Here’s the foundation upon which everything else is built — our children have something to say.
And you know what?
They have more to say than “want cookie.”
That’s what AAC (augmentative & alternative communication) is built around. Everyone has something to say, and everyone has the right to say it.
It seems so simple, but when you are a person with a disability or a parent to someone with a disability, you will quickly learn how earth-shattering this presumption is almost everywhere you go — even among the therapists and teachers you expect most to support this. You watch your child get wrapped up in prerequisites, spending days or years on color and picture matching, without any way to tell you that something’s wrong or that something’s awesome. If you’re lucky, your child works on requesting. They bring home their picture book and you’re dismayed to discover that you have nothing to talk about. The pictures of the juice and swing can only go so far, especially when your child is only learning to ask for them.
Communication is so much more. We communicate so much to each other every day — we say hello, we comment on things, we share ideas and likes and dislikes. We use our eyes and hands and bodies to tell the world about our energy and openness to talking. We work together when that word is “stuck on the tip of our tongue” or we get tongue-tied. It’s a two-way street. It’s creative. It’s full of meaning.
Using AAC, for me, is believing that our kids deserve the supports to communicate with the world — to express themselves. It is about how if a child is NOT communicating, then we have not done our job to look for their communication, to respond to it, to notice it, to give it the proper importance that it deserves. We haven’t done our job to try out supports and systems. And we have to. Every child and adult has the right to be heard. Every one.
And that’s what AAC awareness month is about for me. It’s about technologies and systems and learning what’s available, but it’s also about teaching the world that our kids and adults are ALREADY speaking to us if we open our ears to hear them and open our minds to give them a chance.