How do you communicate with the people around you?
I communicate with my colleagues, friends and family in many different ways. I use email and text messages regularly to keep in touch, I also use my voice to have conversations and make my feelings heard, there are even times when a simple face expression is enough to communicate an entire sentence! I’m lucky, I CAN use my voice, I CAN control my facial expressions, I CAN access a keyboard. For many people in our community communication is much more limited and difficult. This is where Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) comes into play. AAC covers anything that is used instead of speech to get your message across, this can include gestures, key word signing, communication boards and speech output devices.
With the aim of raising awareness of the use and importance of AAC the month of October is International AAC Awareness Month. Many organisations celebrate this in many different ways. This year ILC took part by holding a ‘Silent Morning Tea’ which is a morning tea where attendees who are used to using their voice to have a conversation are encouraged to use AAC. This idea was developed by the Communication and Inclusion Resource Team at Scope Victoria in 2007.
Much fun was had with colleagues using low tech communication boards, alphabet boards, paper and pens, PODD books and high tech communication aids to complete a ‘bingo’ chart. Staff needed to find others in the room who had traits such as; has a dog, doesn’t drink coffee or has had braces etc. The challenge was educational for all, with our CEO Gerri Clay commenting “(it was) very challenging” and “I had to find other thought pathways (to get my message across.)” ILC Grants department employee Heather Gill said “ (it was) frustrating, but if you got to know your device it would be faster… I can understand the challenges when you first start.” The importance of training and modelling how to use the AAC system to the potential AAC user was highlighted by Lynne from the ILC accounts department, “Without training it was difficult to use the communication aids effectively.” We also combined our morning tea with a ‘Loud Shirt Day’ held on October 16 to raise money for Telethon Speech and Hearing.
How will you celebrate AAC Awareness month? Are you up for the challenge of a ‘Silent Morning Tea’?