by Koolla Tang & Debra Lee
It's great to interview you today about the impacts of AAC on social interaction.
Can you tell us about yourself and your AAC journey?
I’m Siobhan Daley, I'm 21. I live in Newcastle and I'm the AAC ambassador at Liberator. I've been using AAC my whole life from sign to PODD books to high tech devices and I’m currently using an Accent 1400 with Unity.
When did you start using high-tech devices?
I got my first communication device when I was four. It was a DynaVox Series 4.
What was it like transitioning between different AAC systems and how did it impact you?
I was nine when I changed over to Unity from the type-to-text AAC device I was using. It was kind of difficult, but I had the support of my family, and it was something I really wanted to do. I knew it was going to be better in the long term. I also changed devices again about four years ago and even though the programming was exactly the same, the shape and size of the device was different and it affected my motor planning.
Did it take a long time to adjust to the new device?
Yes. I was doing my HSC and the night I finished my last exam, I was like, right I’m switching now, and after a while it was like ‘why did I put this off?’
Can you tell us more about the role speech pathologists and other health professionals have played during your AAC journey?
My relationship with speech pathologists is quite ironic considering I want to be one. I have had some awesome ones. My current speech pathologist worked with me when I was growing up and we have a great relationship. I've also had some really bad ones. One speech pathologist who was supporting me only taught me the basics and how to say colours, so really useful stuff!
What is the most important advice you can give to health professionals to better meet the needs of people who use AAC and their families?
Just listen to them and what they need, and if you don't know something, be willing to learn.
What do you find are the biggest barriers to social interaction for AAC users?
The biggest barriers to social interaction for AAC users are the time it takes for us to communicate, because most people are impatient and don’t like waiting, and people not talking directly to us but rather the person we’re with. Both of these factors affect social interaction as we are either not given the time to get our message across, or people just assume we’re unable to have a conversation ourselves and talk to the person we’re with.
What advice would you give to communication partners of people who use AAC?
The same advice everyone everywhere gives communication partners. Be patient. We take a long time to prepare what we are going to say, so we really appreciate it when you wait for us to type without speaking over the top of us or walking away.
Can you recommend any online advocacy groups for AAC users and their families?
I recommend ‘Ask Me, I’m an AAC user!’ which is a Facebook support and advocacy group.
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Communicators In Action - AAC, literacy, school, writing, professional, career