My passion has long been to assist people with complex communication needs to communicate better with everyone and ultimately to be able to have a conversation.
Communication is identified in Article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities as a basic human right http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml but an interaction should be more than questions and answers. Interacting with conversation is about using multimodal methods such as facial expression, gesture and speech to connect with society, build relationships and grow as a person. Options aims to provide people with viable ways to understand develop and use language meaningfully. This means that the services I offer are not limited to face to face therapy time. Services may include designing and making resources, working collaboratively with other team members, providing medico-legal consultations, reporting and delivering workshops.
What is a complex communication need (CCN)?
At any time in our life we may acquire or develop an inability to understand and/or express language. This inability may be temporary or permanent and may impact on any way that language is represented (speech, writing, use of body language). Research has shown that people with complex communication needs often respond well to interventions such as key word signing, the use of pictures, symbols and other forms of visual communication as well as strategies that assist in the development of speech. Technologies may include software language learning programs, the use of biofeedback and specific training of communication partners.
Provision of Medico-Legal Consultations and Reports
As a certified and practicing speech language pathologist with over thirty years experience I have been privileged to work alongside some very talented teachers, therapists and families. I have also had wonderful opportunities to listen to the needs and opinions of people with complex communication needs. In the last ten years I have used her knowledge and skills to respond to referrals for medico-legal appraisal of needs for individuals who have communication difficulties. This work now features as a significant component in my workload.
In addition to providing workshops that address specific aspects of a communication impairment, I offer training to individuals who provide support as communication partners. Communication partner training aims to break down the wall that divides people, and establish building blocks to form a bridge of connection. Sometimes the training that communication partners benefit from can initially feel like they need to learn a new language. This language may be the language of using gestures, signs or visual images. But, training also aims to make a communication program sustainable and therefore more cost effective. Communication partner training has been shown to have a significant positive impact on the quality of interaction between people with CCN and others.
My PhD research investigated the strategies used by communication assistants (people with some knowledge and skill in AAC) when they interacted with people who has Down syndrome, Rett syndrome or cerebral palsy. The results of this research are currently being written for dissemination and are included in workshop training.