Art helps to break the silence

Artwork 1Art will help show the way for a group of counsellors, psychologists and social workers in learning new ways to communicate with clients with complex communication needs (CNN).

For the past two years, Flinders public health PhD researcher Ms Betty-Jean ‘B-J’ Dee-Price has been working with people with CNN, people whose ability to communicate through speech has been severely affected by a range of conditions that include such as cerebral palsy, stroke, autism and multiple sclerosis.

Drawing on interviews conducted for her thesis research, Ms Dee-Price has mounted an exhibition of art works that uses images of hands chosen by the participants, and also employs ‘sensory ethnography’ and augmentative and alternative communication in the creative process.

Her SALA exhibition in 2015 and the methodology behind it caught the attention of a professional group of family therapists and counsellors, and at their request Ms Dee-Price will make a 45-minute presentation this Friday (7pm) at the Tin Cat Café in Kent Town, where her remounted and updated exhibition is on show.

As counselling is traditionally heavily dependent on speech, Ms Dee-Price, who has a background in counselling and groupwork, said professionals need to look beyond language for alternative methods of communication.

Ms Dee-Price said some of her interviewees relied on gestures, eye movements or communication devices to make their answers known.

She says said she is thrilled at the interest shown by the Family Therapy Network.

“The whole point of my work is to encourage greater understanding and interest in addressing the gulf of awareness about communication access barriers,” Ms Dee-Price said.

“Most people take for granted the opportunities to access services such as counselling and support, but for people with CCN this is often not the case.”

Ms Dee-Price was recently awarded an Emerging Research Travel Award by the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, which will take her to Canada to present a conference paper on her research.

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