As our 2nd Annual Golf Outing approaches, we wanted to share this personal letter from Joe Dapkus, husband of our Founder and Executive Director, Julia Dapkus. Joe's words really help people to understand the basics of AAC and his insight as a dad of a complex communicator is so valuable.
I am reaching out to let you know about the 2nd annual Communication Is Key Golf Outing which supports a cause very close to my heart. My wife Julia started a non-profit a few years ago which offers support to children, parents and teachers of children that may lack the basic skills to communicate. As you may or may not know, our daughter Isabelle is one of those children. She is on the spectrum, along with other diagnoses, which affects her communication. She was diagnosed with Apraxia Of Speech at age 2 which is a speech sound disorder. Someone with AOS has trouble saying what he or she wants to say correctly and consistently. With a TON of therapy Isabelle has come a long way but fortunately was also given the opportunity to learn how to utilize an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device. Speech software created to be used on an ipad, AKA her "Talker"~
You may have seen someone write in a notebook to answer a question. Maybe you have seen people using gestures to communicate. You may have seen someone point to pictures or push buttons on a computer that speaks for them. These are all forms of augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC.
AAC includes all of the ways we share our ideas and feelings without talking. We all use forms of AAC every day. You use AAC when you use facial expressions or gestures instead of talking. You use AAC when you write a note and pass it to a friend or coworker. We may not realize how often we communicate without talking.
People with severe speech or language problems may need AAC to help them communicate. Some may use it all of the time. Others may say some words but use AAC for longer sentences or with people they don’t know well. AAC can help in school, at work, and when talking with friends and family.
Unfortunately not all families have the opportunities to receive these other forms of communication for various reasons (insurance may not cover, etc). Even if the child does get the device, as we found out personally, not all teaching staff have the proper training to help with the child's progression using it! These are some of the factors which led Julia to form Communication is Key AAC.
Communication is Key AAC is a Michigan non-profit organization that believes that every individual has the right to be able to communicate. Its mission is to improve access to communication for those with complex communication needs by increasing training for Speech pathologists, teachers, support staff in schools and the community, and families, and increasing opportunities for those with complex communication needs to meet others with similar needs.
Communication is Key was founded by families who were frustrated with the support (or lack thereof) their children were receiving from local schools and therapy facilities.
People with complex communication needs have a right to communicate, and a lack of trained staff who can help them learn to communicate effectively is an impediment to achieving their goals. A lack of role models who also use communication methods other than their voices hampers their development as competent communicators as well.
It is our goal to improve services to those with complex communication needs, and their families, in order to help them reach their communication potential."
Details on our golf outing can be found at the link to our event at the bottom of this post. In the words of Joe, "Whether you sign up for golf, take on a sponsorship or donate an item towards the raffle prizes, everything goes towards supporting a child with these complex communication needs!"