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Now & Next Alumni Conference 2018 – Reach for the stars

The 2nd Now and Next Alumni Conference 2018 Reach for the stars was held on the 30th June 2018. Brought to you as a collaboration between Plumtree and Now and Next™.

A by families for families event which provided opportunities to reinvigorate our vision; challenge our thinking and be inspired and informed to create a better future for our children, our families and ourselves.

The conference included over 15 presentations with keynote speakers from all corners of the globe. The conference highlighted the rich contribution that a like-minded community can create that in turn inspires families of children with a disability or developmental delay to reach for the stars.


Conference Program

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Families leaning into partnerships with professionals statement

The following statement was written by and for families of children with disabilities or delays in their development during the Small steps, Giant leaps, 2018 Now and Next Alumni Conference

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Family agency is the foundation for your child’s future

“When our whole family is thriving, our child thrive too”~Sylvana Mahmic

In her opening address Sylvana Mahmic Plumtree CEO and co-creator of the Now and Next program highlights that as parents we know our children better than anyone and we want the very best for their future. By taking the time and investing in our own abilities and learning from other families on a similar path we can only build a positive foundation for our children’s future. The Now & Next Alumni conference reflects the value of learning from your peers to create a community that is stronger, together.

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Building evidence on the outcomes of Now & Next

Dr. Annick Janson is an Associate at the Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington, a clinical psychologist and researcher. Annick co-developed the evidence-based Now and NextTM award-winning family program and PictabilityTM visioning system and training, rooted in positive psychology. Designed to grow collective capacity, these programs, spurred a global movement for families to lean in and guide the current changes in the disability sector.


From little acorns, mighty oaks grow

Pippa’s presentation explores the ways parents can shape the lives of their children, whatever their needs. Pippa shares inspirational stories and real life examples of young people with disabilities living their fantastic lives to the fullest. Her video covers family life, the gifts children bring, meeting the needs of siblings and the importance of listening to our children – however they might communicate.

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Launch of Pictability

Developed by Plumtree, Pictability™ is a unique and creative way for families to set a vision for a positive and attainable future. It was designed using informed research from Positive Psychology, Family Centred Practice (the gold standard in early childhood intervention) and Gamification principles.


Fostering your Child’s Self-Advocacy Skills

Melanie’s presentation guides you to embrace your child’s self-advocacy and gives you practical ideas to encourage and support them as they start to accept this newfound responsibility. This practical session provides tips about taking the first steps to foster your child’s self-advocacy skills regardless of their age or capability.

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Surviving the wet fish moment

Stephanie’s  Now & Next conference presentation provides you with guidance to deal with the wild cards you are sometimes thrown, by learning to respond to the situation through embracing it, rather than reacting. Stephanie provides valuable insights and strategies to deal with complex situations and suggests that as parents you can learn to catch your breath, flip the situation to your child’s benefit and then cope with what comes your way.

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Creating connected communities at schools

Marie Vlahakis was scared of the unknown when her son took his first steps into a mainstream school. However, she embraced the school community and her son is now thriving in his second school year. Marie shares her family’s approach to creating an inclusive, safe and supportive community by being an active and present community member. Marie delves into the benefits of fostering bonds both at school and in your child’s greater community to create a fun and inclusive environment for the whole family.


Creative ways of using your NDIS funding

Jacqui Godwin didn’t know what was possible when she set out to increase her daughter Sophies’ communication, however, by creatively using her NDIS funding she is amazed with how far and fast her daughter’s language has developed. Early in 2017 Jacqui put a goal in place for her daughter to learn 50 keyword signs in the coming 12 months, and set out to coordinate her daughters learning environments so that everyone was on the same page. Jacqui then used part of her NDIS plan to run training workshops through Keyword Signs NSW to educate her daughter’s immediate family, friends and daycare teachers so that they could also start to use keyword signs with her daughter. The results were nothing short of amazing, not only did Jacqui’s daughter learn over 100 keyword signs, she started forming sentences and attempting speech as well and most importantly her happy daughter sparkled even more with her newfound skills.

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Creating connected communities with NDIS funding

Nicole Buffoni was a self-confessed hurried woman who felt guilty, anxious and overwhelmed by the therapy schedule she was trying to upkeep for her four year old son. Nicole constantly felt that she couldn’t do all the therapy that she needed to do in order to achieve the best outcomes for her son. As a result her family was surviving, not thriving. By changing her mindset to think of herself as marathon runner and not a sprinter, Nicole realised the value of pacing herself. She decided to extend her son’s team to include a therapy assistant and the whole family has never looked back.

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Creating connected communities with NDIS funding

Nicole Buffoni was a self-confessed hurried woman who felt guilty, anxious and overwhelmed by the therapy schedule she was trying to upkeep for her four year old son. Nicole constantly felt that she couldn’t do all the therapy that she needed to do in order to achieve the best outcomes for her son. As a result her family was surviving, not thriving. By changing her mindset to think of herself as marathon runner and not a sprinter, Nicole realised the value of pacing herself. She decided to extend her son’s team to include a therapy assistant and the whole family has never looked back.

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How to create a good life for our children

Nicole highlights the responsibility that we have as parents and carers to guide our children to live ordinary lives now and into their future, regardless of their disability. By being strong family leaders and looking to disability sector trailblazers and our peers who are ahead of us on this road, we can help our children to create their own beautiful, ordinary, full lives where they are a valued members of our family and community.

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Helping autistic children achieve their potential

Dr Emma Goodall believes that she should not be the exception with the life that she has created and that everyone deserves to live a meaningful and good life. We are guided through this extremely informative presentation via Emma’s unique looking glass that gives greater perspective to life on the spectrum. Emma illuminates autism from her own inside experience as she encourages parents to traverse a parenting style complimentary to an autistic child’s developmental needs.


Promoting the voice of the children in education & inclusive education

Dr Pippa Murray’s interactive workshop explores how powerful our children’s voices can be. It looks at the many different ways that children with a disability or developmental delay communicate, and it helps to explore useful tools that help others understand and appreciate the unique communication capabilities of each individual child. Pippa also discusses the delicate task of putting aside our wishes and opinions as parents when helping others understand our children, so we genuinely invest in the process of creating space for our children to develop their own unique voice.

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Living the dream and creating a life full of possibilities

In this short excerpt Joanna Basha shares the vision of inclusion that she campions for her son Nathan.

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