Ushering in a New Year of AAC
The new year brings hope and promise, something that the AAC community can always use a little more of. Here are some thoughts on strengthening our sustainability as AAC service providers as we embark on the upcoming year.
- View our role in AAC as a marathon, not a sprint. Supporting AAC learners can be an overwhelming experience and requires staying power. Pace yourselves, AAC friends. We have to be in it for the long haul, and that means we can’t use up all of our energy in the first leg of the journey. It’s okay to go home even though there’s more left to do. Remember the flight attendant’s advice: Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
- Keep learning. No matter how much you know about AAC, there is always more to learn. Whether it is reading journal articles to keep up with the latest research, viewing videos or webinars, or attending conferences, we can all commit to advancing our knowledge base and skills.
- Re-evaluate your schedule. This is a tough one because there is always more to do than the time slots allow for. Nonetheless, we owe it to ourselves to examine and tweak where we can. Look for things that make your commitment to AAC unsustainable and see where adjustments can be made.
- Advocate for yourself as an AAC practitioner. Most AAC interventionists are impossibly short of time and resources, and many of us suffer in silence. Let’s make this the year that we are more vocal advocates for ourselves. We can:
- Give our supervisors feedback on the time we spend on essential AAC tasks that don’t appear on our schedules. We can be direct or indirect, depending on our own level of comfort. “Hey Bonnie Boss, just a quick email to let you know that I spent a couple of hours after work this week updating Student’s communication book in preparation for the upcoming meeting. I’m committed to helping this student, however, I can but would love to be able to fit this into the workday. Anything you can do to support these efforts would be appreciated!” “Hi, Bonnie Boss! Just touching base to get your input on Student’s communication book. It will take me 2-3 hours to update that, and I don’t have any open slots in my schedule to make that happen. Can you take a look and give me some input as to what you think I should cancel or shift around? Many thanks!” Awkward? Yes. Difficult? Usually. But we’re not asking for a fancy dinner or a trip to Paris. We’re asking for what we need to do our jobs well.
- Make a quick call to our professional organizations to let them know of the real-world challenges in our workdays and ask for their help to lobby for changes on the state and national levels. This is another ‘systems change’ activity that can help us in the long run. If more of us ask our professional organizations for help or at least make them aware of the issues that bog down our work week, we’re more likely to get ‘our issues’ bumped up on the priority list.
- Let others know when we’ve managed to leverage our connections with AAC and AT vendors and others in order to borrow equipment, get free training, etc. This helps them know that we are doing our best to obtain resources in the most cost-effective way possible. We’re great at creative problem-solving but not-so-great at tooting our own horn. Sharing the things we do that save the organization money helps others see our resourcefulness.
- Take advantage of resources that save you time and money. Angela Moorad of Omazing Kids has a wonderful post on getting free/low-cost access to AAC apps (and more!) that you can check out to get started. Click here for that post and follow Omazing Kids on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsYoga/ ) to get the latest deals and tips.
Finally, this is a good time to reflect on an old adage: Perfect is the enemy of good. Let’s resolve to do our best, treat ourselves kindly, and keep moving forward.
Do you have ideas for working smart and sustaining your AAC energy as time goes by? We’d love to hear about them.
This post was written by Carole Zangari