HOP workshops…

It’s been nearly two years since my injury that has taken me away from the work that I love.

But I’m pleased to say now that I will be running a HOP workshop on the 24th May 2019 in Eltham, Victoria.

If this goes well, I’d love to run more workshops.

HOP workshops are great opportunities to talk about how to interact with people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities, and discuss the taboos and issues that might get in the way of having quality interactions with people who don’t use or seem to understand speech.

Link to HOP workshop


“How adults with a profound intellectual disability engage others in interaction” – a powerful, provocative article

Just wanting to share my favourite reading at the moment. The article is simultaneously complex and straightforward. They use a complex method of conversational analysis to look at natural interactions occurring between some staff and people with profound intellectual disabilities. Their findings are straightforward: staff are in a dilemma. They are use “typical” communication patterns with people whose communication needs are far from typical. Successful interaction is not happening.

It is a wonderful challenge handed to us to explore, use, and share a different way of communicating. It is a challenge to anyone who “trains”, “teachers”, “mentors” staff who engage everyday with people with profound intellectual disability to learn the optimal individual language that may defy neurotypical rules. It challenges us to change the rules of engagement.


Antaki, C. , Crompton, R. J., Walton, C. and Finlay, W. (2017), How adults with a profound intellectual disability engage others in interaction. Sociol Health Illn, 39: 581-598. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.12500


Using video records of everyday life in a residential home, we report on what interactional practices are used by people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities to initiate encounters. There were very few initiations, and all presented difficulties to the interlocutor (support staff; the recording researcher); one (which we call ‘blank recipiency’) gave the interlocutor virtually no information at all on which to base a response. Only when the initiation was of a new phase in an interaction already under way (for example, the initiation of an alternative trajectory of a proposed physical move) was it likely to be successfully sustained. We show how interlocutors responded to initiations verbally, as if to neuro?typical speakers – but inappropriately for people unable to comprehend, or to produce well?fitted next turns. This mis?reliance on ordinary speakers’ conversational practices was one factor that contributed to residents abandoning the interaction in almost all cases. We discuss the dilemma confronting care workers.

You walk into a room and see a person with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities – what do you think, what do you do?

A couple of months ago I had the honour of keynote presenting at the New Zealand ASID Conference. Here is a link to the slides and presentation.

“How do I need to be in order to be with you?” Building partnerships that enrich lives”.

Dr Sheridan Forster recently presented at the NZ 2018 ASID Conference. She draws on research, clinical practice, and the very real issue of sitting down with a person with PIMD and thinking “how do I need to be in order to be with you?”

Visit https://www.asid.asn.au/conferences/asid-nz-2018-conference to download her presentation.

Let’s think about understanding

I talk and think a lot about communication.

We have Speech Pathology Week, AAC Week, and other like things.

But I don’t know if we have a week dedicated to understanding.

A core part, too often neglected, of communication is the ability to understand the communication of others.

To be understood by another person, the partner needs to use the best modes (e.g., speech, sounds, facial expression, pictures) and the level of complexity for which the person can understand now. If partner’s do not use the best modes and level of complexity, then the communication is less likely to be understood.

We are often so focused on how a person can “communicate” to use – but too rarely consider how we can make ourselves understandable to the person.

Communication breaks down because we may not be understood.

Because of pain, I can not understand the same way as I used to. For me to understand television, I need subtitles – I can not understand speech on it’s own – it’s too quick for me to process.

I can not understand text the same way that I used too. I need to read when I am not fatigued; if I don’t, the words just don’t travel to my brain.

In conversation, I need a quiet environment, short turns, longer time to respond, and different expectations about what message I will be able to remember. I need important information to be written down (and preferably photographed because I will probably lose the paper).

I’ve created my own “how do I need to be in order to be with you – enhancing understanding?”

This week, can I celebrate Communication Comprehension week – celebrating communication that can be understood best!