Being the parent of a child with special needs is challenging. Add lack of communication, it can be frustrating and heart-breaking. Imagine seeing the crayon you want to use across the table, it’s the perfect color for your picture, yet you can’t voice your need. A pain in your body that makes you feel ill, or something as simple as wanting a glass of water becomes an internal stress because you can’t say what you need. People with communication difficulties have the daily challenge of having their voice heard.
As we head into October, the official month of AAC( Augmentative and alternative communication) awareness, we think of how far we have come with AAC. Technology is moving fast. Increased awareness about AAC and the availability of AAC is a gift to individuals with communication challenges. It is also a tremendous help for the parents of children who lack communication. Currently, assistive technology is becoming more advanced, easier to use, and affordable. Having access to AAC will increase independence, heighten education, create opportunities for inclusion, and broaden learning and life experiences.
“I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms they’re interested in.“ –Bill Gates
Awareness of AAC is crucial to its advancement and acceptance. AAC can be a vital tool for individuals with disabilities. If you use your iPad in the home for communication, but not when you visit a local restaurant, you’re taking away the opportunity to continue those independence skills. A child ordering what they would like to eat from a menu, via their AAC device, allows them the opportunity to be independent. If the community views more people using AAC tools, they will soon become more aware and accepting of AAC. The more people see others using AAC tools, and becoming involved in the communication, the more they will understand and accept this form of communication No one thinks twice about a child who wears spectacles, this is a tool to help them see better. AAC tools should be as common places as a pair of spectacles, and yet it is not widely accepted.
During AAC awareness month, it’s the perfect time to raise awareness! Knowledge of AAC technologies have to be more widespread. Here are some ideas:
- Educate: Often Parents, who utilize AAC devices, tend to have one family member work with the child. If we can include siblings, grandparents, relatives, caregivers, teachers and friends to use AAC, they will become more involved and enhance the relationship. Educating others around us to the benefits of AAC will lead to greater awareness. The AAC Institute is a good source of information.
- Organize Events: Create or attend and event to raise awareness. If you search online you can find some already planned events such as: The silent morning tea that brings communities together to raise awareness about the different ways to communicate and the importance of creating accessible communication. Anyone can participate in a planned event, or create an event. Host an AAC awareness party –Invite friends and family
- Promote: The age of social media is upon us. We have so many options to tell out stories. Posting something your child communicated, pictures of apps, and personal stories can help others to see how AAC enhances your child’s growth. Utilize Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or you can even start a blog! Here is a link to a great website that has real blogs of AAC users.
During October, the official AAC Awareness Month, we encourage people who use AAC and people who support AAC, to promote awareness in your community. The benefits of assistive technology for individual with disabilities are tremendous. It allows for personal growth, independence, inclusion, and most importantly not being left out.
Teach, share a story, participate and show everyone the endless possibilities with alternative communication methods!