Small Changes = Big Impact

Published in November 2022

Since 2019, NI has delivered the Small Things project in collaboration with our parent company, Northcott.

Small Things aims to create more opportunities for choice in the daily lives of people with disability who live in supported accommodation settings by improving the interactions between people with disability and frontline workers. 

Whilst COVID-19 and the restrictions placed on disability residential accommodation slowed the project roll out, NI has successfully completed Small Things in 9 homes across NSW, thanks to the support of 18 final year speech and occupational therapy students, and 9 registered Therapists (Clinical Educators).

Small Things gives the students we work alongside a life-changing glimpse at the substantial role Therapists can play in supporting the communication, participation and independence of adults with complex disability.

For the frontline disability support workers with whom the Small Things team has worked, the project has given opportunities to boost their skills and capabilities in areas such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Active Support.

Lastly, and most importantly, for people with disability who have participated in the project, the Small Things team has seen significant changes in their social engagement and interaction, quality of life and communication.

During August and September, Masters of Speech Pathology students from University of Sydney, Jasmine and Queenie, completed the final placement for their degree at one of Northcott’s accommodation services. Here is what they had to say:


“[Small Things] is such a rare experience. Most of my peers at university are working in hospitals or schools. They may not get the opportunity to work in a disability setting, so it is very nice to know how the disability services works and it’s very nice that I actually get to learn more about multimodal communication and try different assessments and interventions.“


“Another highlight was when I first presented the communication boards to my customers. I didn’t expect them to be really excited about them, (but they were), so I felt like my effort is actually being appreciated and I think that’s one of the best parts of being a speech pathologist or working in the disability sector.”

Minty, the Clinical Educator, told us the highlights of this project was being able to provide the students a unique learning opportunity in the Supported Living space and seeing them grow from week-to-week. 

“Small Things is a very unique project at Northcott. These kinds of opportunities are what makes Northcott stand out. I think it is such a great opportunity because we have so many customers who have communication difficulties, but because of lack of funding, they just don’t have access to therapy. So this kind of valuable teaching opportunity for upcoming graduates, which also benefits our staff and our customers, is a really great initiative.”

The outcomes for the customers were significant. Minty spoke to us about Sarah’s* outcomes.

“To see Sarah, another customer who really loves conversation, finally have an outlet (to communicate). To have somebody who had the time and skills to find communication strategies that can help her ‘talk’, therefore hopefully improving her communication. These strategies also encourage Support Workers (to try different tools to help our customers to communicate). It’s like ‘Hey! You can use this communication book!’ to help communication which can help improve overall quality of life.”

Small things is currently running in another Northcott accommodation service – the final project for 2022. 

We can’t wait to continue this project next year and see students, customers, and support staff work together to support communication and create more opportunities for customer choice.

** Sarah’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons. 

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