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October is International AAC Awareness Month!

AAC (Alternative/Augmentative Communication) has long had a very special place in my heart.  In fact, it was a very personal interest in AAC that propelled me into a career as a speech/language pathologist  and assistive technology consultant (see ASHA In the Spotlight article for that history).  While I do my best to promote AAC all the time, October is designated as “International AAC Awareness Month,” so let’s ALL do what we can to spread the word about significant communication disorders, assistive technology, and disability etiquette!

Here are some resources to help you inform and interest others in AAC, and to increase your own knowledge, as well.  Through your efforts, perhaps someone will realize that a family member or friend could benefit from AAC, and perhaps some others will become more accepting and effective communication partners to those who use AAC.

  • Are you new to AAC?  Want to know more about it?  Then you absolutely, positively must bookmark www.praacticalAAC.org as your #1 go-to place for all things AAC.  And while you are at it, visit and “like” the companion Facebook page to follow all new blog posts.  Trust me, the field of AAC is growing and changing constantly, and the wide range of issues (assessment, procurement, funding, implementation, and barriers to the same, just to name a few) can be overwhelming. PraacticalAAC hosts Robin Parker and Carole Zangari have managed to tackle all of these topics and more, presenting them in bite-size chunks of information that even a newbie in the field will understand and appreciate.  I have lost myself for hours on their site, soaking up their words of wisdom, and am always sharing specific posts and recommending the site as a whole to teachers and SLPs with whom I consult.  Here’s a thought:  on your next inservice day when the district has lots planned for teachers but nothing relevant to you, gather your SLP staff and spend the day exploring and reporting out on various topics on this site.  That could just be the best inservice day ever!  And do as I do — share, share, share the information you find with parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators.
  • Want to help AAC users get beyond “I want __” to more engaging communication?  Download the free book from CALL Scotland called “Keep Talking:  Structured Communication Activities for Fun and Learning.”  You’ll find loads of quick and easy activities here for your AAC users and their communication partners.
  • AAC expert Gail Van Tatenhove offers a free and for-purchase resources on her site.  Be sure to search her name on YouTube for instructive videos, too!
  • My recently published children’s book, “How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname),” can be used in classrooms and youth groups to raise awareness of AAC through an engaging story that resonates with elementary-aged children.  The beautifully illustrated, autographed book can be ordered through www.patmervine.com, where you will also find a free Reader’s Theater version, a Discussion Guide/Writing Prompts, and a Communication Word Search.  An e-book version for iPad and Kindle is now available from TeachersPayTeachers.  I used this book as part of a Disability Awareness Day at my elementary school, and it was a huge hit with the students and staff.  You can read about that event here.  While that was a full day event, teachers, librarians, and SLPs can use “How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname)” and Katie’s Lessons in Disability Awareness (illustrated PowerPoint) in the classroom to promote understanding of AAC and acceptance of all differences — the perfect lesson for International AAC Awareness Month!
  • To keep up with news related to AAC and Assistive Technology, visit and “like” Katie’s Facebook page.
  • For a dizzying collection of “pins” on every aspect of AAC and AT, visit the Pinterest site compiled by my colleague, Lauren Enders.  A word of caution:  time ceases to exist when you start exploring these pins!  This is definitely the starting place when looking for anything AAC/AT on the Web.
  • The International Society of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (ISAAC) and United States Society of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (USSAAC) promote AAC across the US and around the world through research, publications, conferences, scholarships, and other outreach efforts.  Visit ISAAC to learn about the events planned around the world to bring AAC to international attention this month.
  • You’ll find lots of useful information about all aspects of AAC on the websites of AAC device manufacturers and distributors, including Prentke-Romich, Dynavox, Ablenet, Enabling Devices, among others.
  • Consider joining the ASHA Special Interest Group #12:  Alternative and Augmentative Communication to access literature, message boards, and other resources for ASHA members who belong to this SIG.

Once you have explored these and other resources, what will YOU do to celebrate International AAC Awareness Month?  Maybe….

  • Have teachers and students become “nonverbal” for a class period, an hour, a day?  When teaching graduate school, I had my students be nonverbal for 24 hours, then write about the experience.  To a student, they found the experience to be far more difficult, frustrating, and emotionally draining than they ever expected, and the revelations they discovered about themselves, their family and friends, and the strangers they encountered during this silent period were astounding.
  • Teach a sign language class.
  • Provide students with a variety of communication boards (download some from Gail VanTatenhove’s site) and have them use the boards in class and to communicate with friends at lunch or other social periods.  OR have students brainstorm and create their own communication boards to encourage introspection as to what words and messages would be essential to them.
  • Invite a student or adult who uses AAC to visit your school to speak to your students.
  • Encourage students to research famous people with significant communication disorders who have had remarkable lives (Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Evelyn Glennie, to suggest a few).
  • Read books with your students about children who have communication disorders, such as How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool new nickname), to start a conversation about communication, differences, acceptance, and inclusion.

I’d love to hear your ideas!  Post them here or on Katie’s Facebook page.  Happy AAC Awareness Month!

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