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CM2018 Keynote Speakers

The keynote speakers at this year's Communication Matters International AAC Conference, CM2018 are:

Identifying Appropriate Symbol Communication Aids (I-ASC) Project for children, Manchester Metropolitan University

Monday Morning Keynote







The I-ASC research team is led by Professor Janice Murray, Manchester Metropolitan University. The project has three collaborative partners Manchester Metropolitan, Barnsley Assistive Technology Service and the University of Leeds. The team brings together people with a lived experience of AAC, clinicians with extensive practice-experience, and academic researchers with a range of methodology expertise and topic area focus.

The Identifying Appropriate Symbol Communication (I-ASC) research project is a three-year National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded award (NIHR HS & DR: project 14/70/153). Children who are non speaking or have reduced speech intelligibility may benefit from using an augmentative or alternative communication system (AAC). Little is known about the process of learning to use a communication aid at the same time as learning the spoken language of the environment and acquiring skills and knowledge through the educational curriculum. Furthermore, there seems to be a high level of abandonment of communication aids recommended for use. The consequences of abandonment may have negative impact on a child's communication and educational attainment. The I-ASC research project set out to better understand the influencers on communication aid recommendation, with a view to enhancing the assessment and recommendation process and consequently reducing the abandonment of communication aid technology. The potential long-term objective of I-ASC is to enable children who are non speaking to fulfil their communication, educational and employment potential.

This keynote presentation will be the launch of the key findings and resources developed from the research. This project was a long-time in its conceptualisation and development. It is the first UK-led research in AAC of this magnitude, with a focus on the decision making processes that lead to symbol communication aid recommendation.

The presentation will comprise of three interactive (audience participation) components.
Part 1. What do you believe about decision making in choosing communication aids for today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow?
Here we will set the scene with a synopsis of key findings related to the child, the aid and the external influencers from I-ASC that answers this question. We will convey the depth and breadth of what the project has considered. You will be asked to vote on your perceptions of the process of choosing a communication aid.
Part 2. How can we interpret and evaluate the I-ASC findings?
Here we will present an interpretation of the findings by describing the I-ASC Explanatory Model. You will be asked to vote on aspects of the model and how it relates to your experience.
Part 3. So What? What have we developed to assist symbol communication aid recommendation?
Here we will present an overview of our decision making heuristic. This offers a collation of new knowledge about decision making and resources to support specific recommendation processes. It will demonstrate the complexity of the decision making process and the potential routes to navigate towards a best-fit decision for an individual child and the team around the child.

SarahSarah Ezekiel

Tuesday Afternoon Plenary 

Sarah was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2000, at the age of 34. Her use of assistive technology is extensive and she actively raises awareness of MND online. Sarah offers inspiration, support and a positive outlook to families facing a similar situation and has campaigned for people with MND to receive the support they need. She has been the Secretary of the NW London Branch of the MND Association since 2012 and is a Patron for the charity Lifelites.Sarah studied art and history of art, but when she lost the use of her hands through MND, she believed that she would never create anything again. Tobii Dynavox eyegaze technology changed that, and she started painting using her eyes, art software and a Tobii PCEye in 2012. She has exhibited all over the UK, including the Royal Academy Schools, and also at the Katara Art Centre in Qatar.

Sarah has featured in national newspapers/magazines, in radio interviews and on the TV programme, London Tonight.

You can read more about Sarah and contact her at and buy prints of her artwork at

Sarah's talk is titled 'My Journey with Motor Neurone Disease, Technology and Art'. She will explain how she has lived with motor neurone disease for 18 years, her journey with a terminal illness and disability. From initial desperation and hopelessness, including chronic depression, she managed to turn her situation around with great positivity. Sarah outlines the sources of help received that enabled her to overcome problems and start a new, albeit different life. Hospice care, help from the MND Association and sourcing the right assistive technology has led to her longevity as well as a successful career as an artist. She believes that the ability to express and create are paramount for everyone, despite illness or disability. Sarah is passionate about spending a great deal of her time volunteering for the MND Association and for the charity Lifelites, of which Sarah is a Patron. A fulfilling life with severe disability is possible and can even be uplifting. There is always hope.