Modelling AAC

This Youtube clip, with the rather unwieldy name of “Communication Practices: Non directive language, engineering environments with Erin” is 45 minutes long, and isn’t as scary as its name sounds.  The term “engineering environments” simply means to set up the environment you’re working in for best outcomes, in this case, modelling AAC.  There are some great practical suggestions there, especially for those just starting out with AAC modelling, when it feels quite overwhelming.  I liked the idea of having a duplicate of the child’s AAC on hand for yourself to use, wherever you may be, whether that’s a laminated set of screen captures attached to a handbag strap, or an iron-on piece of cloth in the nappy bag.

Auslan resources

Hannah and I have been attending Auslan classes at Deaf Services Qld this term.  I’ve always loved watching people communicating using Auslan- it’s so expressive!  Abi is learning Key Word Sign (which uses Auslan signs, but only signs the key words in each sentence) at school and in speech therapy, and is starting to use a few of the signs herself.  Generally by about an hour and a half into the class, Hannah and I are quite tired from concentrating so hard!  But we are happy with what we have learned, and feel that we are making good progress.  It’s great that we are doing it together, as we can practise at home between classes.  We use Auslan Signbank if we can’t remember the sign, and the pictures in the book aren’t clear enough.

I was looking at something on Youtube tonight, and as I was browsing, I found a clip of Advance Australia Fair in Auslan.  Not only that, there was a tutorial before the song, demonstrating every sign used!  Hannah and I were thrilled with how many signs we recognised.

BrightonSigningChoir, who uploaded that video, has numerous other Auslan clips on their channel, including Happy Birthday (with tutorial), Rainbow Connection, Roar, What a wonderful world, Fireflies, Aussie Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus is coming to town.

We enjoyed them so much, that we began searching on Auslan songs on Youtube.  Here are some more that we found.

Sing a Rainbow is an excellent opportunity to practise our colours, though some of the signs used in this clip differ slightly from those we were taught.  May just be Northern/Southern dialect.

RangaRyan6 has several clear and expressive songs on his channel – Lean on me, What a wonderful world, Imagine, and some nursery rhymes and popular contemporary Christian songs.

Dan Jarvis also has some lovely clips on his channel, including Lean on me, I will always love you, and I have nothing.

There are a couple of songs signed by a little girl called Yu Ri- her expressiveness was fantastic!  She signed Fireflies and Advance Australia Fair.

Mrs Klaproth signed Silent Night slowly so that the signs can be seen easily for practise.

Darren Kirkegard has a great clip of Amazing Grace.

User Liz Eux has a clip of a little girl signing Do you want to build a snowman?

I think Hannah and I may have just found a good option to keep practising our signing over the Christmas holidays!


“Ghost Boy”

One of the best books I have read in a while is “Ghost Boy“, an autobiography by Martin Pistorius. At age 12, he became sick with an illness the doctors were unable to diagnose, which resulted in severe muscle weaknesses and lack of speech. He was unable to use his body to show his family and caregivers that he was mentally aware, so his physical needs were attended to, while his unstimulated mind retreated into imagination. His use of language is beautiful, but also rightfully disturbing, as he describes the abuses he suffered at the hands of certain “care”-givers. Eventually, one caregiver realised that he was understanding and responding to her, and spoke to his parents about having him assessed for AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). He described the joy of communication, then discovered some of its limitations- and ultimately its power to help facilitate his dreams. As we are starting down the road of AAC ourselves, I found his comments and experiences to be insightful.

It’s a sign!

It’s a sign” is about the benefits of teaching children with delayed speech and language how to sign.  (This article refers to Makaton, which is known as Key Word Sign in Australia, and is based on signs from Auslan [Australian Sign Language]).  Like the author, we have found that by consistently modelling signs for our daughter, she is starting to use signs to communicate with us- and is starting to try to vocalise some words.  There are many different places to learn Key Word Sign- many Speech and Language Pathologists know some sign, Disability Services Queensland occasionally host workshops for their Early Intervention families, and Deaf Services Queensland run Introductory-level Auslan courses.

Communication about disabilities

Disability Services Queensland has put together some great resources about how to communicate with people with disabilities, and additional tips about guide/hearing/assistance dogs.  Towards the bottom of the page, there are several links- two in particular are exceptional.

The first is “A way with words: Guidelines for the portrayal of people with a disability”.

The purpose of this booklet is to promote inclusiveness and the fair and accurate portrayal of people with a disability.  It is intended as an aid for professional communicators, such as journalists, writers, producers and broadcasters, and provides suggestions for appropriate language, interviewing techniques and media coverage involving people with a disability.  

While that description does sound rather dry, the booklet is very engaging and readable, with great cartoon illustrations throughout.  Some of the recommendations include emphasising individuality (eg emotions, interests, problems, talents, frustrations, faults and roles), not disability; avoiding superhuman or excessively emotive portrayals, and not focusing on the person’s disability unless it is important to the story. There is also a list of words to avoid, with acceptable alternatives.  One suggestion given was to use the phrase “uses a wheelchair” instead of “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound”, because a wheelchair provides mobility, not restriction.

The other link that I found useful was the Medical Signing Board.  There are Yes/No/I Don’t Know options across the top, front and back models of the body in the middle, 15 options for medical issues on the left (eg hot, cold, vomit, headache, bleeding, broken, seizure), 12 communication options on the right (eg need more information, call someone, worried, too loud, hungry), and a visual 1-10 pain scale at the bottom.  The second page lists some things paramedics might do (eg blood pressure, take temperature, bandage, medicine), a short social story, visuals for wait/be still/calm down, and some interaction tips for the paramedics.  Very thorough- wish I’d had this for Abi’s last admission!

Autism and SN Guides Qld and beyond

One of the incredibly resourceful ladies I’ve had the privilege of “meeting” through Facebook has put together two very indepth resource guides that she is keen for people to share wherever they would be useful.

A Resource Guide & Ideas for Therapists, Teachers, Parents and Carers working with people with Special Needs- covers a multitude of topics, and is well worth checking out.

The Queensland Autism Parents Handbook is 101 pages and is a comprehensive guide to autism services, support, tips and ideas for Qld. The book is most relevant to Qld but is a valuable source of info wherever you live.