Building Acceptance to AAC- Accessibility
It is AAC Awareness Month and everyone has really been spreading the word and helping to build AAC acceptance. Participation barriers continue to prevent full AAC acceptance. In order to help combat these obstacles it is necessary to talk about them, deconstruct them, and attempt to build solutions. So after going over attitudinal barriers and information barriers, we need to discuss accessibility barriers. It’s a shame that there are so many barriers to making AAC work, but we know that with awareness comes improvement.
Barriers of accessibility can be about motor, sensory, cognitive, literacy, or communication/language issues. For this discussion though the focus is on accessing AAC to learn a comprehensive language in ALL modalities (i.e., talking, listening, reading, & writing). The prevention of access to a comprehensive system is usually tied in to assumptions about cognitive and literacy skills. Although it seems that most professionals realiize that there is no pre-requisite to access to some type of AAC (we hope), it seems that there continues to be an INCORRECT perception that there are prerequisites to having access to complete and robust AAC systems. It is infuriating that incompetence is presumed before any teaching or Visual Immersion Program is provided.
We can not expect for children to learn language by exposing them to a few picture symbols. Yes, they may learn to request those things, or even comment but it’s just not enough. We need to teach individuals with complex communication needs (CCN) comprehensive language. The amount of conflict over ‘proof’ that an individual can use an AAC system before they even have have meaningful access to it is maddening (sorry if we already said this but recent experience says it all). We would never try and teach or learn a language with only access to a few words. AAC is like a visual language overlay and should be robust and authentic. Students need more than 4-6 weeks with before we say ‘nope not for you’. We need children to have access to multiple AAC systems, just as we do (We use the phone, text, email, & even handwritten notes). As we continue to support the path to AAC Acceptance by breaking down barriers, we can help individuals with CCN gain ACCESS to AAC systems that include no tech, low tech, & high tech with comprehensive language displays.
“Individuals with CCN (complex communication needs) are often denied access to computer technologies until they can demonstrate that they can use them. Such denial deprives these individuals of the ‘opportunity’ to learn, placing them at risk to fall further and further behind their peers. Pencils are not withheld from children without disabilities until they prove they can write; rather they have access to pencils, crayons, markers, and other writing implements early on, before they know how to write, in order to support their learning of writing skills. Similarly, early in their development, individuals with CAN require access to technologies and/or software to serve as ‘electronic pencils’ along with other supports for writing and drawing”. Beukelman & Mirenda’s (2013), Augmentative & Alternative Communication: Supporting Children & Adults with Complex Communication Needs, (pp. 320), Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
Filed under: Strategy of the Month
This post was written by Robin Parker