Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

"In Closing": Reflections on the Power of Augmentative Communication

A boy feels the outstretched hands of a girl in a wheelchairI had the absolute pleasure of being part of a Perkins eLearning workshop for the last 5 weeks, focusing on AAC strategies to use with students who are Visually Impaired and have additional disabilities.  I referred to this population of students as “Early Communicators.” As part of an assignment for the course, I asked participants in the workshop to list emotions a student may feel if he/she had access to a motivating social exchange. Keep in mind we are talking about students who don’t typically have the opportunity to participate in social interactions and conversations at the same rate or in the same manner as their sighted or blind “verbal” peers.  I was floored as I read through each assignment.  My colleagues generated a list (below) that made my eyes fill up with tears.  Even though this was one part of one homework assignment, their responses truly answered it all.
 

Below is my closing message to them, and I would like to share it with all of you as we close out 2013.  

Happy New Year!
 

Sometimes we think that AAC is just access to communication messages. Period. If you have ever witnessed a VI early communicator interact in a successful communication exchange at his/her highest level of competence, you know you have helped provide access to so much more. Please don’t ever forget the important work you are a part of in the fields of Visual Impairment and Communication.  

Thank you for all you do daily,

Megan

 

Someone is listening and responding

 

Every time you provide access to motivating and meaningful communication, your students have access to feeling:

 

Relaxed

Happy

Proud

Trusted

A Sense of Equity

Informed

Respected

Engaged

Treated as a real person and less as an object

Accepted

Excited

Appreciated

Relieved

Confident

Comfortable

Independent

Successful

Like they have a voice and are being listened to

Joy

Power

They can offer friendship

Control

Determined

"I can do it"

Relatable

Desired

That they can speak for themselves

Motivated

Like part of a group

Affirmation

Normalcy

Not bored

Like they can communicate openly

Empowered

Anticipation

Eager

Interested

Social Closeness (Musselwhite 2001)

Competent

Engaged

Enthusiastic

Inspired

Surprised

Amazed

Like their voice matters

Curious

Fulfillment

Challenged intellectually

Natural, not manufactured desire

Able - to choose whom to chat with

Content

Like someone is listening and responding

Autonomous

A sense of Belonging

Valued

Satisfied

 

 

FREE

 

 

“Wow.”

 

Pride

"Excited"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Augmentative Communication


 

Comments

Providing Access to Meaningful Communication

Posted by Faye Gonzalez

Posted on December 22, 2013
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for "In Closing": Reflections on the Power of Augmentative Communication

Faye Gonzalez commented on January 14, 2014

Megan, I love the way you always focus on the fact that our students with visual and multiple disabilities are people first and foremost above everything else - people that deserve the same basic life experiences that the rest of us who are "non-disabled" have. Thanks for always bringing this to light in such a positive way.

This post makes me think about how valuable being able to communicate about feelings and experiences really are. It reminds me of an exchange I had with several of my students who are AAC users that will always be burned in my mind. Sometimes it is amazing how genuine and real the things are that an AAC user says if you give them a chance and really listen. One of the usual group of students was out because she was having surgery and in the hospital, so we were talking about this. I realized during this conversation that every one of these students had been in the hospital for extended periods multiple times, and all had been in for surgery at least once that year. So I asked them all to use their AAC devices to write about this topic: "Surgery". Here is what they wrote:

Student 1: do do do feel mad she
Student 2: OK, boring, its not fair, scared.
Student 3: angry <his own name>

Pretty heavy stuff, and yet after writing they all seemed as if a weight had been lifted. I really saw the deep value in sharing and being heard, for all of us.

- Faye