Sunday, 1 March 2015

I can... presume competence

I can … presume competence!
As parents and professionals who live and work with individuals who have complex communication needs, there is one thing that we know for sure: there’s a lot that we don’t know. Given that, how do we keep moving forward? How can we teach, if we don’t know what our children know? How can we find out how much our students understand when we cannot use standardized assessments? How can we possibly take the next step before our students have proven to us that they have mastered the current one?
When it comes to teaching, be it in the classroom, at home or in the treatment centre, attitude is everything. Truly embracing a “yes we can” attitude for our students can make wonderful things happen. In the absence of knowing otherwise, we can choose to presume competence and give our students the opportunity to develop skills that otherwise may never emerge.

This month we explore some stories and online posts that describe what it is to presume competence and to take the path of least dangerous assumption.

So, what does it mean to presume competence?

What does it take for a child to become competent in using AAC? Is it just a matter of finding the right AAC system for that child? Of course there’s a lot more to it than that. Speech therapist and special educator Jane Farrall describes the importance of the environment - the communication partners who believe that a child can be a successful communicator.

In her wonderful blog “Star in her Eye” Heather Kirnlanier describes the beginning of a journey involving her daughter and an AC Consultant who has supported them from the beginning by presuming competence.
The path that they have now started down is still uncertain. This Mom does not appear to have unrealistic expectations about where this path might lead.  What she does have is a plan and the hope that, given the right support, her daughter will develop skills that will lead her who knows where.
If you do not have time to read this whole blog entry, just skip to the final paragraph – it captures the essence of what this family is trying.

Kate Ahern is an assistive technology specialist and teacher of learners with multiple or significant needs. Kate believes in her students – here is her “This I believe” statement. In 2010, Kate blogged about what it means to presume competence - some of the things that we can all do every day to push out students to their full potential.  
In 2014 she wrote about giving our students opportunities and allowing them to try.

A parent’s perspective:
Mona Delahooke, a paediatric psychologist and mother of three, shares her thoughts on four key points to think about when considering competence:
Real life stories can bring some of this information to life – here’s a small collection posted on Praactical AAC that illustrates how presuming competence can lead you to all kinds of eye opening experiences.

So what can we do to help our students reach their full potential? We can presume competence and communicate accordingly, as advocated by our friends at PraacticalAAC.

A final, fun thought from Uncommon Sense:
When it comes to vocabulary, we need to think big, because “if you give an AAC User a large vocabulary…”

Upcoming Events:

TVCC ACS Education Sessions

Still time to register!!!! How to Choose Powerful Words
Date: Tuesday March 3 2015, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. 

Register: online at
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, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. 

Register: online at
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. 

Getting Ready for Summer Camp - for parents /caregivers of children with disabilities

 A no-cost opportunity for families of children and youth with disabilities to meet with a TVCC Recreation Therapist to begin the explorations and conversations about choosing the right summer camp. Information will be available about day camps, overnight camps, and other opportunities to help families make informed decisions about their choices. During each session families will be able to gather the information, registration forms, and other important materials they will need to choose the right community-based and/or TVCC summer camp. 
  • Thursday March 12th, 2015 (45 min apts., 3 – 6 p.m.) White Oaks Family Centre, 565 Bradley Ave London 
  • Registration: Online or call Carrie at  519-685-8700, ext 53367. 
  • Questions? Contact Karen Faragher, TVCC Recreation Therapist at 519-685-8700 ext 53374 or