Reflections on the ISAAC 2016 conference in Toronto

Thanks to Emma and Toni Green for this report:

thank you ISAAC Australia for the grant that helped with conference costs.
The thing I loved most was seeing my friends who use AAC, speech therapists and other people I know.
I’m crazy excited that ISAAC will be in Australia in 2018.

It was great to see so many people from Australia at the conference, and to meet folk from Canada and other places around the world who use AAC or support people who do in one way or another.
The trade displays were fantastic and there was the latest technology available to try out.
The conference dinner and dance was hilarious, Emma got a lot of footage on her GoPro (but we daren’t make it public, it’s too funny!!)
As usual there were some brilliant presentations from people who use AAC . We particularly enjoyed Beth Moulam’s presentation on interviewing and hiring support staff.
It was great to be part of the  Town Hall meeting, I was there to support Emma and as her scribe, so I got to watch and listen but say nothing (always good for parents to do!).
Jane and co did a great ad for the 2018 conference at the closing ceremony, and we have ISAAC the Moose travelling with us until we return to Australia to help spread the word about the conference.
I would really encourage parents to consider supporting their family member at the conference, it’s a great way to build networks, to learn and to see your family member grow in confidence as they communicate with others in a safe environment.

Are you ready for AAC Awareness month?

October is AAC awareness month. Have you thought about what you would like to do to celebrate?  Here are some ideas:

Host a silent morning tea.  You can find all the information you need here: .

Raise funds for ISSAC Australia with “I have something to say” wristbands – available for $2 each from Meredith Allan

Advertise the ISAAC 2018 international conference on the Gold Coast with fridge magnets, also available from Meredith.

Or stay tuned for an exciting ISAAC Australia opportunity… details to follow!




V/Line and Public Transport Victoria are now communication accessible!

AAC users traveling in Victoria will be glad to know that regional and metropolitan train services are now communication accessible.  Find out more at  You can also download communication tools here.

There is a lovely video with lots of AAC use at:

ISAAC conference comes to Australia!

ISAAC Australia is excited to announce that the ISAAC international conference is coming down under for the first time ever.  The conference will be held on the Gold Coast in 2018.  This news was announced at the 2016 ISAAC conference in Toronto on 10th August.  Watch this space for more details!fireworks

Free access to AAC journal articles – Have you seen this post from the ISAAC website?

30th Anniversary Free Access Event

It has been 30 years since the founding of the Augmentative and Alternative Communication journal in 1985. To celebrate this milestone, the AAC journal editors, past and present, and publisher Taylor & Francis are providing key articles free for a period of 30 days. One article will be featured each week during the month of October 2015. These releases coincide with International AAC Awareness Month, celebrated every year in October. Two additional articles will be available in December 2015.

We are excited to announce the first featured article, now available online:

  • Early Intervention and AAC: What a Difference 30 Years Makes
    MaryAnn Romski, Rose A. Sevcik, Andrea Barton-Hulsey & Ani S. Whitmore
    AAC, 31, 181-202.

Abstract: This article provides an overview of early intervention and AAC over the 30-year period since the founding of the journal Augmentative and Alternative Communication in 1985. It discusses the global context for early intervention and addresses issues pertaining to young children from birth to 6 years of age. It provides a narrative review and synthesis of the evidence base in AAC and early intervention. Finally, it provides implications for practice and future research directions.

Re-visit this page for updates throughout October!

  • To view the above featured article, please click here.
  • For more International AAC Awareness Month updates, please click here.

ISAAC Australia’s own Janelle Sampson wins Community Award!

There are a lot of things I could say about Janelle Sampson, she is just a fantastic

woman full stop.

Janelle has taken a tremendous business risk this year and has started running

workshops by people who use AA C, which is inspiring the AA C community in

South Australia in so many ways.

Mel Smith says, I had the privilege of working closely with Janelle in November

2014 on a mentor project connected with two way street and funded by Julia Farr

Foundation, it was probably the most rewarding and enjoyable weeks in my career

as an AA C user. Janelle was incredible to work with, because she was so

passionately professional about everything and everyone. She certainly made me

feel highly valued and confident in all areas of my knowledge and expertise, and this

made my week in Adelaide incredibly easy. Janelle always makes the time to listen,

to offer advice as a mentor or colleague would and never does she take over from

one’s original ideas or suggestions. Janelle is an extremely dedicated communicator,

very clear in her mind what AA C is, and very positive at all times to learn from AA C

users themselves I am extremely proud to know this woman professionally and



Jack White is the posthumous winner of the ISAAC Australia Information Award

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The Information Award. The award is given for work that raises

awareness of AA C. It includes articles, lectures, public appearances, radio interviews or

public work of art.

This award goes to Jack White, of Shelley, Western Australia.

Jack died this year, he was only ten years old but kept using his AA C strategies until the

very last days.

Jack White is a 10 year old boy who has always just wanted to live an ‘ordinary’ life,

but in doing so, has been extraordinary. Jack has mitochondrial disease and due to

this, is unable to sit, stand, walk or talk without full support and assistance. Jack has

used the PODD communication system as his main means of communicating since

he was 3 years old. Through using his PODD, Jack has been able to share his

bright mind, wit and imagination and been able to live an extraordinary-ordinary life

full of adventure, travel, pirates and superheros, a passion for the ocean and all

creatures within it, and plenty of high-jinx spy games – finding the words to call his

nasogastric tube his ‘comms’ for example.

While visiting Sculptures by the Sea at Cottesloe Beach, WA in the summer of 2013,

Jack White was inspired by a glass sculpture of a whale shark. Set against the

turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the sculpture, named ‘Transparent Sea’,

so captivated Jack that he used his (PODD) to tell his communication partner that he

wanted to write a poem about it. Using partner assisted auditory/visual scanning

with a combination of head nods, squeezey big blinks and his voice to indicate yes,

Jack navigated his PODD, writing for over an hour. He used the same AA C

strategies and system to share what inspired him to write his poem. His poem, and

inspiration, was later entered in the Sculptures by the Sea writing competition and

Jack won first prize. This excerpt from ‘Jack’s Story’ written by his mother,

Charmaine White gives further insight:

“The message in Jack’s poem is profound. Like the whale shark, Jack is


It took Jack just over an hour to write his poem, all the while, fighting off

seizures and fatigue. His poem aptly describes how he yearns to experience

the freedom and mobility to move with ease and explore his environment just

like the whale shark, as mito has robbed him of the ability to use his legs and

he is confined to a wheelchair. On his entry form Jack was asked to comment

“What inspired your writing piece and why?” he answered: “I can not speak. I

know (what it may be like for the whale shark). I’m wanting you to know.”

Whale Shark

I’m not dead,

I feel. I love affection.

Peaceful, I can know.

I can not talk.

I can not go.

Imagine I go to my park, beach, sand.

I see.

I swim.

I, you, float, whale shark.

Finish watching.

I need to swim.

Jack’s poem, along with Jack’s Story now sits on a plaque alongside ‘The

Transparent Sea’ sculpture as a permanent exhibit at the Maritime Museum in

Fremantle, WA. Through his poetry, Jack is raising awareness of AAC. His poem

and his story stand next to ‘The Transparent Sea’ sculpture in a public space, as a

permanent visual testament to anyone with complex communication needs trying to

have a voice, trying to make their voice heard.

Last year, Jack was chosen to be the 2014 Variety Bash Ambassador . His

involvement as the 2014 Ambassador meant he travelled up to Exmouth, opened the

water park there and formally led off the bash. Jack also had his dream come true,

going out whale watching, spotting his beloved whale sharks among other ocean life.

Throughout this remarkable experience, Jack of course had access to his PODD and

was able to use it in his ‘professional’ role as Ambassador, chatting with the

‘bashers’ and tour operators alike, advancing awareness of AA C amongst a wide

range of different groups of people within his state.

Sadly, after a long battle with illness, Jack recently passed away. That Jack was able

to communicate effectively albeit with great effort using his AA C system and

strategies right up to his last few days, meant he was, at just 10 years of age, able to

grapple with the hardest conversations one can expect to have in life when facing

the reality of one’s own mortality. It was during this time when Jack was told about

this nomination for an ISAAC Award. It gave him great joy to know that his work

would be recognised in the form of an ISAAC nomination.

We will send Jack’s parents the award certificate and the gift voucher telling them

to buy a gift for themselves from Jack.

Sue Stephens wins ISAAC Australia Community Award

The ISAAC Australia Community Award goes to someone who actively uses AA C in

the community and actively contributes to the use of AAC in the community. This

award goes to Sue Stevens in Eltham, Victoria.

Sue is a dispensary technician at a community pharmacy in Hampton

East. Amongst her customers are a number of people with disabilities.

Sue makes an effort to communicate with customers using their

preferred methods. She has picked up a few key word signs from her

regular customers and puts these to use.

In 2014, Sue was featured in the “Good Things” video. The video

showed Sue using simple Key Word sign to communicate with a

customer. Since the video was released, Sue has had a lot of feedback

from customers and acquaintances and has developed an interest in

disability. She has gone on to study in the field.

Congratulations Sue.

Malkara Specialist School wins 2015 schools’ award!

Malkara has made a strong commitment to ensure all students at the school with

Complex Communication Needs have an appropriate Augmentative and Alternative

Communication System, that the systems are used daily and that all staff have

appropriate training in using the systems and in becoming good communication

partners. As a result, students at Malkara are daily becoming more competent


In 2012 the school executive established a trial Proloquo 2 Go Classroom to look at

implementing good quality AA C intervention and support for a trial group of students,

focusing on students who had a recommendation from a speech pathologist to use Proloquo

2 Go.

In 2013 the school implemented aided language displays throughout the school. All staff

were required to wear and use aided language displays. This was highly successful, with

many students learning to use symbols for a range of communicative functions and with

positive outcomes in terms of student’s receptive and expressive language and in creating a

community of more skilled communication partners. In addition, a number of students had

their own AAC systems. PODD books, followed by I Pads with Proloquo 2 Go, were the

most common systems, but low tech core vocabulary systems, PECS and other AA C apps

on iPads had also been recommended for some students. Staff received training and

practice on using and supporting these systems although the primary focus for the whole

school was on aided language displays and aided language stimulation.

In 2014, the whole school focus was on increasing aided language input. Teachers were

asked to use aided language for at least 50% of the school day and the range of aided

language displays was increased. Further work was done on helping staff to become

competent with their students’ AA C systems so that aided language could happen using the

systems appropriate for each student. A PODD working party was established to build

resources for whole school training around implementing PODD.

Overall, the school has made a significant and sustained commitment to creating a

community that supports and uses AAC daily. The whole school community has recognised

the importance of ensuring all their students with complex communication have a “voice” and

have worked hard to ensure that this has happened in an appropriate and sustainable way.

As a result, all staff have become much more effective communication partners and the

students attending the school are becoming much more competent communicators.

And we wish all schools could be like Malkara.