Tuesday, 2 December 2014

I can...open the door to adulthood.

Our children grow up in the blink of an eye... before you know it they are going to high school and then it's only a few short years before they enter into the adult world. Skills needed to negotiate that adult world need to be introduced and practiced long before they will be used. Our students need lots of time (and help) to learn about how things change when you become an adult. This month we will consider some of the supports that we can put in place to help our students take on this challenge.

Keeping Communication Relevant - Reviewing and Updating Vocabulary- Personal communication displays and devices need frequent review to determine whether all the vocabulary required by an individual is available. When changes are made to vocabulary, we need to ensure that our students know where to find their new words. Our vocabulary needs change as we get older - often our students need help to learn new words ("What is a budget?", "I need to book an appointment.") and to find out how to use them appropriately. 
Consider including generic vocabulary for people and places:
  • 'support worker' vs. 'Julie'  (support teams sometimes change frequently)
  • adding 'man/woman' if not already included on a display
  • 'someone else'

Remove immature vocabulary, and change language to better reflect the age of the person using the system.
  • "Yo!" to "Good afternoon"  

Expand topics to include those for self-advocacy and directing others.
  • directing personal care routines 
  • participating in meetings
  • maintaining communication device or writing system
  • changing or repairing seating
  • arranging and using transportation
  • discussing politics
  • organizing banking and finances
  • community-based events such as grocery shopping, eating out
  • safety and emergency situations
  • legal issues

Include young-adult/adult appropriate topics like:
  • death and bereavement
  • intimacy and sexuality

Here are a couple of great resources related to vocabulary around adult communication topics. 

See What We Say - Situational Vocabulary for Adults who Use AAC by Barbara Collier.
This guide provides a catalog of suggested words and phrases contributed by people who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for a variety of situations. Topics include advocacy, friendship, sexuality, employment, directing services, legal issues etc. You will get tips and suggestions from adults who use AAC on how they best communicate in various situations. People who use AAC can purchase this for $20 from the site.

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University  This website contains vocabulary (graphic symbols and icon sequences) needed to participate in 8 socially-valued adult roles: 

  • College Life 
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Employment
  • Sexuality, Intimacy, and Sex
  • Reporting Crime and Abuse
  • Managing Personal Assistance Services
  • Managing Health Care, and
  • Using Transportation

Widgit Health provides a range of symbol-based information sheets to help facilitate clear communication in an emergency situation. 

What are soft skills, why does my teen/young adult need to learn them and how can I teach them? Visit the Special Learning blog to read about considerations for learning social skills needed in the workplace.

Community Connections

youth enroute logoTalk with families who also have children who are transitioning into adulthood to find out what resources they are using. Your local children's treatment centre may have groups, supports or information that can be explored before your child leaves school. At Thames Valley Children's Centre in London, these types of resources are offered through the Youth En Route program.  More information for youth can be found on the website at www.tvcc.on.ca/for-youth.htm

Hutton HouseHutton House in London, Ontario is an example of an organization that offers an array of activities and resources for people with disabilities moving into adulthood.  As their mission states: "Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities and interests".

Teaching & Training others: 
Individuals who have complex communication needs may come into contact with many more people once they are adults. New environments bring new people into the picture. Appointments in the community also involve new people. It can be helpful to have some strategies in place for sharing information quickly and easily around communication strategies and personal preferences. 
 - Have photographs available to show others quickly how you like things done or set up (e.g. mounting of a speech generating device, location for charging device).
 - Use scripts to give directions to unfamiliar communication partners about how they can communicate with you.
- Look for apps that can be helpful in sharing information. Here's one that was recently brought to our attention, that can be used to explain what's needed for a particular event or process. For example, you can create a short presentation on how to set up the mounting components for a speech generating device, focusing attention on the most important details.  Explain Everything app  is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool that lets you annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything to and from almost anywhere.

It's a great idea to update a Communication Passport when high school is done. The Call Centre in Scotland has a template specifically for adults.  

Don't forget to add contact information to all of the pieces of your communication system. Being out in the community more often means there are lots more opportunities for things to get lost. 

Finding meaningful activities:

Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities and interests. - See more at: http://www.huttonhouse.com/about-us#sthash.Ls38Xlpg.dpuf
Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities and interests. - See more at: http://www.huttonhouse.com/about-us#sthash.Ls38Xlpg.dpuf
Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities and interests. - See more at: http://www.huttonhouse.com/about-us#sthash.Ls38Xlpg.dpuf

AAC Leadership Course Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) offers this online course for adults over 18 years of age who use AAC. The course is designed to assist adults who use AAC to learn skills to support:
  • Other adults who use AAC
  • Clinicians working with children who use AAC and their families
  • Students in disability fields
  • Organizations to improve communication access to goods and services
The course contains lessons and assignments about:
  • Effective communication
  • Collaborative problem-solving
  • Disability services and resources
  • Communication rights
  • Participating on committees
  • Making presentations

Reach out and be inspired by those who have lead the way:

Check out Robert Jean's website - he proves that there is life after high school!

John Draper draws on his life experiences to help inspire accessible and inclusive communities.  He has won many awards recognizing his efforts to promote equality for all citizens through his presentations and resource development. Check out his Resources and Learning Options on Together We Rock!

Kevin is a university student, an author, and an athlete.  See his story  at I Am Able - Kevin Enners

Keep checking the Breaking the Ice 2015 conference website for the 2015 conference information.  This is an event created by, and for, individuals who use AAC and their families. It's the only event of its kind in Canada and was designed to bring the community of people who use AAC together to share ideas, learn from each other, and create new friendships.   

We're All Stars is an annual daytime celebration for TVCC school age clients (10 years & up) and is held in conjunction with the Rogers Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction. Next year's event will be held on February 2, 2015 from 10am – 2pm at the London Convention Centre. 'All About Me' displays are needed from TVCC clients who have a story about themselves to share, but may be too shy to get up on stage and shout it out. It's a wonderful opportunity to share accomplishments and achievements.

Colin Philips is a young man who uses AAC.  He speaks about his experiences with transitioning into adulthood and realizing that he is gay. 

Check in with manufacturers for ideas and resources pertaining to adults.
As usual, many of the companies that develop and produce AAC resources have information on their websites that is specific for certain age groups or topics. For example, Dynavox has some useful newsletter articles related to issues that adults who use AAC may face.  These articles include topics such as maintaining social relationships, using the telephone and managing daily activities.

Finding AAC services for adults in Ontario
AAC services for Adults in Ontario provide information for about each clinic and whether or not they provide service to adults. Contact a clinic near you to get more details.


This issue of Augmentative Communication News 2005 focuses on the significant and challenging transition from adolescence to adulthood. 

Professionals can use the book Transition Strategies for Adolescents and Young Adults Who Use AAC to help support the journey to adulthood for people who use AAC.  

Talking Mats is an established communication tool, which uses a mat with symbols attached as the basis for communication. It is designed to help people with communication difficulties to think about issues discussed with them, and provide them with a way to effectively express themselves in a visual way that can be easily recorded.

Upcoming Events
Visit AbleNet University online on December 17, 2014 6:30pm CST to learn about Assistive Technology (AT) for Common Core College and Career Readiness for Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities - Supporting Access Skills. This free workshop will explore how teachers are supporting students in learning assistance seeking behaviors through the use of AT to create opportunities for greater independence and truly finding the least restrictive environment. Learn More or Register Now. This is Part 4 of a series and the previous 3 parts can be found here

ACS Education Sessions 2015
TVCC is offering the following workshops to support low-tech no-tech communication strategies for parents, caregivers or service providers who want to learn more about communicating with children/youth who use AAC. Register at www.eventbrite.ca by entering the title of the workshop (make sure the city you are searching is "London".) You may also call 519-685-8700, ext. 53367 or (toll free: 1-866-590-8822, ext. 53367). 

How to Choose Powerful Words
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015      Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015     Time 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
With the space limitations of most low tech systems and communication displays, we want to ensure that our communicators have access to the words that will have the most impact and usage throughout the day. This workshop will demonstrate how to use Core Vocabulary, the 200 words that account for 80% of our communication to enhance a client's communication potential. 

How to Use Symbols so Your Child Will Too
Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015         Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Date: Thursday, November 5, 2015      Time: 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Children learn how to talk by listening to and copying others. Learn how to facilitate communication by using symbols / strategies for children who are non-verbal or difficult to understand. During every-day fun activities, you will learn some key strategies and techniques. Materials will be provided for you to take home so that you can start immediately. 

Make & Take Workshops - Communication Passports (May) & Adapted Books (Dec)
Date: May 13, 2015         Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Date: December 2, 2015      Time: 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. 
These workshops are in development. More details to follow on the TVCC website.