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Happy New Year!

Posted Jan 27, 2021 - 10:01am

By Hannah Foley, PRC-Saltillo Blogger

As we enter the new year, I am forced to reflect on the last twelve months. We have all experienced many challenges and changes this year. Whether it be telletherapy, remote learning, remote teaching, or navigating balancing responsibilities of working and helping your children with remote learning, we have been faced with adjusting our lives and embracing new experiences that are sometimes challenging.

2020 was very different from what I had planned, but I am so grateful for what it has given me. As a college senior, the end of my college career was unprecedented. I had to complete my last courses from home, graduate college through a YouTube video, and adjust to life in a world that is filled with social distancing and masks. It has been challenging, but has given me tools, experiences, and skills that will help me as the world continues to change and things increasingly are done remotely, even after COVID-19 becomes eradicated.

I am a person who does not like change and this was the theme of this year. Needless to say, I have been challenged in various aspects throughout the year. I had to adjust to a new living environment as I was unable to complete my last semester on my university’s campus. My plans for my last semester of college and graduation were derailed. I had to learn how to interact with classmates and instructors through a computer screen. As a person who uses AAC, I typically use a great amount of nonverbal cues to let people know that I use AAC and have something to say. I was forced to embrace such challenges and changes and think outside of the box to find solutions. While I possess the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to do so, many others who use AAC do not. We must change our approach to education and therapy to minimize stress and challenges for our students who use AAC.

AAC/AT specialists and SLPs only have so much time in a day to help clients learn how to navigate social interactions, engage in communication, and actively participate in class activities that require communication. It is humanly impossible to predict every activity that teachers are going to do with their students and it’s even more impossible to know what challenges every client is going to encounter so that practicinors can prepare clients and work on the skills that they are going to need to participate and be included in all aspects of their education. On the contrary, teachers do not have the adequate training or knowledge to adapt their curriculum and make it fully accessible and inclusive to students who use AAC. This means that our students who use AAC are not fully included in rich peer-to-peer interactions nor have equal access to their education, thus depriving them of the critical knowledge and skills to achieve their full potential and inclusion in education, employment, relationships, and beyond.

As I begin my studies and professional career in AT/AAC and special education, I am eager to work in the educational system and close the gaps in access to quality education and social interactions that are present to students who use AAC, both in in-person learning and remote learning (hopefully we will not have many more extended periods of remote learning in the future). Interdisciplinary collaboration between educators, special educators, SLPs, and AAC/AT specialists is critical to delivering quality education, educational opportunities, and rich social opportunities for students who use AAC. Students who use AAC are very dynamic and an equally dynamic approach must be taken in the composition and delivery of their education. Here’s to a brighter future! 

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Communicators In Action   -    aac, new year, goals, teletherapy, teleteaching, education, inclusion