For families of children with communication difficulties, everyday functions can be a challenge.
Thanks to new alternative communication technologies and the support of organisations like Variety, many families are now able to bridge the gap and connect.
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) aids have opened up a world of communication for children with autism and other developmental and communication difficulties.
Each year, P&N Bank's community partner Variety holds its Variety Motor Mouth Camp to bring together children using AAC aids. This four day camp, held this year from 5-8 October, combines fun with intensive therapy and training for kids who live with communication difficulties, as well as their parents, siblings and carers.
For many of these families and kids, communication as we know it is not easy. Instead, they rely on a combination of subtle signs like blinks, nods or noises, alongside augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) aids, to express their needs and wants. The camp provides intensive support from volunteer speech and occupational therapists – opening up a whole new world of communication and much needed support.
Campers used their new communication skills to participate in a range of fun therapy based activities that tied in with the camp’s Shipwrecked theme, such as sensory activities with aquatic creatures and a family raft building exercise by the river.
Variety WA CEO Michael Pailthorpe commented, “The Camp is a fantastic opportunity for kids using AAC to get to know other kids in the same situation, share experiences and make new friends.
“The primary aim of the camp is for kids and families using AAC to improve their system use and become more confident communicators in a fun and relaxing environment. We are extremely grateful to P&N Bank for their support of this innovative program over the past two years, helping to make the camp possible”.
This year Variety Motor Mouth also ran a new fundraiser, Variety Silence the CEO.
The inaugural event called on WA business leaders to stay silent for one day, like many of the kids at the camp.
Mr Pailthorpe said not being able to speak for a day may be difficult but is nothing compared to the challenges that kids living with complex communication needs face every day.
P&N Bank's General Manager of Strategy and Development, Kim Radalj, took part in the challenge, staying silent for a whole day throughout meetings and his normal workday while raising valuable funds for Variety.
"It was such a unique and worthwhile opportunity, not only in raising funds for a great cause, but also how I learned a little about myself," Mr Radalj said.
"I started my day of silence on wake-up, and my kids found this very entertaining. I had practiced with them on the weekend, and for them they learned a little bit about how some kids need assistance with things they take for granted, which gave us all the opportunity to reflect and be grateful.
"For me as a leader, probably my biggest learning from the day was that when you can't speak, you have to listen (profound I know). But that then means you have to get really, really good at asking great questions.
"I raised far more than my target of $1,500. I'm very grateful I got to participate, and for all the great support I got from friends and colleagues."
For more information about Variety and the Motor Mouth Camp or to make a donation, please visit their website.
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