Pula Talks in Pictures: Croatia’s First Augmentative Communication Boards in Pula

Daniela Rogulj

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Grad Pula
Grad Pula

The project “Pula Talks in Pictures” by the Veruda Pula Day Rehabilitation Center, realized in cooperation with the City of Pula, has set up several communication boards for augmentative communication in public areas and public institutions in Pula to support non-verbal children and adults. Communication boards symbolize the environment for speaking through pictograms; an image with symbols of special meaning, reports Lokalni.Vecernji.hr.

Such symbols are used by both children and adults who are non-verbal and cannot speak or are adopting speech. Moreover, since such plates are of a universal language, they are also suitable for tourists of other speaking areas.

“This type of communication – augmentative communication, is used by children and adults from the autistic spectrum with cerebral palsy, slow speech development, Down syndrome, people who have lost the ability to speak due to brain trauma, and all others who are unable to communicate their needs and desires through speech. Depending on the place where it is placed and its purpose, a special vocabulary is prepared for each communication board, through which users can communicate their needs in that situation,” said Ines Delzotto, an expert in assisted communication.

A total of eight communication boards were made and placed on the children’s playground in Tito’s Park, the city beaches; Ferijalni, Hidrobaza, Ambrela, within the courtyard of the Public Institution DV Mali svijet (also a symbol of friendship and mutual assistance), and there are plans to place boards on the children’s playground/park in Šijanska šuma and Valkana and near the Arena (the panel contains short information about the Arena itself and its history). In addition to important public areas, the idea is to symbolize all public institutions in Pula whose services are used by children.

“Thus, every pediatric and dental practice in the city, as well as OB Pula, will receive booklets with appropriate and carefully selected social stories. Going to the doctor for our population of children is an extremely high source of stress. Nonverbal children do not know how to express their conditions and say where they are hurting and what is happening to their bodies. With these booklets, children will finally be able to do it. These picture books explain the medical examination to reduce their anxiety and fear of the unknown. From the city library, through the Arena to the city pool, our children will be able to communicate with their symbols,” said Marija Sertić Nađ, Master of Educational Rehabilitation, who created all the social stories.

Support for the project was received from the Swedish-American company Tobii Dynavox, which monitors the activities of promoting augmentative communication among institutions worldwide. They were asked for permission to use the Boardmaker program, a symbolic language that is protected as such. The benefit of this project is of immeasurable value because it sensitizes citizens to people with disabilities.

With this project, the city of Pula becomes a pioneer in the symbolization of the entire city. Veruda Pula Day Rehabilitation Center has the first specialized office for assistive technology in Croatia with its program goals and international recognition.

The cabinet was created with the help of numerous donations, and today it has a highly sophisticated repertoire of various instruments. A lot of effort is invested in developing innovative solutions, and the work is based on the “Veruda Protocol” program. The AT team consists of two masters of educational rehabilitation, Ines Delzotto and Alba Čop, with additional professional specialization in the field of assistive technology who are in continuous synergy with other members of the rehabilitation team of the Institution.

Everything planned for the city of Pula is intended to be transferred to the entire Istria County and thus become the only fully symbolized county in this way in the world.

“Everything that is happening in our homeland today in this area, we can freely say that it was born from the wings of our institution. In that little miracle workshop, everything impossible for people with disabilities becomes feasible and realistic. Children who do not speak with us can communicate with the pupil by the eye or the air from the nostrils, and the immobile can write with the chin or cheek; they can draw geometry with their breath. So, our KAT is a place where the bravest dreams come true,” concluded Loretta Morosin, director of the Veruda Pula Rehabilitation Day Center.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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