The Bridging Project

This project is being undertaken by Scope in collaboration with the Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria, Monash University.

People with complex communication needs have speech and/or language that are not functional to meet their daily communication needs.

People with complex communication needs and people with mental illness or emotional disorders often feel hidden within the community and believe that others do not readily understand the difficulties that they experience or the problems that they have accessing necessary services. However, when people have both a complex communication and a mental health need, the problems are significantly compounded. This project has assisted to build bridges between specialist and mainstream mental health services by providing information and resources.

The project is designed around the needs of people who are 18 years or older.

If you need urgent medical or psychological support, we recommend you consult your local doctor, the emergency department of your local hospital, a specialist mental health service provider or a crisis telephone counselling service, such as Lifeline in Australia (13 11 14).

People who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment can call Lifeline through the National Relay Service (NRS). TTY users phone 133 677 then ask for the Lifeline number which is 13 11 14. Speak and Listen (speech-to-speech relay) users phone 1300 555 727 then ask for the Lifeline number which is 13 11 14.

Internet relay users connect to the NRS website for details and then ask for the Lifeline number which is 13 11 14.


Information about Mental Health

We have developed some fact sheets which you may find useful.


Beyond Speech Alone. Guidelines for practitioners providing  counselling services to clients with disabilities and complex communication needs.

Practitioners who provide counselling services are increasingly likely to consult with people with complex communication needs as part of their clinical practice. The guidelines and accompanying DVD have been developed to support these practitioners in their inclusion of people with complex communication needs. The guidelines and DVD provide suggestions and strategies for making counselling as maximally accessible to people with complex communication needs, whilst maintaining the integrity of counselling principles.  This publication can be purchased through the Scope shop.

Supporting People With Disabilities Coping With Grief And Loss: An Easy-To-Read Booklet.

The booklet provides practical and easy-English ideas for individuals, as well as information for carers who may be in the role of actively assisting the person with a disability who is grieving. This publication can be purchased through the Scope shop.

The Bridging Project: Physical disability and mental health.

There is little information available regarding the prevalence of specific types of mental health problems for people with physical and multiple disabilities and the kinds of community mental health services being accessed. Information collected from 390 client files suggests prevalence rates for specific mental health conditions are consistently lower when contrasted against general population statistics. The most likely account for this lower prevalence rate is that mental health conditions for this population are under-diagnosed. Additionally, people from this group are much more likely to serviced by specialist services, with only a small proportion accessing mainstream mental health services. Findings from this research were presented in InPsych, the Australian Psychological Society’s publication for members and associated industry professionals. This article may be viewed at:

Anger Management: An Anger Management Training Package for Individuals with Disabilities.

Some people with intellectual disabilities have difficulty managing feelings of anger. Anger Management is a training package for assisting people with disabilities deal with anger in constructive, effective ways. It is designed to be accessible to many people with a range of intellectual and communication abilities. The training program consists of 12 fully-scripted sessions dealing with topics such as recognising feelings of anger, learning to relax and think calmly, and being assertive and handling problems competently. Each session follows a standard format, including introductions, reviews of previous sessions, and explanations. Photocopiable handouts, facilitator’s script and evaluation sheets are provided for each session. The resource has been shown to be effective in assisting people with a range of disabilities deal with anger more effectively1.   This publication is published through Jessica Kingsley Publishers and can be ordered at:

1 Hagiliassis, N., Gulbenkoglu, H., DiMarco, M., Young, S, & Hudson, A. (2005). The Anger Management Project: A Group Intervention for People with Physical and Multiple Disabilities, Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 30(2), 86-96.

Enhancing Self-Esteem: A Self-Esteem Training Package for Individuals with Disabilities.

Maintaining healthy levels of self-esteem is key to leading a positive and fulfilled life, but for many people with a disability it can be difficult when faced with the additional challenges they encounter. Negative messages, low expectations, reduced opportunities and discrimination are all facts of life for a large number of people, and these factors can have a serious impact on the development of self-esteem. Enhancing Self-Esteem is tailored specifically to meet the needs of adults with disabilities. It is a comprehensive resource that provides relevant, cognitively-suitable and age-appropriate information and exercises to aid trainers working with adults with physical and multiple disabilities, and is suitable for people with mild intellectual disability and severe communication impairment. The material is designed to be used in 10 two-hour sessions that explore skills that will help to develop and maintain self-esteem. Each session is fully scripted, with comprehensive instructions for the trainer and useful photocopiable hand-outs. This publication is published through Jessica Kingsley Publishers and can be ordered at:


Please click on the links below to download the provided presentations. Presentations are supplied as either PDF or Powerpoint documents.

  • Beyond Speech Alone: Guidelines for Psychologists Providing Counselling Services to Clients with Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs, Hagiliassis, N., Di Marco, M., Gulbenkoglu, H., Iacono, T., & Watson, J. (2005). Paper presented at the Australian Psychological Society Conference, Melbourne.
  • Download PDF, 504Kb


  • Beyond Speech Alone: Guidelines for Psychologists Providing Counselling Services to Clients with Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs, Watson, J, Iacono, T. (2007).  Paper presented at the AGOSCI Conference, Melbourne.
  • Download PDF, 299Kb


  • Physical disability, complex communication needs and mental health, Hagiliassis, N., Gulbenkoglu, H., Di Marco, M., Larkin, H., Watson, J., Iacono, T. & Young, S (2005). Paper presented at the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association Conference, Adelaide.
  • Download PDF, 72Kb


  • Relaxation for People with Disabilities, Hagiliassis, N.(2006). Seminar presented to the South West Disability Network Conference, Ballarat.
  • Download PDF, 204Kb

Useful Links

Scope Australia
Scope is a not-for-profit organisation providing disability services throughout Melbourne and Victoria to over 5,000 children and adults with physical and multiple disabilities. Thousands more people intermittently access our information, support and assessment services.

Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria
The Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria (CDDHV), is an academic unit established by the Victorian State Government to improve health outcomes for people with developmental disabilities through a range of educational, research and clinical activities.

Talking Mats
Talking Mats is a low tech communication tool involving sets of symbols. It was originally developed by The AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) Research Unit in Scotland to support people with complex communication needs. It is designed to help people with communication difficulties to think about issues discussed with them, and provide them with a way to effectively express themselves, and therefore has obvious uses within a counselling context.

International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication – devoted to advancing the field of (AAC)

Australian Group On Severe Communication Impairment. Founded in 1981 by a group of professionals who saw the need to promote information exchange about severe communication impairment.

The Estia Centre
The Estia Centre is a UK based training, research and development resource for those who support adults with learning disabilities and additional mental health needs