AAC Awareness Month, Week 1: Hands-on Activities
Welcome to ISAAC‘s 10th Annual International AAC Awareness Month! For the past decade, October has given us some extra opportunities to spread the word about all things AAC, and it’s pretty exciting to think back on all we’ve done and also to plan for the current year. Each week during AAC Awareness Month we’ll share suggestions for things to do to help others learn about a field that emerged to support children and adults with complex communication needs.
This week, we’ll focus on hands-on activities. A popular approach to AAC Awareness Month is to invite a group of colleagues or families to come together and communicate only through AAC for the event. Some years, we’ve held ‘Silent Snack’ events before class where we put out a variety of board games and invited some of our AAC clients to come in and play along. They enjoyed serving as our AAC Ambassadors, meeting new people, and ‘wow-ing’ the crowd with their AAC skills. Other years, we’ve held Silent Breakfasts where participants had to use AAC to get their food and beverages at different stations, AAC pizza parties, screened AAC-friendly movies, participated in AAC Read-a-Thons, and taken our AAC out into the community.
The most successful events were those in which there was a little structure, such as playing a game, which is rich in authentic reasons to communicate. Let’s get started!
- For hands-on activities, your participants will need access to AAC. So print some communication boards, like this one from CoughDrop, or pull out some SGDs/AAC apps.
- Select an activity to do with your group.
- There are lots of good ideas for communication games in this book by Sally Millar and Joanna Courtney from CALL Scotland
- Familiar board or card games work well as the game itself seems to take the focus off the AAC and lets the participants focus on communicating and having fun. Short, simple games, like those listed below, are usually better than lengthy or complex games (e.g., Monopoly, Catan).
- Go Fish
- Battleship (regular or our AAC version)
- Chutes and Ladders
- Guess Who
- Prepare some handouts or other takeaways for the participants to keep. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- During the event
- Be sure your participants each have some form of AAC right from the beginning. You probably don’t want to give them AAC that takes a lot of instruction because too much time will be spent on that rather than on your activities. Communication boards, books, and SGDs/apps that are more intuitive usually work best.
- Get your cheerleading clothes on! Be prepared for people who are reluctant to participate and use AAC. Chances are that they’re afraid of looking silly or incompetent. Make it as risk-free as possible so that people feel comfortable trying out a new way of communicating.
- Get in there and have fun with it!
- A few other things to think about:
- You might want to have a people sign in and provide their email addresses so that you can follow-up with additional AAC information or invite them to other events in the future.
- Invite some people who use AAC and/or their families to serve as models for those who are new to AAC.
- Consider designating a photographer to document the event. Be sure your participants are comfortable with being photographed and that appropriate privacy guidelines are being followed. In some contexts, the photos will be great for printing and display and/or sharing with teams. Be careful about sharing on social media if any identifying information shows in the photos.
- Keep your extra materials for next year!
This post was written by Carole Zangari