Friday, 1 October 2010

I with my mouth full!

Sometimes it’s not bad manners to talk with your mouth full! October is   International AAC Awareness Month and the TVCC ACS has organized a special lunch event to celebrate individuals who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Join us (see attached flyer), or organize your own event to heighten people’s awareness of what it really means to use AAC.

Host your own “Talking with Our Mouths Full” event – people learn a lot through experience. Provide family, friends, peers or colleagues with an opportunity to find out how it feels to use AAC by organizing an event where everyone gets to use an AAC system. Everyone is encouraged to “leave their voice at the door” and to communicate just with the communication displays provided.
Here are some tips to help plan your own event:
Type of event: Keep it simple with a “quiet coffee morning”, or invite the whole family for Thanksgiving dinner! This event can take place at any kind of get-together. Decide who you’d like to invite and the best venue for that group (e.g. peers might enjoy a pizza lunch at school, family might participate at a regularly planned lunch).
Invitations – have a child who uses AAC help to make the invites using symbols. Let people know ahead of time about the menu and the cost.
What to bring - remind people to bring their own communication boards or devices; make communication boards available for those who do not have them. It’s OK to write or draw, so have notepads, pens & crayons available.
Venue: If you are heading out to a restaurant, choose somewhere accessible and where they are open to learning about communicating with people who use AAC. Call ahead to let them know about your event, and what needs to be in place.  Ask the restaurant for a copy of their menu or look online. Remember that you might need to accommodate individuals’ special diet requirements, for example puréed food, and that extra space might be needed for those using wheelchairs.
Topics of communication: Mealtimes are not just about food. Include vocabulary to allow conversation around current events, upcoming holidays, social comments etc. If you have a mix of ages, have a variety of topics for children, teens and adults.
Meet your guests at the door: explain how to use the communication boards and the rules!
Keep it fun! Have some games to play (with associated communication boards) while waiting for the food to arrive, e.g. X’s and O’s, Bingo, Hangman.
Have a “talking jar”. People who talk (by choice or by accident!) have to put a Looney into the jar. Donate the collection to ISAAC or a charity of your choice.
Find out what people learned from the experience. Ask them to write down their thoughts on a Post It note and add the note to a board or wall where everyone can see it on the way out.

Little Bytes:
Need access to symbols but don’t own Boardmaker? You can use Boardmaker at the Central library in downtown London or in the TVCC Resource Centre. Various other free symbol sets can be found on the Net – see Resources on reverse.

No-Tech Ideas
  • Pass It On: Share a little information to help a person who uses AAC. Often individuals develop specific individualized communication (e.g. “I can say “yes” by looking up and to the left”). Communication partners need to know what to look for, in order to respond consistently. Copy a short description detailing the communication on several Post It notes. As you see others during the day, tell them about the communication and pass on a few of the Post It notes as reminders. Ask that they in turn “pass it on” to someone they talk to.
Light Tech Ideas:
  • Record messages onto a simple speech-generating device to allow a student to welcome people to your event. Include a question or two to get the interactions started: “Welcome to our quiet lunch. Please take a communication board. Leave your voice at the door and use the board to chat. What do you think you will have for lunch?"
High Tech Ideas:
  • With many high tech devices, it is possible to print out the communication pages so that you have a low-tech paper display. (This works well as a back-up if your device is not available or not working). Talk to your ACS clinicians if you have questions about how to do this.
I Can…be a Star!
Lights, Camera, Action!
In August our TVCC actors delighted an audience by performing 6 adapted plays, using speech-generating devices to deliver their lines. The plays were written and directed by an amazing group of Original Kids. What an experience for everyone involved!

If you know a “star in the making” who would like to join us next August, send an e-mail to Kelli & Gill (contact info below). We’ll let you know when the planning begins.

Coming soon…
3rd Annual School Age Children with Special Needs Sat. Nov. 20 2010, 9:00am - 3:30pm
This full day of interactive workshops is geared to parents/caregivers of school age children and/or children soon entering the school system with special needs. Come see us at the displays featuring AAC!
Check the TVCC Calendar of Events for details:
ISAAC Canada – use this website for general information about AAC that you can share at your event:
Free picture / symbol resources:
Pics4Learning is a copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students
Speaking of Speech promotes the exchange of free materials for SLPs and teachers, organized by topics: 
Grocery PECS has realistic grocery pictures and free DVD pictures at
Print ready to use communication tools at do2learn