Our highlights from the 2022 AGOSCI Conference
28 October 2022
Last month, a few members of our team were fortunate enough to travel to Hobart for the 2022 AGOSCI Conference. Following the cancellation of the 2021 AGOSCI conference due to COVID-19, meeting in person to share and gain knowledge was an immense privilege.
AGOSCI’s work influences numerous sectors in Australia and their work as an advocate for people with complex communication needs (CCN) is greatly valued and appreciated. We sincerely thank the AGOSCI team and sponsors for their generosity in hosting this year’s conference.
Today, Ross Leighner, ABA Clinical Lead and Senior Behaviour Support Practitioner, shares a few of his key takeaways from the 2022 AGOSCI Conference.
Ross’s highlights from the 2022 AGOSCI Conference
Presentations by Dr Erna Alant, Dr Darryl Sellwood and Dr Melinda Smith
Dr Erna Alant has decades of experience working with people with communication difficulties and is passionate about working with individuals with little or no vocal speech. During her keynote address at the 2022 AGOSCI conference, Dr Alant said that we should strive to be like tourists in our interactions with clients, with individuals who have complex communication needs and quite possibly with everyone, in all our interactions.
In his PhD research, Dr Darryl Sellwood focused on people with Complex Communication Needs and their experiences with romantic and sexual relationships. Dr Sellwood uses an *AAC device to communicate and during the COVID-19 lockdown launched his own coffee company, DrDazz Coffee. DrDazz Coffee ethically sources its products and its proceeds are “paid forward.”
Dr Melinda Smith has over 30 years experience in disability and education and is also Director of the Board of the Women’s Circus, based in Melbourne.
During the AGOSCI Conference, Darryl and Melinda shared their experiences from childhood to doctorate studies and how they continue to debunk stigmas on a day-to-day basis.
Interacting with individuals who use AAC devices
Our Ability Consultants team hosted a booth at the 2022 AGOSCI Conference and it was a pleasure to share the work that we do in positive behaviour support. We were also able to share how we’re integrating accessible communication into our work and interact with individuals who use *AAC devices.
Supporting Northcott by sharing our experience with the Communication Access Symbol
Earlier this year, Northcott supported us as we worked towards approval to display the Communication Access Symbol. Communication access is an important part of our community — it’s about taking steps to ensure all people can communicate their message.
The Communication Access Symbol shows that we have met specific standards that make our communication accessible.
Until this year, the Communication Access Symbol was primarily used in Victoria and administered by Scope. Northcott has partnered with Scope to provide training and resources about the symbol in New South Wales.
At the AGOSCI Conference, Katrina McNamee spoke about Northcott’s experience and we were asked to share our experiences with the Communication Access Symbol. Steve Davies was looking forward to attending and presenting but unfortunately had to miss the conference due to illness and I was able to present on his behalf. Here’s an excerpt of Steve’s presentation:
“Too often and for too long, many of the people we work with have been talked about instead of being talked to, have been written about without being invited to read and contribute, have had their goals dictated instead of being invited to set them. It bugs me every time I read a behaviour support plan which states that the person themselves was not involved in the creation of the plan. I wouldn’t like it if this happened to me. Surely we can do better!
When I first heard about the Communication Access Symbol, I was immediately excited by the potential within it to facilitate genuine inclusion for people who are so often voiceless in many areas of life. Luckily, I have the good fortune to work with people who share my passion.
Working with Kat and the people at Northcott to qualify and to use the Communication Access Symbol was a very valuable process for us.
Firstly, the training was awesome. Our people come from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, with some very familiar with AAC and some far less so. Having the opportunity to actively participate in interactions with AAC users as part of the training was an experience some of our people had never had the chance to experience, and this was enormously valuable.
Secondly, going through the process of collaboratively creating the right tools to facilitate the connections we need was another new experience for some of our people, and one which helped to give them some new and important skills to bring to their role.
Finally, going through the assessments was a wonderful test for us. To truly live our mission, it’s crucial that we provide genuinely accessible services to as many people as possible, and having the opportunity to test ourselves formally on this was valuable in its own right. We knew that when we’d qualified to use the symbol, we’d really earned it!
Since qualifying to use the Communication Access Symbol, we have incorporated a range of communication tools into our everyday practice, and are actively engaged in producing more resources to help more individuals actively participate in more parts of their service. I hear stories from across our organisation of staff who are finding deeper levels of freedom and social connection with and for their clients through what we’ve learned through Communication Access, and I’m seeing far more evidence of genuine collaboration with the people we serve in pursuit of improved quality of life.”
Ross’ closing remarks about the 2022 AGOSCI Conference
A highlight of attending was definitely upskilling myself in the most recent research with multidisciplinary approaches to assessing language capacity and how to set our clients up for success with improved quality of life.
Attending AGOSCI was an incredibly enriching experience. I applaud the organisation's push to give voices to the individuals we serve: a major platform is provided for people with disability to provide training and lectures to us as service providers. This conference covered a wide range of topics varying from mental health, trauma and abuse, processes to establish functional communication training and everything in between. I highly recommend behaviour support clinicians consider attending an AGOSCI Conference as a potential option for professional development.
Visit our website for more information about accessible communication.
Note: *AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, that is, communication methods that can be used in place of or alongside spoken words. Examples include keyword signs, communication books and speech-generating devices.