Every month has a holiday associated with it.
New Year’s, we wipe the slate clean.
June is for brides, graduations and the start of summer.
Over the course of Jessie’s day, she sees only one other person using an AAC device (we call it her Talker). Imagine going to the market, a party or to work and no one expressed themselves or talked the way you did? Jess isn’t speaking a foreign language but she might as well be when she talks through her AAC device. This is why awareness is so vital. Half our problem is that people don’t know what AAC is much less it’s many forms. The other half is the assumptions people make.
For example, yesterday Jess and I were at a planning committee meeting. She saw a plate of cookies and asked for some using her Talker. Fine. No problem. Then she smiled at the lady sitting next to her and did her version of shaking hands resulting in the “oh aren’t you special” treatment (I mean this as no disrespect because Jess does present herself this way. It’s her way of working a crowd).
As the meeting went on, I don’t recall if Jess was making a comment, or was exasperated by the first speaker monologing (there were five more departments sharing reports) when she tapped “ridiculous”. This caused three people in earshot to chuckle and they gave knowing glances. At that moment, the woman next to Jess did a double take, she was re-assessing Jess. I then asked Jess to put her Talker into whisper mode so she didn’t interrupt the meeting again. I’m pretty sure she was bored and wanted to change the subject.
Whenever Jess goes anywhere, she wears her Talker. Every day she is exposing people to “her” voice. However, we need to do more.
For AAC awareness month, our wish is for every family that uses a device (or any of AAC’s many forms) to Pay it Forward. Tell three friends and ask them to tell three friends. Explain that when they share that they are making our world bigger. I want AAC to be as commonly known as a phone.
And if you are not an AAC family, I want you to pay it forward too. Here’s a sample script:
You: I just met a person that uses AAC
Them: What’s AAC?
You: It’s augmentative and alternative communication.
Them: What does that mean?
You: Dude you are already using it… when you text on your phone, you are talking without speaking. Some people aren’t able to speak so they use a computer to talk for them.
Actually, this script wasn’t made up. A few years ago we were having breakfast at IHOP. I overheard our waiter tell a co-worker how Jess ordered using an iPad.
Even though we educate people every chance we get, there is more emphasis during October. I’m hoping that when people Pay it Forward we feel a ripple effect because awareness has been shared.
Remember, knowledge is good!