Sharing Scott’s signing skills

By Luisa Bustos, 8 January 2020 , Comments

“Northcott has taken on Scott’s sign language (Auslan), and the staff are teaching the other customers [to communicate with Scott]. It’s lovely to see. They’ve taken it on because if you don't know sign, Scott won't communicate with you.”

Scott’s mother Jackie is talking about how staff at Northcott’s Tamworth Everyday Life Skills program are supporting her son Scott to feel included, whilst also developing the communication skills of his peers.

Aged 25, Scott has Cockayne Syndrome, an extremely rare condition characterised by an abnormally small head size, very short stature, and delayed development. He uses Auslan and Proloquo2Go, a symbol-based communication app, to communicate with those around him.

Scott has been using sign language with his family and friends since a very young age. Over the past year, however, thanks to an initiative by staff to make learning Auslan part of the Life Skills program, Scott’s interaction with other Northcott customers, has been growing.

“Each week as a centre, we have a ‘sign of the week’, which is a sign for both staff and customers to focus on learning that week,” explains Hayden, Senior Support Worker at Tamworth Everyday Life Skills.

“We’ve also put up the key signs that Scott most frequently uses, such as toilet, good morning/afternoon, welcome, and the Auslan finger spelling chart, in each room. We’ve seen great results and interest. More customers and staff feel confident in communicating directly with Scott,” Hayden says.

His mother Jackie says that it’s been great to see other customers engaging with Scott by using Auslan or the communication tools – and to see his social interactions out in the community also improve.

“Northcott Support Worker, Georgia, works quite closely with Scott. She has one-on-one time with Scott and has taken on sign language. Other support staff are learning and picking up words,” Jackie says.

Jackie adds that Scott is growing in independence and confidence as a result of the increased interactions. He will use gestural signs or his communication device to order lunch or choose items in the supermarket.

“Scott thrives on people giving him time. To see the signs around the centre and customers using Auslan is lovely. It’s really, really good.” 

Related content

In 2018, Scott’s fellow customers, Sonia and Vicki, shared their story about attending Everyday Life Skills with Northcott in Tamworth.

Scott’s story features in our 2018–19 Annual Report. Download the report for more stories and highlights from Northcott.

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