Giving Voice

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Oranges and Jelly Babies!

A week today since the thousands of fantastic people completed the Great North Run 2013. I was on the side lines at the 11 mile mark cheering on the inspirational runners with a smiling face, oranges and jelly babies!

My sister lives in South Shields so we set up near her house. My dad helped us set the gazebo up (in an attempt to shelter from the rain!). We then set up the table and my mam started cutting up the oranges. My nephews and nieces helped us give out the jelly babies (and also helped hold the poles of the gazebo to stop it blowing away as it was so windy!)

In front of the gazebo we had our board of Giving Voice posters and my mam, me and niece were wearing our Giving Voice t-shirts.

It was such a brilliant day (even the weather didn't spoil it too much!) and the runners were so grateful that we had sweet treats to cheer them on! Someone told us that Mel C thanked the little girl at 11miles for the jelly baby and we think that was very likely to be my niece, Toni!

We stayed out almost until the last runners went past and I enjoyed seeing my sister, brother-in-law and friend Rachael running past!

In fact the whole day was so inspirational that I have decided I am going to run next year! I've already emailed NETA to request information about joining their team next year and have been out for a couple of walk/jogs! I have also started a running blog to share my journey and keep me motivated! Check out this blog to read more about why NETA inspired me to run :-)

I saw lots of people reading our poster (Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives) so hopefully our important message was received by lots more people :-)

My sister and brother-in-law have raised an amazing £500 for the North East Trust for Aphasia!!

Thanks to everyone who helped us on the day: mam, dad, Mo, Charlotte, Toni, Darius, Cerina and Dom!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Communication without speech!

I would like to welcome a guest blogger to my blog today! Jenette Milner is a speech and language therapy student at Newcastle University and she took part in No Voice Week, earlier this year…

Receiving our nomination for the Giving Voice ‘Innovation award 2013’ caused me to look back over the past seven months and realise how much awareness the DVoiced campaign has raised and how much I have learned about AAC (alternative augmentative communication) in the process.

We are a group of student speech and language therapists, studying at Newcastle University and I personally had no experience of AAC when we started out on the campaign. I felt that I should know more about using AAC for my future role as a speech and language therapist and wanted to gain a user’s perspective. The idea to spend a week using alternative communication seemed to perfectly coincide with the Giving Voice campaign, ‘No Voice Week’ which was April 22nd-26th. A facebook page (Dvoiced), twitter account (@Dvoiced) and blog were created in preparation to share our experiences and thoughts prior to and during the week. We each chose a method of communication including both high and low tech, including Dynavox and Liberator devices, smart phones with free apps, iPad apps and a communication book. When these failed we occasionally had to resort to our limited knowledge of Makaton, BSL and hand gestures/facial expressions.

The campaign allowed us to experience first hand (although within a short time frame) how difficult it can be to rely on alternative communication and the adaptations needed to participate in every day exchanges. We found common problems across communicative devices such as being able to keep-up with the conversation speed, gaining someone’s attention, asking questions and access to a limitless range of vocabulary. Most of our interactions were positive with communicative partners being patient and adapting the interaction to allow use of the device, however, some attitudes towards an electronic voice were negative.

We used the various devices throughout the week to talk to family members, buy travel tickets, shopping, coffees etc. We used them within university, during lectures and within the library and we also visited a restaurant and a busy pub, to try to experience the use of AAC across environments.

During ‘No Voice Week’ we arranged a drop-in session for fellow speech and language students to see and use the devices, held an awareness-raising stall on campus, met with the disability officer on campus to discuss students use of AAC devices and the support available, received training on the Dynavox device and some members were able to attend a 1Voice NE event to meet AAC users and their families. We also met with local comedian and AAC user Lee Ridley ‘Lost Voice Guy’ to chat about his incorporation of his device into his stand-up comedy career.

We blogged/tweeted and ‘facebooked’ our experiences of using AAC including the positive and occasional negative experiences. However, we were each astounded by how far-reaching the campaign was and the support it received. The blog had over 200 views, reaching people all over the world as well as local supporters including Liz Panton of ‘SaLT Mine Daily Diggings’ and we have new twitter followers every week. Due to this we were lucky enough to test-drive a new app, (AACorn) currently being developed and provide feedback on usability. There is a wealth of information and support available online and I am sure that our experiences will support our role as speech therapists in the future.

Overall, the event allowed us to gain more experience and understanding of alternative communication, the various options available, users and their families feelings towards this and a users perspective of the difficulties surrounding the use of communicative devices. I hope that we were also able to raise awareness of alternative communication and the use of AAC with those that we interacted with throughout the course of the week and feel privileged to have been able to hear first-hand opinions and preferences regarding AAC use and the challenges that they can bring.


Thanks Jenette and good luck to Dvoiced with your award nomination – I look forward to hearing who won! :) Well done to everyone who took part in what was an excellent awareness raising event!

Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Oranges and Jelly Babies at #GNR

One week today until the Great North Run!!

For the last two years my family, friends and I have been on the side lines of the Great North Run cheering on the runners whilst handing out Jelly Babies. We also wear Giving Voice t-shirts to help raise a little more awareness of the campaign.

My sister and brother-in-law are both running this year (my sisters first time) so I am looking forward to cheering them on. We will be set up on the grass on the left side of the road, just before the 11 mile mark (not far from where my sister lives). My friend Rachael is also running for the first time so I am excited to cheer on the people I know as well as the thousands of people that I don’t!

We will be handing out oranges and jelly babies to the runners to help raise their spirits as they enter the final stretch of the run. The runners, the past two years, seem to really appreciate this and it is nice to be able to help them along! If you are running or know anyone who is, please do share this blog so they know to look out for us!

Our collection of Jelly Babies!

My sister and brother-in-law are both running for the North East Trust for Aphasia – a charity which helps people with communication difficulties following a stroke or other brain injury.  I have had the pleasure of working at NETA since April and the members are truly inspirational. They all benefit greatly from the work of NETA and I am delighted that Joanne and Craig are running to support this very worthy cause. If you can help support NETA, please sponsor Joanne and Craig here (however small, as every penny counts!)

If you are watching the GNR on TV look out for our Giving Voice Banner and our t-shirts when the cameras film the elite runners going past! I can’t wait to be part of the experience of the Great North Run 2013 and wish every one taking part lots of luck. Every runner is a hero in my eyes and I look forward to cheering them on with jelly babies and a smile!

I am delighted my blog has reached more than 20,000 page views – thank you to everyone who reads it. Please do share it with your family and friends to help continue spreading the message that Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Afternoon Tea

On Sunday, I hosted an Afternoon Tea in aid of the North East Trust for Aphasia (NETA) at Crossroads Coffee shop in Ashington.

I wanted to use this opportunity to raise awareness of Giving Voice and the North East Trust for Aphasia, as well as gaining some additional funds to support the work of NETA.

The afternoon was a huge success. We sold 26 tickets and raised a total of £185. We also had a raffle and tombola to raise additional funds on the day. Each table had a quiz sheet which everyone was encouraged to take part in. Almost all of the answers were in the Giving Voice and NETA leaflets to encourage people to read them and hopefully learn something new! The tie break question asked each team to write what communication means to them inside a speech bubble. The winning bubble was “Communication helps people solve problems.”


Afternoon tea was delicious, with a variety of sandwiches, scones and cakes, all freshly made especially for the event! Everyone thought the food was beautiful and well worth the £5 for the cost of the ticket. We put a candle into a cupcake and surprised my mam with a beautiful version of "Happy Birthday!" (well we all sang anyway!) to celebrate her birthday the previous day! 

Crossroads Coffee Shop was a lovely location and the volunteers were brilliant. They prepared all the food from fresh, themselves. Thank you to everyone who helped out and to everyone who attended!

Cakes and prizes!

This event was definitely worthwhile and I look forward to planning something similar in the future. If you know any local cafe's that support charities why not see if you can arrange something similar where you are?!

Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives