During October, Easterseals Crossroads is proud to recognize providers of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) services. October is the national month of recognition for the service that uses technology and other methods to replace speech or writing for individuals so that they can communicate.
According to one of our families:
My daughter’s AAC device has given her a voice. She is less frustrated because she can make people understand what she wants or needs. This in turn has made her overall quality of life so much better.
Wendy Strickland works with children and adolescents at Easterseals Crossroads. She works with families who have children who are not able to communicate via traditional methods. She evaluates individual needs and helps determine the appropriate communication device to help a child be understood. Once a device or method is determined, she works with a child and his/her family to learn how to maximize the communication process. Wendy answered the following questions about Augmentative Communication.
What do you do at Easterseals Crossroads? I am a speech-language therapist specializing in augmentative communication services. I have been employed here for 9 years.
What is the best part of your job? The best part of my job is seeing kids use words for the first time. So many of the kids I see have never had a way to communicate. I love showing them where words are located on a device and then letting them explore on their own to see what they can say. Some kids will start pointing to objects in the room and label them while others will find the joke section on the device and start telling jokes!
What is a typical day like for you? I spend most of my day in therapy with kids teaching them and their parents how to use their devices. I also do evaluations to determine what device would be appropriate for those who are just beginning alternative communication.
How do you incorporate play into speech/AAC therapy? Why is that important? I always joke and say that I get to play for a living! Playing is what kids do every day; therapy needs to be guided with play as much as possible. For younger kids, I use typical toys – doll houses, bubbles, cars and any toy that lights up and plays music. We work on the vocabulary that would be used while playing with those toys. For older kids and young adults, we play games and use Ipads in therapy to make activities appropriate and engaging.
Why is Easterseals Crossroads such a great place? Easterseals Crossroads is a great place because we provide such a variety of programs for individuals with disabilities across their life span. I like being able to help families transition from one area to another. I know that whatever service they engage through us, they will be provided with extremely high standards.
What part do parents play in their child’s progress in therapy? Family involvement is a vital part of any therapy program. Using an AAC device takes a LOT of practice. The best way to teach using an AAC device is through modeling using it yourself. Parents need to be a part of therapy so they learn how to use and model the use of the device. It is also important to know a family’s expecations for therapy to help establish goals and long-term outcomes for use of an AAC device at home.