- Are you going to be able to show your language skills?
- Your desire to have meaningful communication with other people?
- Will you, with only access to these words, be able to convince the people around you that you are ready for a robust system?
- How many hours or days will you keep trying to show your skills and abilities with a system like this before giving up?
- Does the system allow you to express anything you really want to say?
Achieving beyond expectations
To prepare for a presentation earlier this year I asked the members of our family members of AAC users Facebook group a question. Were their children underestimated because they had no good means to communicate? I received an overwhelming number of responses from parents who's children achieved far beyond the expectation of others. Here are some of the most salient ones:
- Pam: “I was devastated when they told me that Josh was cognitively not capable of using a dynamic display device. We took out a loan, bought the DynaMyte, I learned how to use it and taught Josh. Within a year, he was beta testing Nancy Inman's Picture Word Power. The rest, as they say, is history.”
- Karla: “Elina was assessed to be very low functioning. Can you believe she is in the second year of college already? Honors program even!”
- Anne: “We were told during kindergarten that my son did not have the capacity to have a device with more than 4 simple buttons. We disagreed and got him Proloquo2Go. He quickly mastered it. School since was able to determine he is reading at grade level.”
- Sandy: “My 5 year old started special school this year after IQ testing 55. We got Proloquo2Go for him ourselves as therapists said he hadn't mastered PECS well enough to start Proloquo2Go. He took to it immediately!”
- Serena: “She is 11, mostly non-verbal, and her last development evaluation put her at 18-24 months. She finds and watches TED talks and listens to podcasts on social services…”
- Joyce: “My son had a parent-provided Dynavox in kindergarten. They were not using it. They thought him MR and incapable of using it. We sued the district. Three years later we purchased Proloquo2Go. He is now 14, on grade level for all subjects but written expression.”
- Emma: “My son is 4. He is profoundly deaf but has been hearing with cochlear implants since he was 2. He also has an Autism diagnosis and global developmental delay. We were told last December by his speech and language team that he wasn't ready for an AAC device. Thankfully I spent lots of time researching AAC use in preschoolers and went rogue against the 'professional' advice! He has far exceeded my expectations over the past 5 months.”
Paying the price
Josh’s story began almost 30 years ago. Jordyn’s story began 20 years ago. But it is clear from the experiences above that their stories are not unique and young kids today run similar risks.
It is important to note those examples were shared by parents who challenged educators and therapists. This isn’t always the case. Many parents will not be in a position to challenge the professionals working with their child because they do not have the knowledge, stamina or financial means. Irrespective of whether professionals or family members are the ones not presuming competence the individual with the communication impairment pays the price.
Presuming competence and AAC Awareness Month
October is international AAC Awareness month. This year we will be focusing on presuming competence. We chose this theme because, from our perspective, any AAC journey should start with presuming competence. That presumption is really the only prerequisite for starting the AAC journey.
We will be sharing a number of blog posts on this topic. You can look forward to a great post by Erin Sheldon on what presuming competence implied for her daughter Maggie. In another post, our own Jennifer Marden will explain how presuming competence affects vocabulary design. We’ll also be sharing lots of content on Facebook and Twitter and encourage you to share your own experiences!