By Cory Peters, M.S. CCC-SLP
Yes that is right….the AAC word. Being a consultant for an AAC company, I live AAC daily. However, this was not always true and not true for everyone. Like most SLPs I went to a graduate school that trains all about assistive technology in a 3 credit course over the summer. Therefore, it was a speed-dating course on everything from PECs to using access features on a cell phone, motorized wheelchairs and more.
You can imagine we did not get much about high tech speech generating devices. I continue to be surprised by the number of people that don’t know much about AAC and the number of people who could benefit from a device. This can include practicing SLPs. Its hard to know everything in a field and because I know about AAC sometimes I assume any parent or person who might need an AAC would know they exist. How can that be true of any field or topic? I remember the difficulty I had navigating the world of ankle braces and orthotics when my son needed them. I had some doctors say it wouldn’t help and others say yes, one PT said “who knows” another ortho specialist labeled them a necessity.
So in a world of varying opinions how can parents get the right information? I think one way is talking about AAC openly and frequently. Now it may be easier for me than others. If you ask my husband, I am a talker who can talk about almost anything. I have had discussions about “talkers” at a baby shower, the playground, a baseball game etc. It isn’t ever a direct “tell me about AAC question.” The conversation usually starts as small talk about kids, school, siblings, jobs and challenges of juggling it all. It sometimes comes up that a sibling isn’t talking the way they should, or a cousin, a friend has autism. That is the moment where I try to provide as much knowledge as I have. I never shove an agenda or specific device. I believe in the one size does not fit all idea. I share my experiences and background in AAC. I try to spread the word that there are other ways to communicate. We can learn from each other!
My favorite surprise conversation was on a playground where my oldest son was playing with a little girl. It was clear that her brother had some social challenges. The little girl proudly said to my son “my brother has autism” so my son in response said, “my mom works with kids with autism.” I had not been interacting with the Mom but when she heard this exchange, she said hello and shared her story/journey.
Her story was one I hear a lot. Her son was non-verbal, he had tried PECs, got frustrated, went to speech therapy with no mention of any other options. In her frustration and his lack of progress, the mother stopped going. Our conversation continued, and although I am not sure if it ultimately lead to Mom exploring a device, I could see the hope begin to return by the end of our conversation. Had I not spoken up or spread the word this Mom may not have known how to pursue giving her son a voice.
In terms of AAC and speech/language development and treatment, I love what I do and I want to share the joy. Whether you are a parent, speech therapist in AAC field, or just saw a movie with or a kid on the playground using a speech generating device do what you can to help those that don’t know the joy we do!
Stories and Strategies fo... - AAC, language, development, autism, communication