AGOSCI 2013 Day One Part the Second

So onto the second part of yesterday, well in reality the only other session I attended but didn’t mention in Part One. And it is quite fitting I think that the session I am about to discuss has its own posting. You see, for me at least, it is the session of the conference. At least it is now. Emily Wailes presentation was entitles ‘Adapt to Connect’: The role of the communication partner. I have to be honest and say for the first half an hour I was seriously pondering my choice in sessions as it was very much the statistical report on the research Emily conducted. Yawn.

But then the second half. WOW! And I use that word deliberately as she had a Big Mac button programmed to say WOW! See it turned from dare I say boring research stats to the real world. And it was disturbing yet not totally unexpected. Her research with people with an Intellectual Disability really hit home as I could draw immediate links to a large number of the people my organisation supports.Emily tried I think to present the findings in as positive way as possible by saying 65% of support workers use an appropriate communication act that matches the communication needs of the person. All I heard was 35% are abusive of peoples rights and needs and it cannot be permitted to go on. But then it got worse, with data suggesting only 19.5% of staff use an appropriate visual or tactile act! 19.5%!

But the least surprising bit of research showed that the greater the complexity of the communications needs of the person the less likely there will be a good match. People with a profound ID need tangible cues to make informed choices, but they are only used in a quarter of the engagements therefore an informed choice is unlikely – if that isnt clear cut abuse I dont know what is.

Emily reinforced for the audience that AAC isnt JUST about a bit of hardware or software, it needs to include friends, family, interpreters and advocates. By this stage, to steal my new favorite expression from fellow Tweeter Kate Munro, I got my #rantypants on! Communication is a basic human need that is often forgotton or overlooked. It was so refreshing to hear Emily state that it needs to be on everyones agenda, all of the time. It needs to sit at the top of a house meeting, a service delivery meeting, a management meeting and definately at a Board meeting. If we leave it up to the ‘experts’ and to the SLTs/SPs only nothing meaningful will change.

Sarah Blackstone spoke in the opening keynote about everyone needing to pull up a chair at the table – we need to make it a priority.

Thank you Emily for your thought-provoking, timely presentation. I lost sleep last night, not just because of your content, but because it really pulled together the other themes in earlier and later sessions. It concerns me that there is this widespread gap not just in New Zealand and Australia but I would say globally that needs fixing. Fixing to give those that need a bit of help the help they need. Fixing to restore basic human rights, respect and dignity. I certainly do not profess to having the answers or solutions, but it is clear from the inspirational group of people attending the conference that there is focus, drive and a real desire to work together, across borders, across professions to make a change.

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