Advocacy, Changing Perspectives and Practices, and Overcoming Resistance to AAC Techniques

Advocacy for access to communication training, technology and ongoing support throughout the life span is still needed to change perspectives and practices and to overcome resistance. Resistance to the use of AAC methods and strategies can come from many quarters:

Advocacy for the Use of AAC Techniques

Anne McDonald: Rowing Upstream. "Many are left behind. We still neglect people without speech. We still leave them without a means of communication. It should be impossible to miss out on literacy training, but thousands of Australians still do."

Amy Sequenzia: Attitudes – Communication. "I want to talk about attitudes in communication, or how non-disabled people need to understand a few things. First thing, everybody communicates. I will say it again: everybody communicates. If you don't understand the method, this only means that you don't understand, not that there is no communication."

Amy Sequenzia — Non-speaking Self Advocate on Communication. "I am non-speaking, I am happy and I communicate. I do not want to speak, I want to be respected. The frustration I sometimes feel is not because I cannot speak, it is because people don't value how I communicate."

Nonspeaking Youth Advocate at TASH Conference 2015 — TASH Talks- Benjamin McGann, Emma Budway, and Huan Vuong. "I am asking on behalf of those who do not have a voice to hear our plea to teach us." – Emma.

Huan Vuong — Huan's invited speech for the panel, Sound the Alarm: Addressing the Ongoing Crisis in Communication Services and Supports. "Current evidence suggests that many persons with significant support needs are not receiving the supports and services they require to communicate successfully across environments."

Changing Perspectives and Practices, Overcoming Resistance


Education of Service Providers who Deal with Persons who Communicate Using AAC, A Speaking Differently Position Paper. ". . . [of] greatest concern is the tendency for persons such as doctors or government employees to ignore persons with little or no speech in favour of their attendants or facilitators during examinations, treatment, meetings and other interactions." Includes recommendations for training of professionals.

See also Upfront by Sarah W. Blackstone

Five Reasons Why Presuming Competence is ALWAYS a Good Idea by Cheryl Jorgensen, SWIFT Talk Blog – Re-imagining Education. "Our judgments about students' intellectual capacities affect every decision we make about their educational programs, their communication systems and supports, the social activities we support them to participate in, and the futures we imagine."

Strategy of the Month: Building Acceptance of AAC by Carole Zangari, PrAACtical AAC. "No matter what age group or client population you work with, no matter what the service delivery setting is, you probably find yourself needing to build acceptance for implementation of AAC tools and strategies. So this month we've decided to share strategies for helping others see things the AAC way. We'll talk about strategies for attitudinal, knowledge, and access barriers."

Strategy of the Month: Classroom Participation by Carole Zangari, PrAACtical AAC. "Collaborating with someone like that is fun and energizing. But what if your partner is new to AAC or one who doesn't really know (or care to know) much about it? What if there is a bit of resistance to change or a passive-aggressive style?"

How I Do It: Autism and AAC: Five Things I Wish I Had Known by Deanne Shoyer. "All of us involved with autistic people need to get behind the idea of AAC Acceptance. Robin Parker at Praactical AAC wrote about this, outlining some of the barriers and possible ways to get around them. One of the ways we can get AAC accepted is to do whatever we can to enable access to AAC for all autistic people. We have to work to destroy this dangerous concept that speech is more valuable than any other form of communication."

"The System"

Meeting the Communication Needs of Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities — Fact Sheet for Parents. US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. (November 2014) Answers to many questions regarding communication supports in schools. "What do Federal laws require of a public school to meet the communication needs of students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities?

Dear Colleague Letter, Dated November 12, 2014. US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. "Students with disabilities, like all students, must be provided the opportunity to fully participate in our public schools. A critical aspect of participation is communication with others. We have enclosed a document, entitled "Frequently Asked Questions on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools" (FAQs), which explains the responsibility of public schools to ensure that communication with students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities is as effective as communication with all other students."

Frequently Asked Questions on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools – US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. (November 2014) "While the IDEA requires that schools make available a free appropriate public education (FAPE), consisting of special education and related services, to all eligible children with disabilities (including those with communication needs), the Title II regulations have a specific effective communication requirement for individuals with disabilities.6 As a recent Federal court decision highlighted, the Title II requirement for effective communication differs from the IDEA requirements on this point."

Effective Communication — ADA Requirements, US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section. "When choosing an aid or service, title II entities are required to give primary consideration to the choice of aid or service requested by the person who has a communication disability." (Dated January 31, 2014)

Upfront by Sarah W. Blackstone, Augmentative Communication News, February 2007. Introduction to newsletter issue on AAC methods and assistive technologies (AT) for people who acquire a severe communication impairment due to diseases or injuries. "Despite the proven efficacy of AAC as a treatment approach for individuals with complex communication needs, an individual’s access to AAC services typically depends upon (1) where they happen to live, (2) what their doctor already knows about AAC and (3) how aggressively they, or their family members, seek help from professionals who provide AAC services."

ASAN Files ADA Complaint on Communication Access in Schools. March 9, 2016. "As part of its new communication rights initiative, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has filed a groundbreaking complaint with the Department of Justice, seeking communication supports for five non-speaking autistic students in Arlington, Virginia."

AAC: Systemic Change for Individual Success by Jane Farrall. "Communication is never just about the individual – and AAC implementation should never be just about the individual either. Speech Language Pathologists are taught to see our interventions as being focused on the client and the individual, but we need to move beyond this. Until we work on and with the whole environment, AAC will not be as successful… And I explain to the funding body that a good AAC system has to be implemented accompanied by the right attitudes, beliefs and knowledge for successful communication to be the outcome."

The Path to Acceptance by Robin Parker of PrAACtical AAC. "It seems like we have been in a tunnel filled with the following barrier statements and meanings. We also included what we might like to say (and sometimes did) but also real solutions. If the attitude barriers continue though, AAC may just need a Positive PR Campaign…." Includes chart with Statement, Attitude Barrier, and Attitude Adjusters – Quips and Possible Solutions.

Family Members

Not Just for Some — Understanding Lu: Our family's journey in living with Rett Syndrome. "I know there millions of different life circumstances that can make obtaining a Tobii, or a PODD book, or any type of communication system a difficult task. My intention is not to place judgement or blame on anyone for what they can or cannot do. I want to talk about our views as parents in regard to the importance of overcoming any obstacles that are in the way of letting or children communicate."

An Open Letter to the Parent of a Child with Speech Delays by Dana Nieder, Uncommon Sense blog

The Person Living With Barriers to Communication

After devastating injury, Al pushes past frustration to learn to use AAC. "In the years after, Al struggled with not being able to speak, communicate his feelings, and understand instructions from others. As any of us can imagine, it was hard to accept this new reality. Feeling like his life had been taken from him, Al was uninterested in rehabilitation.",4ee1ab2c-bcc3-12a9-0ce2-2d34259a07af

AACtual Therapy: On Motivation and AAC with Samantha Weatherford, PrAACtical AAC blog. "Motivating clients to use and learn more about their AAC systems can sometimes be a challenge, particularly if the learner has had decades of life experience before being introduced to AAC."

Challenging Behavior in Aac Use: Why It Happens and What You Can Do by Patrick Brune, M.S., CCC-SLP and Marleah Herman-Umpleby, M.S., CCC-SLP, Tobii Dynavox. "Another reason your student may not want to use the AAC device is because its language content doesn't suit their needs."

Motivate to Self-Advocate by Kevin Williams, PRC ambassador, Let's Talk AAC Blog: Communicators in Action. "The question comes in many different forms depending on who is asking, but the general form is 'how do I get motivated to use my device?".