Before establishing The Communication Toolbox, I spent four years working with the Aids and Equipment Program, Electronic Communication Devices Scheme. In this role I provided Electronic Communication Devices, software and communication apps for people who had difficulty communicating verbally. I also provided the client’s team with some initial training in how to use the device. This training covered the important basics of setting up the device and how to charge it etc but I always wished for more time to spend on my true passion: supporting people to use their device in the long term. This has been the impetus for creating The Communication Toolbox, a private speech pathology practice that assists people with complex communication needs to evaluate and implement Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) options.
Learning to communicate is a journey that takes time, especially for those learning to communicate without speech. Using AAC may include the use of gestures, pictures and communication boards, as well as more complex systems like Electronic Communication Devices or apps such as Proloquo2Go.
For those who use communication systems that contain stored pictures, words or phrases, sessions at The Communication Toolbox might include:
- Creating a map of folders in your communication system that contain all the words you like to use, as well as room for what you might like to say in the future
- Identifying core vocabulary items that relate to the activities you enjoy, so that you can access the words you need at the appropriate time
- Storing vocabulary items within your communication system so they can be accessed quickly without requiring too much navigation through folders
- Programming vocabulary logically so that you can find what you want to say
For most people, the process of learning to communicate via AAC is long-term endeavour and requires motivation, practise and access to communication partners who are skilled in communicating through the chosen AAC method. Ample time should be spent modelling the use of the AAC system before any expectations of using the system should be placed upon the person. It takes time to:
- Establish trust
- Develop receptive language skills (e.g. learn new vocabulary and how the words fit into sentences)
- Develop confidence to communicate (especially if one has not had the opportunity to experience communicative success before)
- Learn how to use the communication system
- Learn how and where words are stored in the communication system
I read a fantastic comment the other day on Proloquo2Go’s Facebook page (posted by Jennifer):
“Too often we stop trying AAC if the person doesn’t start using it right away! Typically developing children get 12 months of people talking to them before they’re expected to speak!”
How true! This comment illustrates the importance of perseverance when learning to use AAC.