We are so excited to announce that today, in collaboration with the non-profit organization Jasmynn's Voice, we provided the Melvin G. Millet Learning Center in Saginaw, MI with ten iPads loaded with Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC, applications, to help give a voice to students with communication challenges.
The Millet Center in the Saginaw ISD services roughly 230 students ages 3-26 with disabilities like autism, cognitive impairments, secondary emotional impairments, severe multiple impairments, hearing and visual impairments.
“In this last quarter of 2020, our organization has really tried to focus in on places with high needs for help with AAC implementation. We discovered that the Millet Center is a place with very high needs,” explained Julia Dapkus, founder and Executive Director of Communication Is Key, AAC. “After deciding to award the center a playground communication board, a comprehensive literacy textbook, and access to the 2020 Talking AAC Virtual Conference, I got into more in-depth conversations with their main speech and language pathologist, Cassidy Hossack, regarding the needs of a center as a whole. When I heard about the situation at Millet, we knew we needed to do more.”
It was after that conversation that Dapkus reached out to Jasmynn’s Voice, an organization located in Adrian, MI that provides iPads as an AAC device to those who have autism and struggle with language deficits and/or delays.
“It is our belief that the iPad can be one of the many keys to unlocking silence for those with autism. Through educational apps, and apps designed specifically to “speak” for nonverbal kids or adults on the spectrum, there can be improvements in behavioral struggles, anxiety, and frustration,” stated Melissa Archer, founder and President of Jasmynn’s voice. “All of these accompany an inability to be understood by the “speaking, neurotypical” world.”
Collaboratively, Dapkus and Archer came up with a plan to grant 10 iPads to Millet from Jasmynn’s Voice, and to include software compliments of Communication Is Key, AAC. The iPad devices, along with the playground communication board, a low-tech version of AAC, were delivered on December 6.
Hossack, who joined the Millet Center in May, has worked hard to implement AAC throughout the school since she began her role as speech and language pathologist this past spring.
“I have had 50 core boards installed in every classroom since my arrival in May and have about 10 students trialing high tech devices but we needed more support,” explained Hossack. "We have a total of 232 students in our school currently. About 165 of those students are diagnosed with autism and all of them have varying language levels and/or communication needs. However, I would say every one of our students has communication struggles. We have a lot of students that are echolalic and their verbal language does not meet functional needs. Additional AAC support is crucial so that these students can communicate, and the award from these two organizations will have a great impact on our students.”
“So many schools, therapists, and families are struggling with the added complexities that COVID-19 has brought to us,” said Dapkus. “We are so grateful that we have the ability to award this very deserving school and dedicated speech and language pathologist additional resources to help their complex communicators.”
Thank you as always to our supporters - we wouldn't be able to do this without you! If you're interested in learning more about Jasmynn's Voice and what they do, please visit jasmynnsvoice.org.