Communication Matters: our experience

This year, we sponsored families to attend the Communication Matters conference. Winners Laura and Fleur shared their highlights with us.

Why did you ask to be considered for a sponsored place and how did it feel when you learnt you had won?

Laura: “I applied for the sponsored place because I am really passionate about providing the very best that I can for Ruby and this means investing heavily in her communication needs.  I felt that the conference would be an amazing experience and would provide an opportunity to meet like minded people and hopefully learn some new tricks!

“I was also very excited to meet the team behind Ruby's voice and put faces to all the names.  I was thrilled at the prospect of having some time to chat with Amanda and this was a real highlight for me.  When Emily from Communication Matters explained I had been offered the place I was thrilled and grateful.”

Fleur: “I asked to be considered for a place as the conference is expensive. I really wanted to build my knowledge on AAC and I was beyond excited to learn I had won a place.”

First impressions

Laura:  “This was my first Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) conference and it exceeded all expectations. It was quite possibly the most amazing three days I have experienced.  Everyone was so welcoming. The talks ranged from empowering, practical to at times emotional.  The university personnel and conference team went above and beyond to ensure that as a delegate you felt welcome and at home. It was a truly amazing experience." 

Fleur: “Communication Matters was my first conference and my first impressions were that it was well organized. There were plenty of people around to help and guide us, and lots of relevant information. They also give you a detailed program with lots of information on the sessions, and pens and paper.”

Conferences are great to learn new information and build networks with like minded people. Which sessions(s) did you enjoy most? 

Laura: “I have many favorite sessions. Of course the AssistiveWare talk by David stands out and Amanda's session was fabulous.  They were the highlight for me as they were so relevant to our situation.  Liz Moulams talk was also a highlight as I could really relate to her personal circumstances and it was beautifully and honestly presented.  Another highlight was the session presented by Mary Briggs on the development of curriculum resources.  I found this helpful as I home educate both of my children who have complex disabilities.  The suppliers exhibition was of immense help as I was able to talk first hand to various suppliers about products which were relevant for my daughter.  I particularly enjoyed Ability Worlds stand and enjoyed talking to Bethany Diener from Tobii Dynavox."

Fleur: “I loved Amanda Hartmann's session. She engaged everyone so easily, was so forthcoming and truly loves her job. She made me feel empowered to inform others on how best to use AAC.”

Did you learn new information that you could apply as soon as you got home? Or share with others? 

Laura: “Amanda’s talk provided help and tips that I was able to put into practice immediately once I returned home and share with others in the AAC community.  It also helped me to be feel okay with taking a step back - you don't need to be always moving forward to make progress. For example, I have now turned on progressive language and moved back a step so there are less words on the screen.  Consequently, we are now seeing much more communication from Ruby - the previous setting was just too much for her.” 

Did you meet new people that you will stay in contact with? 

Laura: “I did meet lots of new faces and other parents in similar circumstances and we have remained in contact.  It was wonderful to meet the people behind Communication Matters such as Vicky and Emily.”

Getting away from our daily routine to attend a conference takes a lot of coordination. Would you recommend conferences as a way for families to get their information? 

Fleur: “Conferences are a wonderful way for families to get information. There's so much available that you just don't have time for on a normal day.”

Do you have any tips for families thinking of attending Communication Matters for the first time next year?

Fleur: “I would recommend going through the programme, and making notes of all the sessions you want to attend. Don't worry about not knowing anything, everyone is so helpful. Take a drink to the sessions and enjoy yourself!”

Share this page