Research conducted over the past 15 years clearly demonstrates that people with disabilities and complex communication needs are 2-6 times more likely to suffer physical, mental or sexual abuse than others in their community, as a consequence of their inability to communicate effectively (Balandin 2006, Collier 2006). There is an urgent need to develop and strengthen safeguards for people with complex communication needs of all ages. To address these needs a state government body commissioned a suite of resources from various advocacy and disability focused organisations to address safeguard issues for adults with cognitive and or communication disabilities. Our project, Speak up and be Safe from Abuse, is now in its 5th year of funding. A range of communication resources have been designed to support adults with communication support needs to discuss or report abuse and neglect based on a literature review conducted in 2014. These resources have included online vocabulary specific communication aids, face to face and online training to support workers, advocates and counsellors to use communication aids and support strategies when discussing abuse and neglect. The process for developing the resources have included extensive and continued networking within and across the sector. Relationships have been established with disability services, advocacy groups, specialists working in family violence and the justice system, people with communication support needs, and speech – language pathologists working within disability sector with a wide range of people. During the project several issues have arisen including the applicability of the resources to children that led to conducting literature review and consultation with key stakeholders around the specific needs in this area for children.
Our presentation will summarise the findings that are most relevant to the most recent project. The current project has addressed four issues, a) the limited information about which audience each resources is most appropriate ;b) the use of the resources for people with different support requirements; c) the absence of guidelines as to which communication resources would be useful at different points throughout continuum from pro-active strategies that can be used to promote advocacy and raise awareness, to reactive strategies that can be used to assist people who have experienced abuse and neglect ; d) the need for staff to develop skills to support the use of topic specific communication aids.
To respond to the above learnings, the most recent installment of the Speak up and be Safe from Abuse project has developed a resource that maps out which available resource could be used for individuals with different communication support needs, within different contexts of support for communication support needs. This part of the project is due to be completed by July 2020. This presentation will outline the considerations that lead to the development of this resource, and our ideas and experiences in terms of how the resource could be applied within disability support and advocacy contexts.
Learning Outcomes:
-Participants will understand how to use the different communication resources at different points of the continuum from pro-active to re-active strategies when discussing abuse and neglect.
-Participants will be aware of the principles and process underpinning creating a guide about what resource is useful at what point for people with communication support needs.
-Participants will be aware of how they can keep in touch with the project so that they can find the resources online, once they have been finalised.

Collier, B., .McGhie-Richmond D; & Odette, F. (2006) Reducing the risk of sexual abuse for people who use augmentative and alternative communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 21.62-75.

Elizabeth Weston
Scope Australia

Hilary Johnson
Scope Australia

Naomi Rezzani
Scope Australia

Back to all abstracts