Kids Plus speech pathologists, Caitie Mitchell and Jenna O’Brien, recently returned from the 4-day International Society of Alternative and Augmentative Communication Conference (ISAAC) on the sunny Gold Coast. The international conference for all things alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) and assistive technology has been running biennially since 1984. This is the first year, in 18, that Australia has hosted the conference.

People from all over the world shared research evidence, professional practice, personal experiences and preferences and research methods and theories relating to working with, caring for and succeeding as a person who uses AAC.

Some of their highlights of the conference included:

* listening to a 1 hour presentation by a 16-year-old from New Zealand, Mackenzie Kench, who uses her big toe to access her communication device. Mackenzie shared footage of her solo sailing experiences and invaluable insight into living with Cerebral Palsy and communicating with an electronic device

* witnessing presentations by people who use AAC, sharing in discussions with people who use AAC and listening to questions asked by people who use AAC all throughout the conference

* trialling and talking to suppliers of all the latest assistive technology on the market, including a computer switch that can be activated by a single light movement of an eyebrow, finger, cheek or any small movement of a body part

* learning about the latest research evidence for supporting eye-gaze technology to access a computer and to communicate

* attending sessions along-side current Kids Plus Foundation clients, Brodie Shaw and Penny Manning, and their carers, who also attended the conference.

* learning that we are well on the right track with our current practices and feeling empowered to share some of the wonderful work the Kids Plus Foundation therapists are doing at the next conference in Mexico, 2020.

Since the conference, communication and movement for communication has been a huge focus at KPF. We are better harnessing the expertise of our staff to focus on finding the best body position, ultimate access method and most appropriate communication device and language layout for each individual who uses AAC.

Next year, the Australian AAC group, also known as AGOSCI, will be holding their biennial conference in Perth. These conferences are wonderful for anyone who cares for, works with or is a person who uses AAC. The NDIS will cover conference attendance – if you’re interested, make sure you mention it at your next planning meeting.