“Her passion for building and recognising all forms of communication will
impact her students’ lives for years to come.”
Those words from her colleagues at Nursery Road State Special School encapsulates why Diana Backhouse has been named a recipient of a 2023 TEACHX Excellence in Teaching Award. Diana’s passion and skill is evident in teaching students with complex communication needs using a range of low-and-high-tech devices. She models and embeds augmentative and alternative communication regularly within her class routine.
“I find it rewarding to be part of my students’ progress, being able to
clearly see how much they’ve improved from the beginning to the end of the
year, ”Diana said.
Her colleagues note the effect on her student’s wellbeing and engagement with their curriculum, some of whom are communicating using these methods for the first time and are encouraged by her to engage similarly with their own students.
To foster this community, Diana runs workshops for families, school support
staff, and beginning teachers about the importance of using a child’s
communication behaviour and devices to be a more responsive communication
partner. These workshops leave audiences eager to engage further ‘as you always learn
In addition, 2023 saw Diana being asked by the Metropolitan Teaching and Learning Centre to provide face-to-face training for beginning teachers and those new to a special school setting, increasing the reach and impact of her knowledge and experience.
Diana uses both her post-graduate research and experience as an early intervention teacher, combined with her lived experience as a parent of a child with a disability, to empower those around her to support students to become valued members of their communities.
“I pursued further studies in special education when my son was born with
Angelman syndrome because I wanted to know how to teach literacy to someone
who has an intellectual disability and is nonverbal,” she explained.
“Literacy is the foundation of communication and when you can read and write, you can communicate anything you want to without being restricted to the words that others have chosen for you.”