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Breaking barriers: Hastings school makes movie with students who rely on technology to communicate

Many disabled New Zealanders rely on devices to communicate every day, with a Hastings school making a movie to try break down the barriers faced by young people using the technology.

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ACC and the Education Ministry fully fund the devices the students use. Source: 1 NEWS

The Kowhai Special School’s movie stars pupils who communicate through devices.

In it, the junior students take a treasure hunt around the universe while the seniors act out some of their favourite cinema scenes.

“Often in shows and I guess in movies people with communication difficulties are given non-speaking roles so why not let them take centre stage?” Kowhai School speech and language therapist Kit Harding said.

“They have all watched movies but to actually think about what they want to be and what they want to say coming up with those lines has been a challenge.”

ACC and the Ministry of Education fully fund the devices these students use, with the TalkLink Trust teaching them to use them, but wait times for eligibility assessments can be up to 18 months.

“What often happens is that the lead up getting to the devices, accessing our service for example, is quite slow because we have very big waiting lists,” Talklink Trust’s Anne Smail said.

The technology is crucial for early learning development.

“It’s not the only thing that is going to help them get there but it's going to make that process so much easier. In lots of different ways it enables people who don’t have a voice to have a voice and be able to express their fears and feelings and participate more in everyday life, so it makes a huge,” Harding said.

As for the stars of the movie, the silver screen is not the end goal for them all, with aspiring truck drivers and fire fighters among them.

“There is no reason why they are limited in that way because the scope of the app is amazing to be able to achieve what they want,” Harding said.