Tag Archives: speech pathology

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. 

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

Craig and Gonda’s stroke story; our journey so far

I am Gonda, Craig’s long term partner and this is our story of loss, grief, acceptance, hope and love.

Craig and I had a whirlwind romance. We met in the Melbourne Casino almost 16 years ago. Following a lunch date the next day, we spent the whole week together. Craig lived in Darwin (NT) at the time where he owned a manufacturing business producing solar hot water systems and water tanks. He would supply and install them predominantly in the Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land.

before-craig-gonda-murray-river-inlet-near-house-2011

Craig & Gonda at the Murray river inlet near their rural property – 2011

The day before his return to Darwin, he asked me to marry him – to which I answered YES. I moved up to Darwin five weeks later with my then three and a half year old daughter to be with Craig. After almost four years we moved to Perth (WA) for a few years to follow business opportunities and have spent the last 10 years in Albury (NSW).

before-craig-brooke-daughter-wedding-danielle-2011

Craig & Brooke (daughter) -2011

Craig was born and bred in Perth (WA) where his family resides and has gone for yearly holidays to see his family since March 2015. This year he was there when his (only) daughter delivered healthy twin girls. To catch up, we regularly FaceTime with his daughter and her husband, the twins, his older grandson (4) and granddaughter (2). He also Skypes with his mother (and does speech practice with her as well), dad & stepmum, sister and brothers on a regular basis.

Craig was very entrepreneurial in his working life. He started his first business, a travel agency, at the age of 18. He then entered the renewable energy industry where he was always at the forefront of new developments.

After moving to Albury, he started the Planet Power renewable energy shop, which he quickly developed into a franchise with 9 shops in Australia’s regional areas. Business didn’t always go to plan, but Craig had the ability to quickly pick himself up and move on towards bigger and better projects.

Prior to his stroke, he had taught himself how to calculate major renewable energy saving solar-wind-water installations for large multinational companies and was very successful at selling these. He was always a salesman at heart and always so motivated and determined to make his working life a success; not just for the economic pay off, or prestige, but for our dream – to help disadvantaged communities in countries like Africa with their water and energy supplies.

In 2011 when we first sent wedding invitations out and the whole event was organised, Craig had a heart attack. Then in 2014 we again planned to wed, but quietly this time around – our world turned upside down.

On 20 January 2014, when he was 53, Craig had a major bleed in the lining of his brain on the right hand side (haemorrhagic stroke). Transported to the Alfred hospital in Melbourne, he was operated on the following day to remove part of his skull to relieve pressure from the blood build up on his brain (surgical decompression). Craig’s skull bone was successfully put back in place (cranioplasty) on 10 February 2014.

during-1-craig-following-the-removal-of-the-ecmo-after-haemorrhagic-stroke-major-heart-attack-feb-2014

Craig following the removal of the ECMO (after haemorrhagic stroke & major heart attack) – February 2014

The following morning on 11 February 2014 Craig suffered a major heart attack (VF arrest and STEMI). An angiogram with balloon angioplasty came next where they used a small balloon at the end of a catheter to open the narrowed arteries and he was connected to the ECMO (that cleared his blood of carbon dioxide and replenished it with oxygen outside his body to then pump it back in through large tubes inserted in both his groins, because his own heart was too weak and needed to recover) and kidney dialysis machines, amongst a lot of other lifesaving machines. Craig was still critical until 14 February 2014 when they disconnected him from the ECMO in a 6.5 hour operation.

On 11 March 2014 – only 4 weeks later – Craig suffered a massive stroke in the left lobes of his brain. The ischaemic stroke (left parietal-temporal infarct) was due to a dislodged blood clot from his heart. He was then transferred to Caulfield rehabilitation hospital (Melbourne) to start intensive rehabilitation on 28 March, 2014. Another month on, Craig arrived at the Albury rehabilitation hospital (NSW) on 29 April 2014 and was finally allowed home on 14 August 2014.

As a result of the ischaemic stroke Craig was left with serious impairments including right sided weakness (right hemiplegia) and severe expressive speech deficits due to aphasia and dyspraxia, because of the damage caused to the left hand side language centres of his brain.

– Aphasia is a language disorder that affects speaking, writing, reading and understanding the spoken word

– Dyspraxia means that the link from the brain to the mouth muscles is affected. Craig may know exactly what he wants to say, but cannot sequence his mouth muscles to move in the right manner to speak the right word/sentence.

The first 3 months of 2014 were simply put; absolutely horrendous! With my emotions ranging from complete despair, when Craig was on full life support for more than 24 hours following both the haemorrhagic stroke and the major heart attack, to total elation when against expectation he pulled through and recovered remarkably from both these medical emergencies. To then have my world and our life as I knew it, entirely shattered when Craig had the major left sided ischaemic stroke. The first time I saw him after this stroke he could not do or say anything, but wipe my many tears away with his functioning left hand.

during-2-craig-2-days-after-the-ischeamic-stroke-march-13-2014

Craig one day after the ischeamic stroke – March 2014

Thankfully 8 months before Craig’s many medical events in 2014 we had moved from our 7 acre property to a smaller house in town. Craig had loved being on the farm though. On weekends he enjoyed using the tractor slashing the paddocks and doing all the other strenuous maintenance jobs that come with a large property. Being in town makes our lives easier and I certainly would not have had the time or the ability to uphold the property on my own.

From the time that Craig went to the Caulfield rehabilitation hospital my life truly became extremely hectic. During that first year I was living from one energy-and-emotion draining day to the next. Not only because I was so focussed on learning everything I could on how to assist Craig to recover as best as he possibly could, but also because my then 16 year old daughter had just started year 12 while going through this dramatic time on her own in Albury. She had the added stress of cooking for herself; looking after the house; caring for our cat and dog and everything else that is involved in running a household. I tried to support and provide for her to the best of my ability from Melbourne with long daily phone calls. Whenever one of Craig’s family members was able to come over on intermittent visits I jumped at the chance to do the almost 700km round trip to Albury and back. Sometimes for one night only.

I did not attend just about every speech, occupational and physio therapy session, but in the beginning Craig needed help with eating, showering, dressing and grooming with which I was involved on a daily basis. With that said, my spirit was often very high, because of the many improvements Craig was making.

The in-house rehabilitation physio therapists got Craig up and walking. At first with the assistance of three people and later down the track with just a walking stick, while wearing a splint on his right lower leg to keep his foot from dropping. The occupational therapists taught Craig how to dress and groom himself to the best of his ability with only using his functioning left arm and hand. The speech pathologists tried very hard for Craig to be able to make sensible sounds and words, and also worked on improving his reading, writing and understanding of the spoken word as well as teaching him to use other strategies (pointing, signals, writing and such) to communicate. Even though, Craig has been unable to speak in normal terms he has been very adept at being able to communicate through body language, pointing and sounds. Prior to his stroke I had always told him he was an open book to me. How invaluable it has been to always have had such a close relationship, so today we can still communicate on a deep level.

On Craig’s return home he continued with weekly speech and occupational therapy at the community rehabilitation. He had Botox injected (August 2015) in his right arm to immobilise the muscles that turned his arm and hand inwards and upwards towards his chest (due to spasticity of the muscles) and to then have the opportunity to strengthen the opposite muscles. We did intense training exercises for about 5 months at home and now Craig can; for instance: use his right arm and hand to mow the lawns and change the catcher by himself, play pool and can often use his right arm in a supporting bilateral role when doing something with his left arm and hand. This greatly improved his independence and importantly his sense of contributing.

Verbal speech did not progress (despite countless attempts) until Craig went for his first holiday to see his family in Perth in March 2015. He was taken to see a speech pathologist and she convinced and motivated him that he could learn to speak again if he spent two to three hours a day rehearsing words and short sentences with me. He came back to Albury and for the first time since his ischaemic stroke he was able to copy me saying whole words. Prior to this, Craig had trouble to control his mouth muscles to copy movements for simple vowels such as the letter E.

Following 3+ months of practicing like this, I developed (with the help of a speech pathologist) a program to sing some of these the sentences together (MIT – Melodic Intonation Therapy) to engage Craig’s right side of the brain were oppose to speaking (left side of the brain) the ability to sing is located. This proved to be more successful. Later on I made a booklet (and a large collage at home) with photos of the mouth movements of letters within the target sentences, in the hope that Craig could instigate the sentences by himself without my help of modelling the movement of the mouth. During that time he slowly learned to say: “Hi, Yes, Come here please and Thank you”. The last time we attended the community rehabilitation (November 2015), following months of daily practice, Craig was able to say: “Hi” to everybody! That was very special.

At the beginning of this year (2016) we started weekly speech sessions at the Speech Clinic at a local university, which offers speech pathology students (under supervision of a very experienced speech pathologist) a chance to interact and assist people with communication issues. This has been very beneficial for Craig. Through various different approaches, and lots of home practice, Craig’s reading, writing and understanding of the spoken word has improved significantly. His speech has progressed that he is now able to say independently: “Good thank you” and “How are you?” when someone asks him “How are you” first. We achieved this by teaching Craig (on advice and with assistance from the Speech Clinic’s speech pathologist and student) to focus on the sound of the starting letter of the first word instead of solely on the placement of his tongue and lips. Craig and I are very excited to find out where further Speech Clinic sessions may take his speech development in the future.

We are also keen to start swimming practice in the warmer months, which on our request was developed by a community physio therapist (unfortunately, at the moment the indoor pool is not suitable for Craig to get in or out off). This will again stimulate his right arm and leg and together with his twice weekly gym sessions it will also benefit his fitness. Craig also really enjoys his twice weekly respite outings to a rural pub (Bethanga, Victoria) to catch up with his mates. They have really taken him in and he is included in all their banter and laughter, which is truly heartwarming.

We are involved in a weekly singing group, the monthly local Stroke Recovery group and the Cuppa & Conversation group, which have been really great to make new friends with people who are in similar circumstances. Especially since so many lifelong friends have gone silent and stayed away. In downtimes, Craig and I love nothing more than to follow the AFL footy on television and on occasion in Melbourne. In summer, he likes watching the cricket on the television outside from our inflatable upright pool.

picture-post-stroke-craig-and-gonda-at-the-mcg-afl-june-2016

Post stroke Craig and Gonda at the MCG watching an AFL game – June 2016

In future, our goal is to recover more function in Craig’s right arm and hand and to develop Craig’s independent speech further. Craig’s dream is to be able to drive a car again and to work in some meaningful capacity. Likewise, I would also like to participate in employment.

Craig is also very interested in being a participant in clinical trials of dental pulp stem cells transplant, bone marrow transplant and/or perispinal etanercept injections. The latter is not available in Australia as yet, but is obtainable in the US and it is my aim to set up fundraising to be able to have this procedure done.

after-craig-indira-19-oct-16-my-bday-lunch-1

Craig & Indira (stepdaughter) – October 2016

Thankfully, Craig has still got his positive outlook and his wry sense of humour. Every day we experience – or one of us does something – that has us just about rolling on the floor with laughter. Yes our life now is completely different and rather challenging at times, but following the losses and the feelings of grief we reached acceptance fairly quickly. It is what it is. Hope, but especially our love keeps us going onwards and upwards.

 

By Gonda with the assistance of Craig

Talking Mats – a resource to enhance communication

Three speech pathologists from the Communication Access Network recently completed their Foundation Training for Talking Mats. Talking Mats is a tool that provides a framework to help people communicate more effectively.

The concept of Talking Mats is deceptively simple. It is a low tech resource which is easy to use with people who can read or recognise pictures. The communication partner or “listener” uses a mat as an aid. Along the top of the mat, pictures are used to represent a continuum or visual scale. This allows the participant to indicate their feelings about topics and options. The scale is adapted to suit the questions being asked for example, whether they “like”, “are not sure” or “don’t like” something or someone. Once a topic is chosen eg. “activities” or “people”, the participant is given options one at a time and asked to think about what they feel about each one. The symbol options are presented as pictures, photos or words. The participant then places the symbol somewhere along the visual scale to indicate what they feel.

The challenge in using Talking Mats is in selecting the right visual scale and considering all the vocabulary needed to address the chosen topic area. During the training, “listeners” are taught how to use mind mapping to generate vocabulary around particular topic areas.

Talking Mats will be a great resource for helping people to plan and to determine priorities for life goals and activities – particularly with the roll out of the NDIS. Use of a Talking Mat focuses the participant’s attention and reduces memory demands. It also allows the person time to process information and to respond in his or her own time. It improves the quality of information because it gives control to the person being interviewed and provides a structured framework for open questions. And it allows for the personalisation of information relating to relevant and important life issues.

Talking Mats graduates

Talking Mats graduates; Bronwen Jones, Libby Brownlie & Karen Bloomberg

Karen Bloomberg, Bronwen Jones and Libby Brownlie undertook the inaugural Foundation Training Course run by Tracey Bode at Zyteq. Tracey currently is the only qualified Talking Mats facilitator in Australia. Tracey and her colleagues at Talking Mats in Scotland are hoping to grow the facilitator base in Australia.

Further Foundation Training is available through Zyteq.

http://www.zyteq.com.au

There will also be a Talking Mats pre-conference Foundation workshop at the 2017 AGOSCI Conference offered by Lois Cameron, one of the founders of Talking Mats from Scotland.

http://www.agosci.org.au/conf2017/conf2017.htm

When people have completed a Foundation Course they may be considered for the 3-day facilitator workshop developing the skills needed to teach the Foundation Course training package.

By Karen Bloomberg

Success Stories from a Communication Coordinator Network

The Northwest Communication Coordinator Network has been running for nearly 8 years, and we currently have 8 day services involved. We meet each month to provide training, mentoring and peer support to the Communication Coordinators.

We have a time at the beginning of each meeting where the Communication Coordinators (CCs) share a little of what has happened in the last month. Often these discussions end up focusing on the challenges or obstacles faced by all, because there is so much that can and needs to be done, and never enough time and funding to do it. This time we asked the CCs to talk about the benefits they are seeing now from work that has been done in the past.

Visual scheduleUse of Visual Schedules is a common strategy that has yielded some excellent outcomes. In one centre this is done by having a folder with all the components necessary to communicate information about who is here and what is going to happen. A large carpet square sits on the wall and participants now know to take it down at the beginning of the session, put it on the desk and add/change elements for each day. This strategy has provided clear structure for the day’s activities, participants are calmer and less stressed because they understand the schedule and can anticipate what will happen next. It is also a focus for conversation, commenting and interaction. Initially the more “dominant” personalities took over the process, but they have been encouraged to “help” those clients who were more withdrawn. Over time participants have learned to support each other in this process and the clients who were withdrawn have become more involved and interactive, initiating communication far more than they used to.

visual scheduleA “first – then” strategy has been added to the use of the visual schedule, to help people understand the order in which activities will happen. This strategy can also be done electronically with an app on the ipad (Book Creator is a favourite, but there are a number of others). This means that a participant can take this home and share it with people he lives with. One man is now much more aware of what will happen each day, and will show people the thing that he is most looking forward to. He is also learning that sometimes one or two things need to happen before it’s time for the activity he most enjoys.

visual schedule with yellow dotsThese strategies help people know what the next activity will be, but they often would like to know when the next thing will begin. One Communication Coordinator put this together for a person who can tell the time but doesn’t comprehend the meaning. This person frequently asks the time because he is waiting for morning tea or lunch. The yellow dots are added as time passes, and he can now see how much longer he has to wait.

Another strategy along similar lines is an alarm clock with a visual cue for a deaf participant. He would get quite anxious and ask often when morning tea would be. The alarm clock is now always set to ring a little before morning tea time, and has little flag on the part that moves back and forth, so that he can see when the alarm is going off. Now he is much calmer and happier.

One centre has been exploring how to add more choice and control to daily activities. The basic premise of the Sandwich Making Program is the freedom to choose. For some people this can be a daunting process and with this in mind, the program is broken down into parts. The individuals in the group are picking their fillings using a photo board and then constructing either rolls or sandwiches however they want!

visual schedule - sandwich making program Over time, everyone is finding their favourite part of the process. One person is picking lettuce from the herb garden and she looks forward to this every week. Another really enjoys using the photo board and creating a masterpiece of fun to eat. Others enjoy slicing the range of ingredients and one takes the construction very seriously. Group members are expanding their range of foods they like to include in their sandwich, as well as growing in confidence and learning everyday living skills. This has proven to be a great strategy for increasing engagement, interaction, choice and control.

A Weather Chart is used in some services. In one centre this has helped people understand the best clothes to wear for different weather. It has also provided a regular topic of conversation (as the weather is often talked about in Melbourne!) and people attending the service now pay attention to what others are wearing and make comments about the different articles of clothing.

It can sometimes take a while of working on a particular strategy, teaching other staff how to use it and then using it with participants of the service, before we see the benefits emerge. While the pressure is often on for us to move on to the next strategy, to make the next aid, these stories show how important it is to give each new strategy and approach enough time to “take root”. Other staff and participants need to understand what the strategy is for, how to use it and how it is helpful. They may need ongoing support, and enough time for that to happen. Giving enough time and support is essential to our work of building capacity, and this discussion showed us just how much it pays off in the end.

BY Libby Brownlie and Julie Kenny

North-West Regional Communication Service

She understands everything I say…

How many times have we heard this said about people with severe disabilities? As a speech pathologist I often think about how I know if someone understands what I am saying to them and what I need to do if I think they do not.

Why does it matter?

Everyone deserves to be understood and their wishes respected regardless of their ability level. But, how do we really respect someone’s wishes if we do not understand their communication skills and limitations. It is important to remember that not everyone understands speech. I know this can be hard to accept – particularly when the person you are talking to is an adult. But, the reality is, some people with severe disabilities find that understanding speech alone is just too hard. That does not mean we stop talking to people but it does mean being aware of how many other cues we might be using that allows someone to get the gist of what we are saying to them.

car keys

Holding up car keys as a signal to go home is an example of how messages can be understood without the need for speech.

Apparently only 35% of our speech is understood through words alone. Gestures, facial expression, body language, use of pictures and objects actually make up the rest. We know this from our own life experience. How many of us have been to a noisy bar and a friend has motioned a drink gesture and we have nodded in agreement. Or, held up the keys to the car and got the attention of our partner across a crowded room as a signal to go home. The message has been understood without the need for speech.

I have often been in situations where I have questioned whether the person with a severe communication disability has actually understood what has been said to them. A recent example was when I watched an interaction at the end of a meal. The support worker asked the person to take their plate to the sink. They pointed to the plate and then to the sink. Then they beckoned to the person and touched the back of the chair and asked the person if they would like tea, coffee or milo. This time, they got out the teabags, the jar of coffee and the tin of milo. Then, they signed the word spoon and got a spoon out of the drawer and pointed to the fridge and said “Can you get the milk?” Afterwards, the support worker said “See, she understands everything I say.”
I did not think the person understood everything that was said. But, what I saw was a successful interaction based on the use of speech and other cues.


There were a number of cues that helped that situation:

1)         Routine – at the end of a meal we generally take our dirty dishes to the sink

2)         “Do what you usually do in a situation” e.g. sit on the chair that is indicated

3)         Use objects that relate to the activity

4)        Use natural gesture or sign (where the sign visually relates to the concept or object talked about)

5)         Accompany use of objects and gesture with speech. People respond to tone of voice even if they do not understand speech alone

6)         (Do what others do in the same situation – even if you are not sure, following the crowd works more often than not).

I did not see the last cue but I was told that this person will often get their bag and go to the door when they see their peers head off in that direction.

A number of informal and one formal strategy i.e. the use of the Auslan sign “spoon” were used in that brief exchange. And more could have been done in that situation but it would have meant more planning and effort by the more able communication partner.

The options available to help understanding involve either unaided e.g. use of sign and gesture or aided e.g. use of pictures or photos strategies.

Using Key Word Sign (unaided communication) – Using simple sign and gesture with people who have difficulty understanding helps them understand the spoken word by relying on the visual cue of the sign. Teaching and learning simple signs has now been made much easier with the release of the Key Word Sign Australia App. This has access to over 600 line drawings and can be used to create individualised communication resources. It is also possible to attend Key Word Sign workshops to learn basic signing skills. Visit the Key Word Sign Victoria website for details. http://keywordsignvictoria.org/

Using objects and communication aids (aided communication) – If remembering manual signs is difficult, you could use pictures or objects. Scope’s Non-electronic Communication Aid Service develops communication aids, completely individualised to your needs.  (NECAS -http://www.scopevic.org.au/service/necas/) or get the Tools2Talk+ App (http://www.scopevic.org.au/shop/tools2talk-app/ ) and do it yourself.

The person may not understand everything you say but there are many things you can do to make comprehension easier.

By Karen Bloomberg & Hilary Johnson

 

Easy English Training launched in the West Loddon Mallee

1On the 18th of March this year, the West Loddon Mallee Regional Communication Service launched its first localised Easy English training module in Swan Hill. This was followed by another short session where participants could bring their practise documents to share with each other and problem solve together.

Due to the success of our first training session and high public interest, we held a second training session in Mildura on 20th May.

Participants of both sessions came from a wide variety of community organisations including the Local Councils, Private Health clinics, Community Legal Services, Community Support Services, Early Learning Centres, and more.

All reports from attendees were very positive. Participants reported gaining more awareness of the literacy skills of the general community and reported that the statistics were an “eye-opener.” Some also felt they gained an awareness of the fact that how their documents are currently written are “often not fit for the audience”, and that they need to make sure the message that is delivered is actually received.

The groups reported finding the training well balanced, and described it as an “enjoyable, interactive and practical workshop.” Some felt they had gained a skill that will help them to “better engage their clients”.

By the end of the session, some had set high goals for themselves when asked if there was anything they intend to do differently when they return to work as a result of the workshop:

“Re-designing Service Brochure within 2 months”.

“Update Client Services Handbook by June 30 2016”.

Very soon after the first training session in Swan Hill, Sharon and I received great examples of Easy English documents that attendees were working on and requests for pictures to add meaning to their documents. It’s very rewarding to know that the training has made a difference to how the participants intend to communicate with their audiences from now on.

The fact that our community is so willing to take on advice of a different way to convey their messages to the public, a format which looks so different to any they have used in the past, is very encouraging to us as Regional Communication Service practitioners.

Some participants even expressed interest in attending the Communication Inclusion Resource Centre’s two day intensive Easy English Writing Course. It’s reassuring, to know our community is so willing and committed to engaging our members who require accessible information in order to fully participate, and gives us proof of our continually developing “communication friendly” community.

Emma Douglass & Sharon Champion

WLC RCS Speech Pathologists