Somehow being an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) specialist with PATINS has put me in the position of listening to the confessions of school staff:
“I’m not good with technology.”
“They didn’t teach any of this when I was in school.”
“AAC is not my thing.”
It’s usually said in a hushed tone when they think no one else is listening.
“I have nothing but good news,” I’ll often say. “90% of what we’re talking about is just good instruction for all students that you already know, we’re just framing it in a new way to support non-speaking students. The rest I’ll put on a cheat sheet, and I find cheat sheets helpful too.”
But what I want to say is “AAC wasn’t my thing either and look at me now!” At one time, out of the things that SLPs had to learn, I would have ranked AAC dead last. Even below the paperwork.
I had “The AAC Class.” In one semester I was to learn everything I needed to know about AAC and I would be set for the rest of my career (haha!). However, there was one little snag: the professor who taught the AAC class took a sabbatical and another staff member was wrangled into covering it so we could graduate on time. This is what I learned that semester:
At least, nothing which was practical or helpful in the real world. I was given my first “real job” caseload with several non-speaking students, a binder for PECS, a Boardmaker CD, and released into the wilderness. My class notes were worthless.
I was in trouble and these students needed something I didn’t have: the knowledge of how to “do the AAC.”
Of course, AAC was definitely not my thing. But it had to be because there was no one else. I adopted a simple plan that has kept me afloat to this day: just keep saying “yes” to every opportunity. Every training and app I could find to practice with, every opportunity to attend or present at conferences and network. None of this came naturally or from a book or college course. Yes, I will pilot it. Yes, I will learn it. Yes, I can teach it. It was just years of chasing ideas and tools for students that made them light up inside when they found their voice. I made mistakes, forgave myself, and tried to learn and do better. Yes, yes, yes.
Exactly none of us started life as “technologically gifted” or imbued with the knowledge of AAC or any technique or educational principles. We all had to start at zero and learn.
When someone says “AAC is not my thing,” I think what they're really sharing is that they are scared.
They are scared of failing. They are embarrassed by the idea of not being enough for the task. They are traumatized and work-worn from so many evaluations and tasks, and worried that their work won’t be enough.
And you know what every scared person wants?
A friend, a light in the darkness, and some tools.
At PATINS we have lots of those. Did you know that if you are an Indiana public PreK-12 staff member and one of our events on our training calendar isn’t at a time that works for you or your team, you can request it at another time? If you were hoping to talk about that topic but wanted 1:1 personalization or a deep dive into a special topic, we can set up that consultation at no cost to you or your district.
In particular, for those who are ready to say “yes” to trying out AAC tools and techniques, we have a process just for that. For a no-cost PATINS AAC Consultation, please fill out this referral for each student. This 2 minute video is a brief overview of our process.
The scariest thing that could happen is doing nothing.