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Communication boards could save lives

Helping hand: Nobbys Surf Life Saving Club director of education Kathy Donnelly and Northcott speech pathologist Emily Armstrong hold the communication boards.PICTURE boards are being trialled at Newcastle beaches as a way to help people with disabilities and those from non-English speaking backgrounds communicate.
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The boards, developed by Mayfield disability support service Northcott in conjunction with Lifesaving NSW, display visual cues like ‘stay still’, ‘I’m OK’ and ‘I’m in pain’.

In some instances, for example, if someone suffers a spinal injury and it is critical that theyremain still, the boards could save lives.

They havebeen dubbed as a vital tool for people with conditions such asautism, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s Disease,motor neuron disease, intellectual disabilities and acquired brain injuries to communicate with lifeguards.

Northcott speech pathologist Emily Armstrong, who was instrumental in developing the boards, said they could go a long way towardbridgingthe communication gap.

She saw a need for them after talking to lifesavers at Newcastle Beach, Nobbys Beach and the Newcastle Ocean Baths.

The boards have been in action at Nobbys Beach for a few weeks.

Nobbys Surf Life Saving Club director of education, Kathy Donnelly says already they are making a difference.

“We’ve had a chance to use them already with a couple of people who couldn’t speak English, so [the boards] are working in lots of different ways,” she said.

It is hoped the boards will be adopted by surf lifesaving clubs across the country.

As part of the roll-out, lifesavers and lifeguards wouldalso be trained in basic sign language.

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