At Milparinka we believe that everybody regardless of their level of disability should be supported to communicate in the best way that they can. We have a long-standing commitment to supporting people to develop a personalised method of communicating effectively with others. This ranges from supporting people to use things like Key Word Sign, electronic communication devices, visual timetables, talking mats, community request cards, personal dictionaries or other specialised equipment. Whatever it takes to get someone to be able to speak up for themselves, even if in some cases it’s as simple as being able to ask for a glass of water or for someone to turn off the light.
We have seen how the ability to communicate has empowered people we support to have more influence in their lives, increase their opportunities to ask for things, make friends, solve problems, have a joke, celebrate, tell stories and to experience life. We have experienced how improvements in communication abilities has increased our participants capacity to make choices and decisions for themselves and to make increased demands of us. We have also seen huge reductions in episodes of challenging behaviours as people are more able to tell us what they want and others around them have increased their capacity to communicate using different kinds of Augmentative Alternative Communication strategies.
One of the main things we know about better communication is that it helps people develop richer relationships with people in places they are trying to connect to. When we assist people to new find roles and relationships alongside other community members, the most common question we get is “How do I speak to John or Sharon”. People in the community are often not phased at all, by whether or not a disability is present, but what they are usually worried about is how they are going to be able to talk to someone who they are sharing space and time with. When people with communication needs have a tool and can say something with it, others will listen and take time to learn how to support them with that tool. In the past, we have had many requests from businesses and community places to train both individuals and whole staff teams from business and community groups so that they could learn about one person’s communication method and tools so that they could better talk to them.
As well as working with NDIS therapists and others, we employ a Communication Consultant and a part time Speech Pathologist, from our own funding and not chargeable to the NDIS, to ensure that we will continue to be a communication friendly environment where everybody can have a say and can better understand what others are saying.