What Gets Lost
Imagine having one key communication strategy and no one knew that it existed. This horrifying experience was documented in the book ‘I Raise My Eyes to Say Yes,’ the autobiography of Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer. For years, she effectively used eye gaze with her family to answer yes/no questions, but when Ruth was placed at a residential facility, things eventually changed. Staff turnover, something we’re all familiar with, was the culprit. With time, new staff came in and didn’t realize that Ruth communicated with her eyes. Ruth was silenced for years until someone noticed that her ‘eyes up’ movement wasn’t reflexive or random.
We must do a better job of documenting AAC systems in a way that makes it easier for new communication partners to understand how our clients communicate. In actuality, it’s relatively easy to explain about signing and yes/no signals. Those are the more conventional means of expression among the unconventional ways of communicating. But what about other modalities? We’ve been talking about multimodal communicationthis month. How do we share information about the gestures and behaviors that our AAC friends use so well to communicate? What can we do to let people know what his/her communication board/book is actually like? How can we efficiently convey what vocabulary the communicator has to a fellow clinician or teacher?—It’s a bit ironic that the field of AAC, so grounded in representing information visually, still uses written reports as the gold standard for sharing information on a person’s AAC system. Clinical reports, SOAP notes (ugh!), IEP forms, Present Level of Performance summaries, and the like are our primary means of documenting how our friends who use AAC communicate. I don’t know about you, but from where I sit, these methods of conveying information about AAC systems leave a lot to be desired. Not only to people not read and process these things as well as they should (let’s be honest about that), but they are just not effective in presenting a complex situation clearly.—
I’ve been playing with the concept of representing a person’s AAC system graphically. It’s not ready for prime time yet, but I am having a great time learning about visual literacy, exploring infographics, and surfing the web for ideas. Here’s what’s on my ‘spec sheet’ so far.
- An ‘At-A-Glance’ view of what components are in an individual communicator’s AAC system
- Visually appealing
- A quick way to tell what forms of communication the person uses most often
- Shows where the person has access to core language, emergency messages, and social vocabulary
- Is interactive and links to more info on that tool or strategy
- Uses multiple modalities (hmmm…that sounds familiar)
What about you? What’s on YOUR wish list for sharing info on AAC systems with key stakeholders?
This post was written by Carole Zangari