Just because I can’t speak doesn’t mean I have nothing to say: A model for encouraging a shift in attitudes and behaviour in disability support workers

Impact and industry: Attempting to encourage change in worker behaviour in the disability services sector

Shoshana Dreyfus, University of Wollongong

In this plenary I will chart the journey of attempting to effect behaviour change regarding communication between support workers and people living with intellectual disability across two settings. In the first setting, I focus on behaviour change in relation to the support workers who work with my severely intellectually disabled nonverbal son Bodhi in both his (group) home and his day program.

In this first part of the talk, I begin with a review of where my son’s nonverbal multimodal communication was up to when I last presented to the wider SFL community in 2012. I then show the work we have been doing to extend his meaning potential through a Pragmatically Organised Dynamic Display (PODD) system loaded to an ipad – technology that was not available until the past few years. I then detail the work that has been done to try to train Bodhi and his workers to use the PODD and explore the challenges and resistance to enabling this to happen. I finish with a discussion of what it was that made workers start to be able to change their communication behaviour and look at what there is still to develop.

In the second part of this talk I introduce the person-centred care model I have been developing and using with support workers and managers in disability organisations to try to encourage them to shift their attitudes and behaviours towards the people living with intellectual disabilities with whom they work. This work includes communication but goes way beyond this into Quality of Life measures more generally. I’ll introduce the activities I use to change their thinking and then discuss the effects of this work within one particular disability organisation.