Learning About Augmentative Communication Empowerment and Supports (ACES)
Is it summer yet? Not where we live, but that doesn’t stop us from making plans. In today’s post, we hear about the Summer 2016 Augmentative Communication Empowerment and Supports (ACES) Program at Temple University which will run from July 18-29, 2016. SLP Kathryn Helland, AAC Services Coordinator at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, shares information on this innovative program for young adults who use AAC. Kathryn provides training, AAC evaluations, device demonstrations, and AT consultations to consumers of Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT). True to its name, this program has a rich tradition of changing lives and empowering adults who use AAC.
ACES – What’s it all about?
It is a steamy hot day at the end of July. Temple University’s already diverse campus is further enriched by the presence of students in wheelchairs. They sit, chatting under the ginkgo biloba trees. They are all young adults, with the same dreams shared by many people their age; finding a job, building relationships, living independently.
These students, however, have already had to overcome far more than most people their age. The most dangerous of these hurdles has probably been that of low expectations. Not their expectations for themselves, but the expectations set, and assumptions made by others.
These students are nonverbal. They have complex bodies. They have had to fight their entire lives to communicate who they are. This does not mean, however, that they have nothing to say. In fact, these students all use different forms of augmentative and alternative communication; AAC. Speech-generating devices give them a voice.
“I want to attend Lehigh University and …work at Warner Brothers.
I want to live in my own home … have parties and do karaoke. I want to eat out.
I want to travel … and live in California.” – Shaun Tomko
They have all come to Temple to participate in ACES, Temple’s Augmentative Communication and Empowerment Supports summer institute. They will spend 12 days on campus, living in accessible housing.
The philosophy underlying ACES is communication through total immersion. Participants and tutors use their speech-generating devices all day long. Activities are centered on improving communicative competence and independence throughout the two week experience. This includes continuing to learn the “language” of their devices, as well as maintenance, and customization of their user interfaces.
“My dream is to one day live with a buddy in an apartment in Colorado Springs, CO.
I plan on having lots of friends and working as a [national news] writer ….” -Joshua Hayes
The focus of ACES is the transition to adulthood. The aim of the two week institute is to empower these young adults to advocate for themselves. Over the course of two weeks, they develop a vision for the future and an action plan. This may entail planning for employment, for independent living with supports, or continuing on to higher education.
“My dream is to go to school at Wichita State University, live in dorms with five friends and fly to visit New York City.” Lauren Herren
Developed in 1990 at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University by Diane N. Bryen, PhD, ACES is staffed by communication professionals and other qualified experienced personnel – including mentors who are SGD users themselves. We are eager to see who will be joining us for ACES 2016!
The ACES Program is presented by Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT), a program of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. It is for young adults who use communication technology (speech generating devices). ACES helps to develop and refine their skills for effective communication and self advocacy at home, school, work and in the community.
- Attend a 10-day “learning experience” on campus.
- Receive months of preparation and supports from staff
- Learn to improve communication, computer and daily living skills.
- Focus on transition from high school to adult life.
- Create a plan for employment, post-secondary education, and/or community living.
This post was written by Carole Zangari