Crucial support for vulnerable children and adults lost as special needs funding is withdrawn by the GovernmentPosted in Events, Towards a Positive Future Conference, Tweets on 04/04/2012 07:03 pm by Janet
“Shouldn’t it be every child’s right to communicate?”, says mother
Crucial support for thousands of people living in Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Devon and Guernsey, who are unable to communicate without the aid of assistive technology, is scheduled to come to an end on 30th June this year when The ACE Centre in Oxford closes its doors for the last time.
The latest casualty of government cuts, The ACE Centre along with hundreds of other charities and specialist services across the country, has seen funds used to support the 260,000 children and adults in the UK who require Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) provision reduced or withdrawn.
“Communication should be a right for every individual”, said Jenny Malone whose daughter Claire, despite battling with Cerebral Palsy, a condition that affects her speech and motor control, has realised her full potential and is now studying Physics at Imperial College London thanks to the provision and support of appropriate technology recommended by The ACE Centre.
Since it opened in 1984, The ACE Centre has provided support for over 5,000 people like Claire who struggle to communicate, by carefully assessing their needs and recommending the right technology that literally enables them to speak, write and access education. The Centre also provides essential training and free information services for parents, carers and professionals within education and health services.
Claire, who was first assessed by The ACE Centre in early childhood and continues to be supported by them, has been able to realise her full potential as a result of a range of communication aids designed to meet her complex needs. In addition to using a specialised joystick to control onscreen software, Claire uses Eyegaze technology , an eye-operated communication and control system to communicate and interact with the world around her. With this, Claire can speak, write, interact with information technology and even control systems in her home or at University. (See further down this page for more information and a video about Claire)
A recent AAC Report to the Government’s Communication Council by the former Communication Champion, Jean Gross CBE found that there is a significant under-provision of local and regional AAC services with a pressing need to build capacity within the sector to ensure its sustainability. Unless the Government tackles the issue, other charities and specialist services that address complex physical and communication difficulties will be forced to close, further disadvantaging those in need.
Bill Nimmo, Trustee, The ACE Centre, Oxford, said:
“Vital services like ours that provide so much support through high levels of expert knowledge and understanding of people’s needs cannot be allowed to close and we ask the Government to urgently review the sustainability of these essential services.
“ The ACE Centre Advisory Trust staff and Trustees are deeply saddened that the Centre is scheduled to close at the end of June 2012. Despite significant efforts to ensure the sustainability and future of our Centre, we are unable to continue to operate in the current financial climate.”
Claire uses a ruggedised tablet computer that she accesses with a joystick and switch. It contains a dongle which enables her to send and receive text messages – essential for coordinating a busy student social life! Although she often relies upon her own speech, she uses synthesised speech as a back up, or when she is giving talks or presentations.
* Watch a video about Claire (scroll down page) <http://tinyurl.com/ace-casestudy>
Claire is studying physics at degree level and therefore requires powerful customised onscreen grids to enable her to produce the complex calculations required. During tutorials, her study assistant writes notes onto a DigiMemo that can be shared amongst other students. Interestingly, Claire’s tutor finds that the students engage much more with Claire’s assistive technology than with the conventional whiteboard that they had all found a bit daunting!
What this helps the individual to achieve: Claire has been a high flyer throughout her academic career and has aspirations to pursue a PhD. She also uses her technology to manage her social life.
Those contributing to the video: Claire talks eloquently about her assistive technology and what it has enabled her to achieve. We also hear from Claire’s study assistant and tutor about her experiences at university. David, a teacher from the ACE Centre in Oxford, also contributes to the story as he has known Claire since she was four.