Kids Plus speech pathologist, Jenna O’Brien, recently returned from a busy three and a half weeks in the USA learning all things augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). She shared with us some highlights of the trip below:

  • Volunteering at the ICAN Talk AAC summer camp with children and young adults from across the US who use AAC and their families and caregivers. It was brilliant to see the use of AAC systems happening in the community.
  • Trying out the setup of brain computer interface (BCI) as an access method for communication systems with Dr. Katya Hill and Dr Jane Huggins. This is pioneering research that will support those with very minimal movement.
  • Attending the Pittsburgh AAC Language Seminar Series that focussed on AAC intervention strategies for beginning communicators and how best to support families. Lindsey Paden Cargill presented at the seminar, she is a speech pathologist who is carrying out some very exciting research into successful implementation for families and educational staff. Dr Tracey Kovach who developed the AAC profile, an assessment tool that the Kids Plus speech pathology team use regularly also presented at the seminar.
  • Meeting Dr. Bruce Baker in Pittsburgh. He conceived and developed Minspeak® or minimum effort speech as a way to represent language in the 1980s. Some of our clients are currently trialling or use this language layout on their speech generating devices today, with lots of success. Dr. Baker continues to be extremely passionate about supporting speech pathologists to learn and understand his approach.
  • Attending AAC training sessions targeted at educational staff and/or parents to see how best Kids Plus can deliver content and empower these individuals to model, use and advocate for their child, teen or young adults AAC system.

It’s been amazing to come back inspired and with new ideas to support the wider therapy team at Kids Plus. We are all dedicated to best practice in AAC and will continue to use the expertise in the team to focus on finding the best body position, ultimate access method and most appropriate communication device and language layout for each individual who needs AAC.

It is an exciting time at Kids Plus for AAC. We have recently made some communication equipment purchases that allow us to complete a lot of our evaluations and assessments in a very timely manner, as well as giving more flexibility to families who may want to trial equipment for longer or who just may need more time to make a decision about the best fit for them – we appreciate each family’s different AAC journey.

The equipment is also helping us deliver more effective training to our client’s community settings and allows our staff to better keep up-to-date with the equipment, including changes that occur with updates and programming.

We look forward to delivering more parent training opportunities to empower our families with the knowledge of how to use their loved ones’ AAC system and how to advocate for the use of the system in the wider community. We also look forward to developing a strong network of adults who use AAC who can be role models and mentor our younger or earlier communicators.

Fun fact: Did you know some of the most powerful AAC devices in the world were based on hieroglyphics?