Thursday, 1 September 2011

I can...connect with others who use AAC!

What are your favourite memories from this summer?  We hope that you've had a relaxing and fun break! Back in June, some of the ACS clinicians travelled to Toronto to experience Breaking the Ice, a conference for people who use AAC.  We have heard from many participants that this was an amazing opportunity to connect with people who use AAC and be inspired by what they had to say. 

Breaking the Ice Conference 2011 - Embracing Life

Conference Goals:
  • Provide a forum to discuss issues of importance to people who use AAC
  • Promote awareness of AAC and the interests of people who use AAC
  • Provide an opportunity for people who use AAC to network with other people who have similar experiences - as a way of reducing the feeling of isolation that people who use AAC often describe
The highlight of the conference is always the Town Hall Meeting.  An individual who uses AAC chairs the dicussion.  During this Town Hall meeting, while others may observe only individuals who use AAC are allowed to participate and discuss any issues that come to mind.

Here's what some local participants had to say:
Our first experience at “Breaking the ICE” by Robin (parent)
"We decided as a family to attend “Breaking the ICE” this year and it was a wonderful experience. Our son uses a Dynavox Mini V with step scanning, he has started with a new vocabulary and new layout on his device and we felt it would be great opportunity for him to witness people using a variety of communication aids and how they interact with others.  I was truly amazed to see everyone so fluent with their devices and how everyone participated in the town hall discussion about “ embracing life”, and to hear all the responses people had to the questions asked.  We were lucky that previous therapists of ours were there and they introduced our son to other people at the conference.  We were ecstatic to hear that he was having a conversation with another young man at the conference on his own with no guidance scanning through his device. 
            Town Hall was a great experience to be part of.  As a spectator to see how everyone got to take the time and communicate their answers.  Some were short and some were very in-depth.  I was in awe at how some people access their devices as well as some of the literacy skills.  And to hear how people view life with the limited physical abilities and communication.  It was also great to see the relationships that have formed over the years.  We were able to meet a lot of wonderful people and communicate with them openly and freely in an environment with no barriers.  It was also a great opportunity to meet and view the different resources that are available through the many vendors that were there as well as OFCP (Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy).  I can certainly say we will be attending next year as well and if you have the opportunity to attend next time you will not be disappointed.  It was a great opportunity and we embraced it with open arms. It was truly a very optimistic event - to know that even though we have access and vocabulary and literacy speed bumps now, at some point we will overcome them. One day our son will be at town hall with someone watching and realizing that one day they will be fluent with their communication as well; and it will be one less barrier for them to overcome as they are “embracing life”!"

Tracy Shepherd, SLP in Augmentative Communication Service at TVCC
"The “Breaking the ICE” conference is an event that is not to be missed!  It is always the highlight of my clinical experience because I learn more from people who use AAC and their families than in any other clinical learning situation.  It is an opportunity to interact with people who use various types of communication systems and hear their stories.  The value in networking with people from across Canada and hearing about their successes and challenges is truly inspirational.  The Breaking the ICE conference is one of the best things I am involved with and I hope to see you there sometime soon!"
 How can you get involved with the Breaking the Ice Conference? You can get updated information via their facebook page or visit their website. or!/groups/84888948124/
Although the next conference seems a long way off (2013), it will be here before we know it!  If you use AAC, you can start getting ready by practicing speaking in a group setting and with new people.

Others ways to connect with people who use AAC:
Facebook: You can connect with individual people or join a group related to AAC.  Just search a few keywords such as AAC or augmentative communication to find a group that might suit you.  For example, Augmentative Resources and Help Facebook Group:!/groups/102393009850835/

Blog: a journal or diary written online by an individual to share personal experiences, thoughts and stories.  Here are some examples of blogs related to Augmentative Communication:

How Do I do That?
Create your Own Blog or Facebook Page: If you are an ACS client at TVCC and are interested in sharing your story and connecting with others, let us know.  If we have enough interest, we will organize an event where we can learn together about blogs and facebook.

Join a Forum:  Augmentative Communication Community Partnerships Canada (ACCPC) has recently launched a forum specifically for people who use AAC.  Sign up and make yourself heard!

Ability Online is place where kids (and by that we mean kids, teens & young adults) with disabilities or illnesses can meet, learn from, develop skills with & enjoy the company of others who have faced similar challenges in the security of a monitored and constructive online environment.

No Tech Solutions
  • Create a "Communication Passport" to quickly and easily share information about your child's likes/dislikes, communication abilities etc.  Remember to customize your passport to reflect the personality of your child. Templates can be found:
Light Tech Solutions
High Tech Solutions
  • Create some pages on your Speech Generating Device to quickly share your views and opinions.  Be sure to include questions you can ask others.
Little Bytes:
If your child has new educational staff, be sure that they have all the information they need to support his/her AAC system.  If you need assistance with training or getting new cheatsheets, please contact your ACS clinician.

I a Star!
Congratulations to our actors this year who participated in the theatre camps: Setting the Stage and On with the Show!  Together with the Original Kids Theatre Company they delighted the audience with 6 short plays and used their speech generating devices (SGDs) to deliver their lines.