Inclusive Communication Essex

Sharing Day 2017's more than words can say

The 2017 ICE Sharing Day brought together 130 people from a variety of backgrounds from all over Essex and beyond.  They came to share good practice, learn new ideas and find out how technology can improve the lives of people with communication difficulties.

The day got underway with an insightful talk by Ros Blackburn.  Ros is severely autistic and a talented public speaker. She captivated us all with amusing, yet touching anecdotes of the challenges she has faced and continues to face.

Group of people listening and smiling at a person speaking

A powerful message wrapped up in humour

 “Ros Blackburn’s talk was motivational, inspirational, educational and practical.”

Ros’ key message was that autism is not an excuse for poor behaviour.  With the correct teaching and positive reinforcement, anyone with autism can learn what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in any given situation.

“I have learnt so much from Ros Blackburn's talk.  It has made me change the way I think about autism.”

The second guest speaker of the day was Richard Hirstwood from Hirstwood Training.  Richard set out to inspire us to create an effective multi-sensory space without spending a fortune.  From umbrellas to sequinned fabric and glow in the dark books, Richard’s animated presentation wowed us with the simplicity of creating an all inclusive sensory experience.

 “Richard Hirstwood's ideas will be very useful in getting the best out of my library's sensory area”


“I have learnt a great deal of how to implement sensory areas when a space and costing proves to be a barrier.  Richard showcased a large variety of new innovative ideas to implement”

Multi coloured umbrella with lights shining through to make sensory experience

Umbrellas can create a variety of sensory experiences

Disabled man using electronic communication aid to talk

Mark addresses the Sharing Day independently for the first time

Mark Stratton, a regular contributor at ICE Sharing Days, was able to address the delegates independently for the first time thanks to his new electronic communicator.


Attendees were also able to participate in 4 table-top workshops from a choice of:


  • One Page Profiles run by Essex County Council’s Specialist Teaching Team.
  • Makaton, introduction and refresher run by a highly qualified Speech and Language Therapist/Makaton tutor from Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE).
  • Sensory Stories run by Speech and Language Therapy students from Anglia Ruskin University.
  • Dementia run by Alzheimer’s Society.
  • Communication Boards and Sequencing run by Essex County Council’s Specialist Teaching Team.
  • Tech and Switches run by Dad in a Shed.

“I have learned so many new techniques to aid communication and open up people's sensory experiences.”

Two women wearing a GERT suit and struggling to move and see

GERT suit simulates difficulties faced by older people

In a first for the ICE Sharing Day people were also able to experience first-hand some of the mobility and communication difficulties faced by older people through use of a GERT suit.  This was kindly provided by Essex County Council’s multi award winning Innovation Team from led by Jenny Peckham.

As ever, the aim of the day of the day was empower people, to help them become more self-sufficient and to build networks of support so that reliance on care services is reduced.

“This was my first ICE Sharing day and hopefully not my last.  I've learnt so much and met so many interesting people today. The guest speakers were wonderful, inspiring and their individual perspectives were very enlightening. Thank you to everyone who helped organise a fabulous day!”