I 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,
Every time you provide access to motivating and meaningful communication, your students have access to feeling:
A Sense of Equity
Treated as a real person and less as an object
Like they have a voice and are being listened to
They can offer friendship
"I can do it"
That they can speak for themselves
Like part of a group
Like they can communicate openly
Social Closeness (Musselwhite 2001)
Like their voice matters
Natural, not manufactured desire
Able - to choose whom to chat with
Like someone is listening and responding
A sense of Belonging