Why We Threw an AAC Party for Our Daughter


Jess with her AAC device at a table
Jess with her AAC device.

Before my daughter Jess found her AAC voice (augmentative and alternative communication, a term used to describe the many different methods of communication for people who have severe speech or language problems), she was very frustrated. All we could do was guess by her gestures what she wanted. When she couldn’t tell me, then I decided for her.

This all changed when we found the app Speak for Yourself.  I never would have programed words such as “exceptional,” “remarkable,” and “annoying,” if she hadn’t told me.

Since October is AAC Awareness Month, my plan was to have a party. The last thing Jess wanted to do was endure yet another dinner party. She didn’t have to voice her displeasure; I could read her body language. As far as she is concerned, these events are all the same. Everyone talks, she listens and the topics don’t interest her.

However, this time, the tables were turned.

The goal of this gathering was to show our guests how Jess’s Talker worked. Besides understanding what it takes to use a device, my hope is they share this experience with another person (if more, they get extra credit).

We gave each couple an AAC device, loaded with the app Speak for Yourself. Jess’ whole demeanor changed. She went from slumping in her chair, to sitting bolt upright. The playing field was now leveled and she was ready to get this party started.

Typically, when people see Jess with a computer, they assume it’s “just” a game and she is overindulged. I want to change this. I want people to realize this is her voice.

After giving our guests a quick overview, I started with a simple question.

I started with Jess and asked, what did she want for dessert?

She replied, “ice cream” with “sprinkles.”

Ice cream has always been an ice breaker and this was no exception.

Everyone then asked where to find the words.

After having hands on experience with the AAC device, the group quickly realized, while this was easy to use, they had difficulty remembering word location. I assured them this improves with practice. Just like they can access a keyboard, learning the motor planning for an AAC device is no different.

The comment which got me thinking the most was, “I don’t need to use a device to speak to Jess, because I can talk to her.”

True, but people like to be spoken to in their own language, and Jess is no exception. Besides, this is one party game she liked!

Follow this journey on You Don’t Say AAC

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