My daughter uses a talker to communicate. Nothing delights her more than seeing other children, or adults, who also use talkers to communicate. She doesn’t care which app they’re toting around, which dedicated device is mounted to their chair, whether they gravitate towards low or high tech . . . she just likes seeing people who speak with things other than speech. She sees it, recognizes it, and connects with it . . . these alternative communicators who she sees as just like her. She’s eager (sometimes too eager) to check out their systems, to hear their voices and see how their words are organized. She’s excited to see other AAC users. She doesn’t judge their systems, or remark that perhaps they should change their vocabulary layout or move onto a bigger grid, or get a different case for their iPads.
She sees another AAC user and she celebrates.
We AAC families are, well, a type of extended family. We are lumped together in the public eye: people who “use some device to talk” (or people who have a family member who uses something to talk, or therapists who are often seen using devices to talk as they model and plan).
We are bound together. An #AACfamily.
We are proud AAC users, or we are parents who have fought to provide our children with voice, or we are siblings who have learned to speak the language system that our sibling uses, or we are clinicians who have laid awake at night thinking of what will work for their clients.
We are #AACfamily.
Speak for Yourself users, Proloquo2Go users, LAMP users, TouchChat users, PODD users . . . I’m looking at you.
PECS users, Tobii users, Dynavox users, PRC users . . . I’m looking at you.
GoTalk Now users, TechSpeak users, AutisMate users, Aacorn users, users of the apps and systems that are escaping my tired mind . . . I’m looking at you.
Therapists, huddled over your iPads and programming, ripping up binders and duct taping and laminating into the wee hours of the morning . . . I’m looking at you.
We are family, united in our need for communication modifications. We are family, united in our passion for presuming competence. We are family, united in our challenges: did you remember to plug in your child’s voice and charge it tonight? Do you spend way too much time trying to figure out appropriate amplification? Do you think to yourself “seriously, we should own stock in laminating pouches and velcro?”
Our “nonverbal” (ha) children have so much in common. So much. And, by extension, so do we. We share the challenges we face, the triumphs we share, the doubts, the IEP goals, the worries over whether this year’s classroom staff will model language enthusiastically.
We share the moment when our child first said something with their talker that they couldn’t have said without it.
We share the way we teach extended family members about the importance of modeling, the way we see the AAC siblings start to use a talker and think about meaningful peer models, the time we spend online reaching out to new users and saying “no, seriously, AAC won’t impede speech.”
We are #AAC family. We may speak different symbol languages, but we are in this together.
We may use different devices, we may have different vocabulary philosophies, we may all feel passionately about our personal preferences . . . but our differences, in a global view, aren’t so great. Compared to the general public, we certainly have more in common than not.
And so, happy almost AAC awareness month to you, my family J
October is AAC Awareness Month, and I’m declaring Friday to be #AACfamily day. Let’s come together to celebrate AAC users and raise awareness about AAC! Here’s how it works:
1. Email me an AAC related photo (firstname.lastname@example.org). Here are some ideas: your AAC user using their device (or with their device), siblings or families using the device, your device charging, your PODD book resting overnight, your PEC making supplies strewn across your kitchen table, a photo of your laminator in use, (professionals: your devices charging, the gadget you might be hoarding, stacks of folders that you’re putting reports into) . . .anything AAC related. Anything.
2. Give me a little info, if you want it shared. In general, it's fun to know which system is being used and where in the world you're located. (If you have a label you would like me to use, eg “John climbing a mountain with his talker!” then please include it. If the photo comes with an email that says "Katie at the beach with her iPad." then I will assume that's what I should post with the picture.)
3. If you have an AAC related link that you would like to share, include it in the email. I will include links to anything AAC related: a blog, a Facebook page, a twitter account, a Pinterest page, a website (app/product related, clinic related, whatever), a youtube channel, a Facebook users’ group, your favorite AAC product’s page----if it’s related to AAC, and you want me to share it with your photo, I'll put it up!
4. If you would like to double share, please feel free to share pictures, links, anything on Fridays in October with the hashtag #AACfamily on your twitter or Facebook pages (for FB users: you’ll need to set your post to “public” if you want it to appear when people search for #AACfamily on Facebook)
5. Spread the word. The more, the merrier. Share this with your therapists (or your clients), in users groups, on FB/Twitter, with your AAC friends. We need to stand together, to celebrate together, and to spread the word (and the love) together. I want to see users of every device, every app, every language system, represented every Friday! I want to see therapists, users, families, friends, adventures, anything! Whatever differences we have, we have more in common. Let’s come together as users of augmentative and alternative communication systems!
*There are 5 Fridays in October and each of them will be #AACfamily Friday. Photos must be received by 8:00pm (EST) Thursday night in order to post on the following day.