change, keeping things clean and organised, ordering new supplies and the right amount of them . . . and so on.

All of these activities involve communication in a range of forms. Having an intellectual disability can compromise a person’s communication skills, and so the café needs to have many systems in place to support the staff to run it well. This café certainly has that!

The clients involved were initially enrolled in a food handling course (which included barista training), but while this gave them some technical skills, they had no opportunity for developing customer service skills. Working at Chancez café gives them the practical experience needed to work in more mainstream settings.

Leigh, the manager of the café, has worked with the staff/clients to problem solve ways that they can manage all the tasks required, including adhering to all OH&S and safe food handling guidelines relevant to running a café.

She worked with the team at Ordermate to adapt a POS (Point of Sale) system for the order register so that it is largely picture-based. Staff can see photos of the range of drinks on offer, and can select the appropriate picture to put through the order. There are plans to expand this to include the food items for sale. It has images of coins and notes to help staff work out how much change to give the customer, and many other things. And Leigh hasn’t “dumbed it down” for the staff. The café offers ALL the possible varieties of coffee drinks (and there are many!), several different milks (eg. soy, almond, low fat) as well as a range of teas.

The system for the ordering process is largely picture based. Staff can select the appropriate picture to put the order through.

The coffee machine is labeled for the range of different drinks, and staff learn to match the docket with the coffee machine and the correct cups/glasses for the drink are stacked near the label. There’s even a picture system to use the correct milk from the range on offer!

 

Clear labels on the coffee machine guide staff to make customer orders

Other picture/photo/object based supports include:

  • a colour guide for the different cloths associated with different activities eg. “blue cloths for milk wand and jugs only”; “red cloths for dishwashing only”.
  • a photo guide for the range of jobs to do and a system to indicate when the job is done
  • colour-coding for food and drink categories
  • another colour-coding system to manage the expiry date of the food that hasn’t been sold
  • using milk container lids and labels to help buy what’s needed at the shop down the street

Clear colour labelling of cloths guide staff through the cloths used in different cleaning processes

There are many other systems supported by pictures/photos and objects – too many to mention here. You’ll just have to go out to the Multi-Cultural Hub in Epping and see for yourself!

The Multi-Cultural Hub hosts many community and disability specific services and is frequented by people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, often with little skills in English; such a communication accessible café is perfect for them!

The skill and confidence of the staff have grown. One person, with a stutter that would stop him talking to people, can now order supplies on the phone. Another used to speak so softly he was often inaudible, but has learned that he needs to speak louder for customers to hear him. One man has taken on the role of mentor and has begun to support other staff who may be newer or less skilled.

Chancez resonates with a strong ethical base. They have a pay-it-forward system, where a customer can pay for two coffees – one for themselves and the second for someone else who may not have the money for it. Little Things, a social enterprise coffee roaster supplies the coffee and left-over food is donated to those that need it.

New products such as Gingerbread People are already in motion at Chancez cafe’

Plans for the future include making food (gingerbread has been recently on offer for tasting), and extending the visual supports to include photos of regular customers linked to their usual order on the order register. Staff can then start making a customer’s preferred drink as soon as they walk in the door!

This is an inspiring example of capacity building through a comprehensive and continually evolving use of visual supports and augmentative strategies. These strategies enable people with intellectual and communication difficulties to perform a wide range of tasks successfully, leading to a growth in their confidence, skill and personal capacity.

Congratulations to Araluen for its vision, Leigh for her innovative use of visual supports and continued problem-solving, and most of all, the staff for their ongoing learning and for giving great service!

Chancez has recently been featured in a range of media including the Epping Star newspaper and on Channel nine. Check out the links below for more!

Chancez Cafe’ facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chancez-Cafe-Epping/1557866297854283

Epping Star:
http://www.starweekly.com.au/news/epping-cafe-gives-people-with-disabilities-a-chance-to-succeed/

Channel 9 online:
http://www.9news.com.au/national/2016/07/28/11/29/melbourne-cafe-gives-staff-members-with-intellectual-disabilities-a-chance-to-thrive

Libby Brownlie
North West Regional Communication Service

Value our volunteers: equipping them with the tools to engage people in local communities

As a student Speech Pathologist one of the many aspects of my placement with the eastern regional communication access network was to present at training workshops for community volunteers. The first training session was for community volunteers in the south-eastern region and the second training session was for community visitors who visit people with disabilities in residential housing and advocate for their needs if they can’t speak up for themselves.

1

Key Word Sign training

The first training session involved volunteers from varying cultures and backgrounds. Some volunteers were working with people with disabilities on a regular basis and wanting to learn more strategies to improve effective communication. The others in the training worked with a range of people from those with mental health issues to people who were socially isolated. The content of the training included practical strategies for improved communication with people with communication difficulties, an explanation and discussion of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and an introduction to the communication access symbol and what it represents.

Many people were also very interested in key word sign and what it is and learnt some helpful signs too! The volunteers were shown different AAC devices including low tech, paper based devices as well as some electronic AAC devices. There was a lot of interest surrounding the different devices and what were the possibilities with someone using these devices.

2

Listening to Those Rarely Heard is a training package designed to guide supporters of people with severe to profound disability through the supported decision-making process.

The second training was for community advocates who were eager and enthusiastic to be given the training opportunity and therefore keen to learn new information. All of the advocates visit people with disabilities in their homes regularly. Many are individuals with severe intellectual disabilities where determining their preferences and concerns is very difficult. The presentation included an overview of communication, an introduction to supported decision making (Watson, 2013) and introduction to the concept of “Talking Mats” (Joan Murphy) as a potential tool for people who would benefit from structured conversation.

This group had indicated they would like to use a tool to gauge an individual’s situation and concerns so they could be better at advocating for the person. They were interested in how structured conversation may be a way of discussing meaningful topics that may require advocacy (e.g. living  arrangements, diet, activities).

These volunteers had an impressive understanding of how their client’s communicate and explained how they were able to differentiate between subtle differences in vocalisations, facial expressions or body language. The training was very well received and they were keen on doing further training particularly in applying Talking Mats to specific clients who may be able to use it and benefit from more detailed discussion around how they wanted their life to be.

3

Talking Mats in action

All the volunteers responded with positive feedback and were very happy to have upskilled their abilities. It was very encouraging to know that there are very competent people willing to volunteer their time and who are eager and willing to be a part of change for individuals and their communities.

By Bethany Simons                               Supervised by Bron Jones
Student Speech Pathologist                Eastern Regional Communication Access Network

Watson, J. (2013). Listening to those rarely heard: Supported decision making in this brave new world of individualised services. Paper presented at the 11th Biennial AGOSCI conference, Sydney, Australia.