This summer I participated in a 21 Day AAC challenge to encourage use of Aidan’s talker. In the spirit of accountability, or meeting a friend at the gym (I’ve heard people do that) Dana gathered people on Facebook to encourage each other and share their stories.
Here’s what I learned during this challenge:
1. We used this opportunity to showcase some of Aidan’s lesser used words. We played reverse hide and seek with Aidan choosing the BEDROOM or LIVING ROOM or KITCHEN for Liam to hide in. Aidan also got to boss Liam and tell him to RUN or DANCE FAST or SLOW.
2. I recognized the need to have Aidan’s talker available at all times. He deserves ALL HIS WORDS ALL THE TIME. Seems simple enough but it’s one more thing to be mindful of. We learned to take the extra time to lock a bar that holds his talker onto his wheelchair. We bought a strap for our model talker. This is the x-tra ipad we use in Aidan’s presence.
Aidan and I went to the Farmers Market one day. He walked by and reached for some homemade biscuits three times. Aidan can be very directional and purposeful in his walking. My arms were busy with supporting him and his walker was attached to his wheelchair down yonder. With a talker around my neck, as gangly and awkward as that may be, I could have asked him if he wanted to buy these biscuits. We did and I smothered them in chocolate and whipped cream.
3. In a nod to functional and age appropriate communication, I taught Aidan how to send text messages.
It’s a harder cognitive task because his communication partner isn’t present but Aidan’s already proven himself to be smart. We have a few people highlighted in yellow on his talker that he can text. He still has limited words so he sends messages such as, “GREAT HOT HAPPY.” But with time and modeling he sent a message that read, “I FEEL BORED.” That’s a complete sentence. Did you notice?
But here was my biggest take-away:
We are now an AAC Family.
This hangs on our wall now.
This challenge caused me to ponder then change this piece of our family culture. I’m still not entirely sure what it means but AAC is no longer just something we try to fit into Aidan’s life. His talker goes everywhere. As generally anti-technology as I’ve been (we haven’t owned a TV since our kids were born and we still don’t own real cell phones) I’ll be wearing an ipad more often now. And just as a foreign exchange student needs to be immersed in a new language to learn it, we’ll all be using AAC now as much as possible. The typical “tell me about your day” dinner chat starts with passing the extra talker around. We’re mindful of having Aidan’s words and using them at all times.