The vital importance of AAC – the professionals’ view

In our last post we heard the thoughts of people who use AAC. This time, two professionals – one in education and the other in health – provide their compelling perspective on the importance of AAC and the benefits it can bring to the individuals they work with.

Elaine Jamieson is a principal teacher at a primary school in Glasgow:

“As a teacher working with children with multiple additional support needs I stumbled across AAC a number of years ago and haven’t looked back. Now I can’t imagine how I could ever have taught without using AAC. It’s an integral part of my daily teaching activities and actually always should have been –but for some reason I was oblivious to AAC (as I suspect many people still are).

“Supporting children to communicate using sign, symbols and/or high tech devices has become a real passion for me. It truly does make a difference to the children I work with. Imagine not being able to make yourself understood? Many of us have this experience when we travel to a different country. Think of the feelings you experience in that short snapshot of time, then consider what the impact would be if that was day after day, week after week, month after month. Thankfully, AAC strategies, and people who are willing to take some extra time with individuals who use AAC, can and do make a massive difference.

“The ability to communicate with others is something which I believe is fundamental to society. It’s an essential part of how we build relationships, how we think and learn. It has a massive impact on future life options. AAC is that important!”

Laorag Hunter is a speech and language therapist at a hospital in Dundee:

“After a stroke, ‘Eric’ had severe aphasia (difficulty understanding and using language). Living with his elderly mother, he made good progress with his communication and mobility, and was extremely determined to become independent. Over the years Eric gradually took on more responsibilities and now does more caring for his mother than she him. However, he was still frustrated with literacy tasks and various approaches to overcome this had little impact.

“Eric was not to be put off and asked us if any technology could be of help. With a loan iPad, he quickly gained independence using programs to compose and read emails, and is now using an iPad Mini of his own. Thanks to this, Eric has gained privacy, independence, and pride in new skills. His mum as also benefited through the peace of mind that Eric can manage better on his own.

“It’s important that those of us in speech and language therapy remember that technical solutions may be available today that were not an option a few years ago. We need to have an open-door policy to our service, supported by awareness-raising, so that people like Eric who may be long discharged from services are recognised and directed back to SLT for assessment.”

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