Friday seemed a little flatter than the other two days to me. That may be due to 3 hours sleep on my behalf, or more likely because the first full day was really, really full and intense (but in a good way). So it was great to have Susan Balandin up as the days keynote presenter talking about Virtual Worlds, in particular Second Life by Linden Labs. It was a bit of a trip back in time for me – I remember creating an avatar when they first went live in public beta back in 2002, back in the bad old days of dial up internet!
Of more ‘disturbing’ concern was the reminder of the simulated sex that occurs inside Second Life. Yeah…. really DIDN’T need to bring those mental images back, thanks Susan!
On a more serious note though she describe the research she has done around using SL with people with a disability. This is something that has some merit I think, top of mind positive social interaction learning can be done to support a person with ASD to learn some important skills in a safe environment. Because you can be anyone you like, others you interact with will only see what you portray, the unfortunate human nature of judging someone based on their disability isnt a factor in a virtual world.
After a rather subdued morning tea, and cup of coffee number 10, I sat in on Pammi Raghavendra and Emma Grace talking about increasing the social participation of young people with CCN using strategies to support internet social networking. Research indicates that adolescence is a time of significant change, and peer relations are one of the most significant factors affecting Quality of Life. Sadly those with a disability have reduced social networks – you could then argue a lower Quality of Life. Their study showed that an increase in supported access to online social networks decreased their feeling of loneliness. Why then do we persist in actively blocking someone with a disability from the Internet! Support them, aid them, but for Gods sake let them loose! It is a NORMAL activity for them to do.
One big takeaway, and a message that has been banged out time & again both in sessions and in breaks – to help AAC be a success you need to have a team approach. That is IT + OT + SP working together, as a team. We all need to sit together, as equals with no hidden agendas, parking the egos at the door, and formulate the best possible solution to create a positive outcome.
The next session from Nitha Ungsuprasert was for me was a reminder how far countries like New Zealand and Australia have come with AAC and AT. Lots of research, not a lot for me to take away, other than Thai doctors still prescribe hyperbaric chambers for kids with ASD as a CURE! That is once they have waited to see if they will ‘grow out of it’. Really. So it is heartening to hear how Nitha and her colleagues are trying to bring AAC to the forefront in Thailand and provide the services that are almost taken for granted here. Here’s hoping the support will grow for them over the next little while.
Onto the last session before lunch with Trina Phuah & David Harraway. All I can say is the room is cursed! Technical fails plagued the start of the session but despite this they still pulled of a really fun & interesting hour, including a spot of audience participation with switches to send a tweet and post a facebook update. What can I say, those two are dedicated and full of energy, always a pleasure to hang out with them!
The afternoon sessions. Sheridan Forster is another person I need to smuggle home with me! Super Super presso talking about HOP, or Hanging Out Program for adults with severe ID in a day service setting. SO many applications for my organisation, I think I was so engrossed I forgot to tweet updates! Not going to regurgitate her session here, but I will urge you to read her booklet (her toilet book I believe she called it as it is perfect for casual reading in the little room!) available here for download.
So, lucky last one I will mention for today. Despite best efforts to deter people from sitting in on the presentation that Harmony & I did on Communities of Practise, it seemed as though most of the #TwitterArmy turned up in support! We had the same tech gremlins that plagued Trina & David to start, but managed to bang out a semi-informative session – including live-tweeting ourselves. Yes we really are THAT awesome 🙂 All jokes aside though, it was really great to have the support of the crew in there with us, you rock!
A final note for the day. I was pondering earlier about all the dedicated people in Sydney this week for AGOSCI2013. All these people with the most wonderful values, all striving to make the lives of people with disabilities ‘normal’. It then occurred to me that I know more people in the disability sector in Australia than I do in little old NZ! Just an interesting observation. But I do really value each & every interaction I have with you all, it is so inspiring and energising to talk to people that hold fast to the ideal that there is a better way, and we will walk the long and often lonely path together.