Thursday, 1 December 2011

I can...when you believe in me!

This month we'd like to recognize the amazing contributions of communication partners.  Many people who use AC rely on people in their lives to help set up technology and low tech systems, teach them new vocabulary and provide opportunities to communicate with others.  Communication partners have the opportunity to really connect with people who use AC and see how the power of communication can allow kids to learn, make friends and have fun.

Anne Donnellan, in her book "Movement Differences and Diversity in Autism- Mental Retardation: Appreciations and Accommodations People With Communications and Behavior Challenges" (1994), challenges us to think differently about our assumptions of people with disabilities.  She wrote about a concept that she calls the "Least Dangerous Assumption".  

“Least dangerous assumption” states that in the absence of absolute evidence, it is essential to make the assumption that, if proven to be false, would be least dangerous to the individual. She continues by explaining that it is always safest and most respectful to make the “least dangerous assumption.” Read more on this interesting outlook at

Consider a child who uses AC...what assumptions do people make about this child?  One assumption could be that when a child does not use a communication system, he/she has nothing to say.  How might you work with a child like this?  Another assumption might be that this child can communicate effectively when strategies and support are put in place.  Which assumption fits best with you? 

As we reflect back on the past year, we want to celebrate all  people who are fantastic communication partners and advocates for kids who use AC.  We are seeing many people choosing to believe in these kids.  In classrooms, we have observed peers who have no previous experience with AC, work with a fellow classmate to help him learn the vocabulary on his new device. We also have experience with amazing individuals who instinctively know how to use communication strategies to allow successful interactions.

Take a moment to watch this great video of Linda Burkhart and a young child who uses AC.  Linda was a classroom teacher who had a passion for AC and now is a consultant and speaker in field of Assistive Technology.  ( Think about the subtle ways she is encouraging this child to become a great communicator.

Pati King-DeBaun is an SLP who speaks and consults throughout the world on topics of early language development, augmentative communication, early literacy support and children with disabilities.  ( She is the author of this inspiring oath for professionals who work with students with severe and/or mulitple disabilities.

The Power of Believing
  1. Believe that all students can learn and have the right to.
  2. Believe that all students can communicate and have the right to.
  3. Believe that all students have the right to choose and should be given the opportunity to do so.
  4. Believe that there is always hope.
  5. Believe that small miracles are the best.
  6. Believe that all movements, signals, cries and gestures are a form of communication.
  7. Believe in patience.
  8. Believe each individual has something positive and valuable to share with you.
  9. Believe that if there is a will, there is a way.
  10. Believe that you have something positive to give to individuals with severe and mulitple disabilities.
  11. Believe that all students need to be cognitively challenged.
  12. Believe that if you believe, the child will believe.
As the holidays are fast approaching and we are all busy trying to find the perfect gift, consider taking the time to connect with someone who uses AC. 

No-Tech Ideas:

Brag about your fantastic students...within listening distance!  It will help build the student's confidence.  It also highlights the student's strengths and provide immediate reinforcement for their efforts.  For example, "Mrs. Smith, Amber did a great job telling the class about her trip to the mall.  I was really impressed with how well she used her switch at just the right moment!"       

Share information about how your student communicate with others.  For example, tell the secretary how Michael says "Yes" and "No" so that she can ask him questions when he visits the office.

Create a communication dictionary.  This involves describing your students' communication abilities (what they do and what you think it means) to share with others.  This helps everyone interpret communication attempts consistently and help the student to understand the power of his/her communication.

Inspire family members to use photos to create a personalized photobook.  Add simple text related to the student to each page (For example: See Amy laugh, See Amy play. See Amy eat.) Add page fluffers (a piece of foam between the pages) to help students turn the pages on their own. 

Light Tech Ideas:

Consider recording lines for the Christmas play on your child's simple SGD or recording a message of congratulations if you child is in the audience e.g. "Way to Go!  Fantastic performance!"

Teach peers to listen to your child's voice (SGD) and how to reflect back on what has been said e.g. "I really like the new Selena Gomez song."  "Yeah, I really like that song.  I have it on my ipod."

High Tech Ideas:

Learn more about your student's communication software by watching a webinar online.

Model phrases and sentences using the vocabulary on your child's communication device

I a Star!

This month we'd like to recognize Jack Bedard.  He recently started using an iPod with Proloquo2Go app.  When he was out with his Mom at a restaurant, he asked her for more fries and chocolate milk.  She told him that they were all finished.  He took the initiative to go up to the counter and order fries and chocolate milk for himself.  Way to go Jack!  We love your determination and initative! 

Upcoming Events

We're All Stars: January 16, 2012. 10am – 2pm London Convention Centre
This is an annual celebration of TVCC's school age clients (10 years and up).  Clients enjoy games, participate in All About Me displays, listen to presentations from three of their peers, get autographs from Sports celebrities and enjoy a pizza lunch.  It's a fantastic opportunity to celebrate and recognize the achievements of TVCC clients.  For more information: 

Individual Authorizer (I.A.) for Communication Aids
Workshop: January 31st, 2012. 8am-4pm Thames Valley Children's Centre $80
Individual Authorizers (I.A.) for Communication Aids prescribe specialized equipment with funding assistance from the Assistive Devices Program (A.D.P.).  To get this designation you must be either an Occupational Therapist or Speech Language Pathologist in Ontario.  For more information:
Call the Centralized Equipment Pool (CEP) to obtain a registration form. 416-698-1305.
Check out the neat resources you can borrow from CEP once you become an IA...


Switch it Maker Christmas:!-Christmas-Extra

Say it With Symbols:  This website has a variety of cards and gifts with PCS that you can purchase.

Baking over the are some recipes that have symbols to help your child participate in baking.

Jewish Celebrations