Last week I was fortunate to be one of the volunteers at the 16th Biennial International Conference of ISAAC.
For those of you that have no idea what ISAAC is, let me share two paragraphs of their website:
“ISAAC – the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication – is a membership organization working to improve the lives of children and adults with complex communication needs.
ISAAC’s goal is to create worldwide awareness about how AAC can help individuals without speech. ISAAC accomplishes this by sharing information and promoting innovative approaches to research, technology and literacy through AAC. Activities include hosting the ISAAC biennial conference, sponsoring projects, and offering awards and scholarships.”
Every single one of these Biennial Conferences is a huge, amazing event. This year is was held – luckily for us! – at Lisbon’s Congress Center (July 19-26) and the theme was “Discover Communication!”.
I wasn’t there for the entire time, only for the main Conference. The week was divided in Pre-conference Workshops (July 19-20), Main Conference (July 21-24) and Research Symposium (July 25-26).
Each day had 4-5 time slots, with 10-11 rooms with different presentations going at the same time. Just looking at the schedule was a bit overwhelming; there was so much to choose from! So many interesting topics!
As a volunteer, I was assigned to Auditorium III and I was there, with one of my co-workers, to assist the delegates and speakers in any way needed. I had a couple of time slots there, with about 50% of the time free to check other rooms’ presentations.
Let me show you a couple of photos and then I’ll talk a bit about every presentation that I was able to attend. Most of the photos were taken with my iPhone, so the quality isn’t great; a couple of photos was shared on Twitter with the hashtag #ISAAC2014.
To check the entire program, click here.
The sessions that I assisted as a volunteer were:
– “Talking Mats and families living with dementia“, Joan Murphy – Monday, 21
– “Exploring relationships and imagining possibilities“, Jennifer Jimenez and Stephen Sillett – Tuesday, 22
The first one was really interesting, not only due to the subject itself, but to Joan’s way of explaining the almost endless possibilities and uses of the software. And Joan was super nice, it was lovely to meet her. The second one was a workshop that used techniques really similar to the ones used in Relational Psychomotricity and I loved watching the interactions and connections built in such a heterogenous group. And again, Jennifer and Stephen were really nice to talk to.
The sessions that I attended during the rest of the time:
– “Navigational skills of children and adolescent with autism spectrum disorders: impact of cognition“, Sylvie Rondeau, Manon Robillard, Annie Roy-Charland and Chantal Mayer-Crittenden – Monday, 21
– “A comparison of PECS and iPad used as a speech generation device to teach requesting to preschoolers with autistic spectrum disorder“, May Agius and Margaret Vance – Monday, 21
– “The makeup of services providing AAC in England and the level of use of AAC – a survey of English services“, Simon Judge and Victoria Johnson – Monday, 21
– “Getting communication right – a charter for people with learning disabilities“, Celia Todd – Monday, 21
– “How I use the internet and social media – experiences of young people who use AAC” – Amanda Everell Hynan, Janice Murray and Juliet Goldbart – Tuesday, 22
– “Everyone Connects – connecting people with complex communication needs to a digital world“, Harriet Korner, Rebecca Chedid and Yi Hueih – Tuesday, 22
– “Enhancing communication in children with disabilities through the use of electronic textiles“, Amanda Fleury and Tom Chau – Tuesday, 22
– “Movement Matters!! Preschoolers with SSPI use hands-free support walkers to move, discover, interact and learn“, Christine Wright-Ott, Joy McCollum-Franco and Mary Hunt-Berg – Tuesday, 22
– “Finding the right books for students with complex communication, intellectual and physical needs“, Gretchen Hanser and Caroline Musselwhite – Wednesday, 23
– “All change please: whole school AAC and literacy implementation“, Sylvia Flato, Jane Farral and Leanne Shane – Wednesday, 23
– “Supporting multi-symbol utterances of children with little or no functional speech: a comparison of two AAC systems“, Kerstin Tonsing – Wednesday, 23
– “Communication breakdowns and repair strategies among children with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities“, Orit Hetzroni and Maayan Shalev – Wednesday, 23
– ISAAC Outstanding Consumer Lecture Award – Fiona Given – Wednesday, 23
– “The balanced literacy diet – apps included!“, Caroline Musselwhite and Deanna Wagner – Wednesday, 23
– “Comparing picture exchange, manual signs and iPad-based SGDs as AAC options for children with autism“, Laurie McLay, Larah van der Meer, Llyween Couper, Jeff Sigafoos and Dean Sutherland – Wednesday, 23
– “Assessing the non assessable children“, Kristine Stadskleiv, Shiorbeck Helle, Lisbeth Seeland and Hilde Aven Lillehaug – Thursday, 24
– “Communication partner instruction in augmentative and alternative communication: a systematic review“, Kim Murza, Melissa Malani, Jennifer Kent-Walsh and Cathy Binger – Thursday, 24
Wow, long list. And I didn’t even mention the posters. I have a couple of absolute favorite lectures, but I liked and learned a lot in each and every one of them.
I won’t talk a lot about these and what I learned from it (that could take a while), but I can tell you that my favorites were the “Talking mats and families living with dementia”, “Enhancing communication in children with disabilities through the use of electronic textiles”, “Movement Matters!! Preschoolers with SSPI use hands-free support walkers to move, discover, interact and learn” and “Finding the right books for students with complex communication, intellectual and physical needs”. Actually, I’ll probably write individual posts on these lectures. They were amazing. The electronic textiles and the movement matters were mind blowing. Really.
One thing about the exhibition hall stands: the Brookes Publishing / Eurospanbookstore stand was ridiculous amazing. I wanted to buy several of their books. And they even had good discounts. But it wasn’t the right time and I’ll probably purchase them later.
The conference was also really good for networking, and I found that the volunteer badge was a great ice breaker. I met and talked to so many interesting, interested and cool people. I even connected with some. Our field really feels like a special (not-so)-little family and that was exactly how I felt during those 4 days.
I will be applying for membership soon, actually. That was how good it was. =)