Your donations at work: Helping children and young people communicate

A long-term partner of the Foundation, Kids+ provide specialist physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech pathology programs to improve children’s abilities across a range of developmental areas.

In the 2021 Education and Employment grant round, the Foundation provided Kids+ with a grant of $35,000 to support their Alternative and Augmentative Connect (AAC) Program.

This program provides training to parents, carers, and educators to help support children and young people with complex communication conditions, including those who are non-verbal to remain engaged or re-engage with their education by expanding their speech pathology and communication technology services.

Research has shown that, without training, people don’t always demonstrate skills necessary to support communication for individuals who rely on AAC and that short term intervention focused on parent implementation of strategies learned in a clinical setting, and then carried over at home, showed increased AAC use.

The ability to communicate effectively and be understood is a vital part of the human experience. This grant allows children and young people to continue their education and develop their skills and relationships in ways they previously couldn’t.

AAConnect is a collaboration between Kids+ staff members, Senior Speech Pathologist, Jenna O’Brien, and AAC Technology Coordinator, Noah Callan.

Noah has lived experience using AAC strategies, with a particular interest in those involving technology.

“When I was younger, I lived in Japan. One of the benefits was how they embraced the Internet early, and I was lucky enough to adapt to it… At about three, I can remember accessing our family laptop with AAC software to practice writing sentences,” says Noah.

Since then, Noah has been passionate about using technology to assist him in the community.

“Even at such an early age, I could see the power technology could give me in my life. From there, AAC has been my whole life.”

This technology has allowed Noah to not only communicate but has provided him with a wide variety of opportunities to help others. Noah delivers AAC related professional development training, including workshops and conferences for users, family members and carers, and allied health professionals.

This includes his work with the AAConnect Program, providing opportunities for people to advance their knowledge of AAC implementation to better support communication and foster more engaging and effective interactions between parents and their children.

One of these families is Lachlan’s, who is supported by both Jenna and Noah help he and his family incorporate AAC into their everyday life.

Lachlan’s AAC journey began when he was nearly three years old, and he quickly showed immense interest and his family has welcomed the technology.

“The most powerful and special moment was Lachie told me he loves me using his AAC device,” said Lachlan’s mum, Kylie.

“His device has been fabulous in him participating in medical appointments, whether it’s describing what discomfort he is in, or how he is feeling going into the procedure. The device allows him to participate in conversations in a real meaningful way”

“This device has allowed Lachlan to have a voice! A voice to talk with friends, a voice to raise concerns, worries, and feelings, a voice to be cheeky with his family and friends, and a voice to share his opinions!” his mum added.

Not only does this device bring connection, but it opens many doors in Lachlan’s future.

“It means he can have a very bright future and one with more independence than he would otherwise have without AAC.”