My name is Sophie Woods and I am the VIK for the North East. I used to work as a volunteer teacher in South Africa; so was very excited to make the return trip this summer. Upon arrival in Johannesburg I travelled to Pretoria to stay with a very good friend of mine I used to work alongside. It seems I had caught her at the wrong time as she was in the middle of a week -long AAC (inter-nations, alternative augmentative communication) conference. However as I work closely with young people experiencing similar issues I decided on the last day to go with her. It was a fascinating experience, and I met so many inspirational people who are driving forward with participation in a slightly different field to our own.
Below are a few of the key things raised throughout the day I picked up on:
- As with a lot of research done in the UK.. common themes are highlighted as what people using AAC wanted in South Africa; more access to services, there are almost no positive role models and advocates, a data base of existing therapies for better networking between therapists and organisations.
- ‘The Purpose’ is a small South African organisation that uses creative ways of engaging and empowering people who often feel powerless. Some of the participants had used old dog food bags to make hand bags… they looked beautiful.
- Effuduasi Unit School – GHANA. Has been working with children who have only partial/ no speech. One teacher got pregnant and was told because she worked with disabled children her child will thus be disabled. She didn’t… and this in itself started to change and challenge these cultural beliefs, so now these children are becoming accepted within the larger community.
This shows a positive way of increasing awareness and reducing stigma. These children are taught how to shop using cards instead of speech. Parents/ carers are involved throughout the whole process.
- UKHCTO – is an organisation that organises a person’s ‘transition phase’ to ensure there is a continuity of care but also empowering young people to set goals and become more independent. It’s centred around a professional and personal partnership; the individual decides their goals and this plan empowers people to achieve them.
The plans process is as follows; build a plan team, gather information, develop their transition plan, update the plan and finally hold an exit meeting.
- Communication Matters; another organisation that empowers people to communicate with one another using alternative means, but is based within the UK.
Overall it was a very interesting conference to have gotten involved with. The day was full of inspiration and some stunning speeches from those using AAC themselves. Next year the ISAAC conference is to be held in Pittsburgh, USA. I am currently starting fundraising efforts to get Lesedi (a young man with cerebral palsy) to this conference. His words are inspiring and it is his dream to go to America… this may be his only chance. If you would like to show support or simply hear more please contact me by leaving a comment below.
I will leave you with this quote from a QA session; the young man answering is called Lebogang Sehako;
“If you could change one of your disabilities, what would you change?”
“None of them, I am proud of all my disabilities”