Tag Archives: communication access

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 –          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!

 

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. 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wodonga team attending via video link up

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

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

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

Communication Access eLearning Module

The Speech Pathologists from the Gippsland and Inner South regions have created an eLearning module for Communication Access Training. The website can be accessed by anyone working towards an accessible service with the support of a CAN partner. Contact your local Regional Communication Service to learn more.

The module is available online and comprises a series of videos, downloadable documents and an interactive quiz.

This eLearning package was created to combat the challenges often associated with providing face to face training, such as staff availability, scheduling, staff turnover and driving to regional areas.

The package and the resources within can be used in a number of ways:

  • A standalone training package to prepare for a Communication Access Symbol assessment
  • Refresher training
  • Part of an orientation package for all new staff at an organisation
  • Pre-training task before more in-depth face to face training is delivered
  • Videos shown during face to face training

Should you have any questions regarding this package or Communication Access in general please contact Scope’s Communication & Inclusion Resource Centre or your local Regional Communication Service

 

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