Tag Archives: communicationaccessnetwork

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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