End of school year highlights from the CENMAC Team
It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of another school year already! Our team of Advisory Teachers, SaLTs, OT and AAC specialists, will be having a well-deserved break over the summer and will be back in September. Our office will remain open so if you have any queries or require technical support please don’t hesitate to contact us.
We’ve been looking back at our busy year and here are some of our team highlights:
Kathryn Stowell, Team Leader
I’d like to thank everyone for their hard work this year supporting so many students to achieve their goals. It’s a privilege to work with such a talented and inspiring group of people within our CENMAC team. It’s wonderful hearing about the the confidence and achievements being made with assistive technology by so many of the young people we support.
One of the highlights of the year for me has been to observe the positive impact of our AAC Consultant Abdi Omar, on so many students who use AAC and the staff teams who are enabling them. We were able to demonstrate the success of Abdi and his students at our annual Communication Works event this year and I felt so proud of them all. It was also lovely to see so many other young people taking the lead and sharing their experiences at our event and how students who took part last year have developed even more confidence in presenting.
We have also started using RIX Wikis with our students. Wikis are an effective tool for developing self-advocacy skills, especially as an additional tool for those who use alternative communication to share their aspirations and achievements. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this tool can empower and improve communication even further next year.
I hope everyone has a happy and relaxing summer holiday and I look forward to seeing you in September.
Sarah McPoland, Advisory Speech and Language Therapist
The highlight of my year was listening to one of my Year 11 students present her GCSE Art portfolio using the bespoke voice which she had designed via SpeakUnique. A blend of voices from two donors which she had personally selected, the voice truly reflected her identity and hearing her use it with such confidence to present to an audience of industry delegates at Communication Works instilled in me a great sense of pride in her achievements.
Maureen De Longhi, Advisory Teacher
One of my highlights was working with a severely dyslexic Year 10 student and watching her grow and develop over the year. She is extremely able but rather self-conscious about her learning challenges and was very reluctant to use her equipment.
I introduced her to some new software and provided training for her TAs to support her in using her equipment. It was a joy to watch her become more confident and see her grades progress.
The best moment was when I delivered an OrCam Learn to her. We used it to look at a GCSE exam paper which previously she would have found impossible to read. After she saw it working, she literally cried with joy and said, “This is going to help me so much!”
It has been a genuine privilege to work with her and I am so looking forward to seeing her achieve her GCSEs next year!
Tina Voizey, Complex Needs Consultant
The highlight of my year has been helping a student to find a voice. This young man is transitioning to college in September and is worried about making friends as his speech is not very clear.
His speech and language therapist (SaLT) and I spoke to him about trying AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) which he had previously been reluctant to use. He agreed to trial TD Snap with text-based vocabulary on an iPad and began programming messages about himself and things he would like to say to new people.
His SaLT created opportunities for him to practice using it with unfamiliar people. It worked and the student realised the value! However, we could not find a voice for the output that he felt sounded like him.
The team at Tobii Dynavox connected us with my-own-voice from Acapela and his teacher (who is only a few years older than him!) agreed to ‘donate’ his voice by recording phrases in the online system which Acapela turned in to a new unique synthesized voice. The student loves his new voice! He feels excited and confident that he has the tools to support him in making new friends and being understood at college.
Nichola Heywood, Specialist Teaching Assistant
My highlight of the year was being able to give a voice to a student who was having trouble expressing himself through using PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). This had also been causing potentially dangerous situations at home. We provided this student with an AAC device with Super Core 50 and began working with him, his family and class team with training sessions and support in using it. We have since had feedback that his home life has had major improvements, due to him having his voice and gaining confidence and he takes responsibility by ensuring he has plugged it in to charge and his siblings are not using it!
Mary Long, Deputy Team Leader
A huge personal highlight this year was receiving my final grade for the Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments, which I had completed in August 2022. I was delighted that I achieved the highest grade possible – Distinction level – and that all my studying over the previous two years had paid off. This has meant that I have been more able to support our CENMAC students who have vision impairments.
This has been another highlight for me this year, in supporting two students with their use of the Braillenote Touch Plus and developing their confidence with the device. The students now know how to write and save documents using their devices and send work in attachments by email to their teachers. It is so important for all our children and young people to develop independent skills like these, so that they can move from being given ‘access to learning’ from supporting adults to ‘learning to access’ with greater autonomy. (McLinden et al., 2016).
Abeer Essa, Advisory Speech and Language Therapist
My highlight of the year is becoming a Mum to Isla and returning to work at CENMAC. The CENMAC team have been very welcoming and made my return fairly easy.
Last year, I achieved a distinction level with the ‘Dyslexia Professional Report Writing’ course which enabled me to gain my ‘Assessment Practicing Certificate’ to become a Specialist Assessor in Dyslexia. This has enlightened my work as a speech therapist with a dyslexia specialism in identifying the CENMAC students and young people with overlapping difficulties. Hence providing advice on assistive technology to support their learning and day to day activities. I look forward to supporting more children with language and literacy difficulties in the next academic year.
Annabel Dent, Marketing & Events Consultant
One of my highlights for the year was making contact with Beth Moulam, Paralympian and AAC Advocate. Beth very kindly agreed to be interviewed by our student ambassador Khamani and following her interview with him she then agreed to be a keynote speaker at our Communication Works event. It was so lovely to meet Beth in person as she is incredibly positive, and it was so interesting to hear how much she has achieved so far and what she wants to achieve in the future.
She’s a great role model and her recent blog on self-advocacy offers useful advice for everyone, and I would recommend it as a great summer read.