Overlooked AAC, Part 2
If you’ve ever engaged the services of a babysitter, housekeeper, or pet sitter, you can probably relate to the thought and planning that went into those initial interactions. Chances are, a lot of care went into building a trusting relationship as you tried to clearly communicate expectations and explain in detail the processes and procedures they would be undertaking in your absence. Having someone else care for that which we cherish and hold dear, is a big deal.
We cover the basics – where the diapers are, how to prepare their food, daily routines – and much more. Favorite toys. What it means when they say/do ___. How to do __ in just the right way. We even provide written backup, like a schedule and a list of contacts. The information we share is critical. We can’t imagine trusting a babysitter we’re meeting for the first time to provide a child with sufficient care unless we’ve provided this key information. We carefully communicate these essential things so that the experience is safe, positive, and productive in our absence.
Because people with AAC needs often cannot do this spontaneously or independently, advance planning is critical It can be the difference between wellbeing and distress, comfort and anxiety, safety and harm. For the best outcomes, AAC users need ways to convey key personal information to those entrusted with their care in ways that are clear, comprehensive, easy, and efficient.
We never know when something will happen that separates them from their strongest advocates and puts them in the hands of an unfamiliar person. A trip to the emergency room. A substitute aide. A different supervisor. Evacuation to a shelter. A primary caregiver who is unexpectedly out of commission. A new camp counselor. A hospital stay.
And because there is a steady stream of urgent priorities and things that must get done right away, AAC service providers rarely have the time to look ahead and help their clients/students prepare for these eventualities. Today, we hope to inspire a few of you to do just that.
Together with the person who uses AAC and their most trusted allies, AAC service providers can prepare materials in advance that will help in many situations. Here are a few concrete suggestions for action steps.
Start by determining what the top priority is, ensuring that the AAC user/learner and their caregivers have input to this decision. Some materials have a more medical orientation and others are geared toward interactions in educational or caregiving situations. Look through some of the available tools to see which one is the best fit for your needs and then work together to complete it.
- Learn more about the Communication Passports – what they are, why we use them and how to create them – in this past post.
- This one from Widgit has color-coded sections with critical things to know (red), important things to know (Gold), and likes/dislikes (green).
Basic Communication Charts
Use a simple chart to help others understand the basics of what to know about interacting with this specific AAC learner. Here’s an example from Helen Anderson Associates.
Direct Link to Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh1tXdZ89uc&ab_channel=helensandersonHSA
You can download their form for that here.
Gesture dictionaries are incredibly helpful in some situations. You can see other examples and downloadable materials from a past post we did focusing on individuals who communicate in subtle or unconventional ways (Check that out here).
If mealtimes require special attention or equipment, consider creating a personalized placemat that contains important details. Angela Crocker’s excellent work on this would be of great benefit to those who are at high risk of choking, need foods served in a special way, use adapted utensils, etc.
These can take many forms.
Learn more about them in the video below.
Direct Link to Video –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FOcJGE4m5I&ab_channel=BelfastHealthandSocialCareTrust
Covid-19 Disability Forms (US)
Forms specific to a medical encounter, such as this one created in case Covid-19 treatment is needed, can be invaluable.
Single Page Profile
Learn about developing short profiles in this online course from the Social Care Institute for Excellence. You can also develop a brief profile, such as the one-page version described in this video from Helen Anderson Associates. Templates are downloadable from this page.
Direct Link to Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnaKnVWFh44&ab_channel=helensandersonHSA
After Completing the Forms
The most comprehensive profile, passport, or form won’t be much use unless people know that it exists and can access it easily.
- Provide copies to relevant individuals and educational, therapeutic, and care organizations.
- Review the information with them and provide training, if needed, on interaction strategies, modes of communication, etc.
- Consider finding a way to have a copy with the AAC user wherever they go. It might be an envelope in a backpack or a laminated version that slips into a bag on their wheelchair, for example.
- Take a photo or upload the file to a phone or mobile device that is always with them.
- Discuss this at annual care and IEP meetings so that the team doesn’t forget about it.
Do you use forms, tools, or strategies like this that we should know about? Please share if you can.
You can see the first part of the Overlooked AAC series here.
This post was written by Carole Zangari