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Programming While They’re Young: Promoting AAC Users’ Independence Early On

Posted Sep 20, 2021 - 1:10pm

By Margaret Moore, PRC-Saltillo Blogger

With back-to-school season in full swing, I’m reminded of the pearls of knowledge about AAC that I gained in elementary school. Receiving my first device in preschool—20 years ago—I learned very quickly that it took me a while to type what I would like to say and that it was extremely advantageous to prepare in advance of activities and gatherings whenever possible.

For many years as a young child, I watched my mother and my speech pathologists program my device with the lines that I needed to read aloud for activities. After observing the process so frequently, I wondered if I could do it on my own, giving myself the opportunity to prepare thoughts to share in class, activities, and especially at lunch, recess, and social gatherings, without having to ask somebody to do it for me. At nine or ten, I was successfully programming independently. My mother and speech therapists commended this, encouraging me to take over preparing the device in advance with what I needed and wanted to say.

Because I started doing this so early on, it became second nature by the time I was nearing adulthood. I had learned how long it took me to type and to program, and the kinds of responses that, due to their length, absolutely needed to be programmed ahead of time. It became natural to think “I’m supposed to report on this topic in class or a meeting tomorrow. Programming will take a few hours, so I should start tonight and finish in the morning if I don’t finish.” Now in graduate school and partaking in professional opportunities—internships, jobs, and conferences—this has enabled my participation in fast-paced environments.

I encourage families and speech therapists to introduce users to the programming process early. This will set them up for success in independent and efficient communication later on. It truly will make all the difference in their lives.

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