I have been encouraged over my many years in this field that the quality of life for individuals with complex communication needs will be significantly improved through the use of AAC devices and services. There have been significant innovations and improvements to technology, along with a decrease in price, lending potential support to these individuals. Students are investing more credit hours at the University level in the areas of Assistive Technology and its sub-set, Augmentative and Alternative Communication. And, there are more laws governing the provision and use of Assistive Technology in the workplace and the educational setting. There are many success stories out there, and my story needs not to diminish their value. However, the success stories, in my experience, are the exception, not the rule.
This blog and website seeks to open a discussion among professionals, caregivers and AAC users so that we may begin to make these "success stories" the norm, instead of the exception. For starters, despite technology becoming cheaper, I don't see this impacting the major companies that provide some of the most sophisticated Speech Generating Devices (SGDs). Why isn't this dropping their prices? I see school teachers and parents charged with the day to day support required to produce an AAC expert user with little knowledge themselves about language acquisition or sound pedagogical strategies as to how to teach communication and language skills to these individuals. I see teachers who must teach in several languages, if you will, in the same classroom- juggling Picture Communication Symbols from Mayor Johnson, Symbolstyx and Vantage, to name a few. But, where I mention difficulties or barriers, I also see solutions.
I will continue to use the Communication Bill of Rights (ASHA, 1992) as a framework for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of this field so that we may begin to see a real change in the quality of life for individuals with complex communication needs.
From the National Joint Committee for the Communicative Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities. (1992). Guidelines for meeting the communication needs of persons with severe disabilities. Asha, 34(Suppl. 7), 2–3.