Raising Awareness of Alternative Communication

October was Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Awareness Month and District Speech Therapist Jacqueline Barry used the month as an opportunity to spread awareness throughout Kent Elementary School. Barry designed a bulletin board in the school hallway that highlighted different technology devices and other and alternative ways that some individuals use to communicate based on their individual needs.

Jacqueline Barry posing with bulletin board

“I wanted to do something for the month because I felt that a lot of people didn’t know what augmentative and alternative communication systems were, and they are seeing more and more kids in need of that support in the building,” said Barry.

Augmentative and alternative communication is any means of communication that either supports verbal language or replaces it. It could be anything from sign language and facial expressions to typing words and whole technology support systems on an iPad or other device.

“In the PACE classrooms, we have lot of children that have communication difficulties,” said Barry. “We have children who are limited and/or non-verbal communicators, and many of them use augmentative and alternative communication in some way.”

Barry notes that augmentative and alternative communication devices are also used by several students outside of the PACE program, which is why a broader awareness is so important.

She explained that augmentative and alternative communications systems can help any student who may not be a fully effective communicator. It might be because people are having a hard time understanding them due to speech intelligibility or articulation, or a variety of other reasons. Augmentative and alternate communication strategies and devices can provide support for a wide range of students.

Barry's goal is to ensure that district staff and students alike recognize that if they see students utilizing devices throughout the building there may be an important reason why. An iPad may be a tool and a support system for a particular child – not to be confused with a toy.

She highlighted that teachers and staff who work closely with students using such devices are aware of the devices and even trained on how to utilize them. But, making sure that everyone in the building who sees the child is aware is a big, but important, step. Barry plans to continue raising awareness of augmentative and alternative communication in any way that she can around the District.

“I would like to do more with the school and district as a whole to bring more awareness because pamphlets and bulletin boards only go so far.”