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.

AGOSCI 2013 Day One (for real this time!)

Right. Day One. Where the heck to start! My head is ready to explode with the amount of new knowledge shared today. So lets start at the start. With the official opening by conference convenor Harmony Turnbull who introduced the attendees to the ‘Twitter Army’; apparently we are a friendly bunch! Just before I carry on, its seems I have been labelled the ‘AGOSCI2013 Blogger’, which I pointed out makes me sound like the ‘Boston Strangler’…. I shouldn’t be too mean about Harmony though, after all she is at the gym at 6am in the morning before the conference and then working hard, with the rest of the committee, during the day to deliver the conference* And I apologise now for the understatements I am about to make!

Right, back to the conference. Started with a song & dance from resident Elder Alison Golding. As a Kiwi I can relate to the cultural welcome, very much like the Maori waiata. Kai Ora Alison.

This was then followed by a wonderful speech from Professor Emeritus Ron McCallum who reminded everyone of the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities and in particular Article 2″

For the purposes of the present Convention:

  • “Communication” includes languages, display of text, Braille, tactile communication, large print, accessible multimedia as well as written, audio, plain-language, human-reader and augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, including accessible information and communication technology;
  • “Language” includes spoken and signed languages and other forms of non spoken languages;
  • “Discrimination on the basis of disability” means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation;
  • “Reasonable accommodation” means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • “Universal design” means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. “Universal design” shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.

A couple of quotes from Twitter really distill and summarise his words”

Onto Dr Sarah Blackstone. Now Dr Blackstone is arguably the pre-eminent AAC expert in the world. In her keynote she suggested that it is time for AAC to undergo a paradigm shift and look outside the box. Change from AAC to CAA or Communication Access for All. For me it was all about basic human rights (okay so I thought that about a number of sessions today, maybe I am biased!) Her call to action was to think about what we, as individuals, can bring to the greater communication table. It is something that we ALL need to get involved with for the greater good. We all need to talk, share and work together; more on this later….

Two HUGE sessions and it wasnt even morning tea!

Into the concurrent sessions. I opted to sit in on Tracey Hanigan’s session entitled ‘Connecting students with ASD to a Speech Generating Device’. Was a really good session, reinforced the need to revise constantly the users requirements. Also how users negative behaviours decline once the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively is reduced. We need to find a way to promote and share these great stories so more people will get actively involved.

Next two sessions were hosted by users of AAC – Emma Green and Georgia Cranko. Was humbling to watch & listen to them share their experiences and how AAC can lead to lifelong learning. But AAC has its place, there is still a need for family & friends to support, particularily in time-pressured situations such as doctors appointments. Was so cool to be in two sessions where the hosts and the audience were communicating with SGD’s! Ashamed to say it isnt an everyday occurance.. but arguably should be.

So to lunch, and a lot of face time with old & new friends. The afternoon sessions I will blog about soon, there is just SO much brilliant content I am having to split it across two postings!

*The ‘real’ reason Harmony is at the gym at 6am is to use the GHD hair things… girl thing, dont understand it. Will now expect retribution from said convenor!

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