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Chat, Connect & Collab: A Social Group For People With Disability

A fresh and ambitious approach to communication therapy with peers, Mamre’s Chat, Connect & Collab social group serves as a welcoming community participation solution to many barriers experienced by people with disability.  

Group therapy with impact

“Chat, Connect & Collab’s mission was to create a meaningful, neuro-affirming and fun therapy group,” Marissa Carlyon, Mamre’s Executive Director Capability Building, explained.  “It aims to develop social skills and facilitate communication with allied health support.” 

A typical session includes peer-to-peer communication and a diverse range of social activities. 

The origins of Chat, Connect & Collab

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 6 people with disability aged 15–64 experience social isolation. A leading reason for this is many people don’t understand the different and diverse ways to communicate. This leads to a lack of opportunities for peer-to-peer connections and local community participation. 

Chat, Connect & Collab offers a solution to this. From its very first session in January 2023, the group has focused on building communication skills and strategies and growing meaningful connections with others.  

Individuals come together to develop rich and meaningful connections, build their communication skills and share their opinions and thoughts on various topics.  

The popular program runs fortnightly on Thursdays. Each session lasts for 2 hours and takes place at the Mamre Windsor office in Brisbane. 

What a Chat, Connect & Collab session looks like

Novel ways to work on skills

Mamre's speech pathologists and occupational therapists support the group sessions, assisting with fun activities and visitors such as Allied Health therapy dog Bonnie.

Bonnie brings a sense of fun, provides emotional and social support and can assist people to join in and try new things. “For instance, one customer had started finding using their communication device stressful, but was able to use it to ask questions, comment and give an opinion when Bonnie was there,” Kayla McLean, one of Mamre’s speech pathologists, said.

A man pets an Allied Health therapy dog while sitting at a table of arts and crafts with other people.

Other fun activities can include: 

  • arts & crafts  
  • music 
  • cooking 
  • sports 
  • literacy 
  • movement and sensory exploration 
  • collaborative and opinion sharing discussions. 

Each session often focuses on a different theme – one of the group’s most popular sessions focused on sports and was called the Chat, Connect & Collab Games! 

A therapy group can overcome social barriers

Within its first few months, Chat, Connect & Collab’s impact could already be seen. Friendships blossomed as attendees interacted with one another and their communication partners. “Group members have invited each other to various community events and interests of their own,” Kayla said. 

The gatherings represent a safe and tailored environment for attendees to connect and explore skills. This is what makes Chat, Connect & Collab different to many other communication support groups and solutions. 

The highly skilled Allied Health therapists assist the group members to overcome social barriers through tools and techniques such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). They are also able to modify sessions to accommodate sensory, dietary and accessibility needs, which sets Chat, Connect & Collab apart from more informal solutions. 

If you would like to join the group or find out more, email [email protected] or call (07) 3622 1222.