Thanks to Fiona Given for this article:
AAC Voice Halloween Picnic
This year AAC Voice marked AAC Awareness Month by hosting a Halloween themed picnic on the 31st October at the Kokoda Memorial Track picnic area in Rhodes.
We really appreciated the people who were new to AAC Voice, especially those who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), who came.
People used a range of low tech and high tech AAC. We also had a variety of AAC methods demonstrated on the day. These included PODD communication systems, Liberator communication devices and Key Word Sign NSW.
There were witches and fairies. The picnic area was decorated in true Halloween style with Halloween balloons, tablecloths and even a pumpkin!
The greatest thing about this year’s event was the diversity of the people who came. There were people who used AAC, speech pathologists, owner and chef from a nearby pizza restaurant, an audiologist, a teacher, a GP and a social worker. We really did raise awareness of AAC
October is AAC awareness month, and ISAAC Australia is proud to announce our inaugural AAC photo competition. To be in the running to win a prize, email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet to @isaacaus (#aacpics). The competition closes on 30/10/15. All photos showcasing AAC are welcome. Good luck!
30th Anniversary Free Access Event
It has been 30 years since the founding of the Augmentative and Alternative Communication journal in 1985. To celebrate this milestone, the AAC journal editors, past and present, and publisher Taylor & Francis are providing key articles free for a period of 30 days. One article will be featured each week during the month of October 2015. These releases coincide with International AAC Awareness Month, celebrated every year in October. Two additional articles will be available in December 2015.
We are excited to announce the first featured article, now available online:
- Early Intervention and AAC: What a Difference 30 Years Makes
MaryAnn Romski, Rose A. Sevcik, Andrea Barton-Hulsey & Ani S. Whitmore
AAC, 31, 181-202.
Abstract: This article provides an overview of early intervention and AAC over the 30-year period since the founding of the journal Augmentative and Alternative Communication in 1985. It discusses the global context for early intervention and addresses issues pertaining to young children from birth to 6 years of age. It provides a narrative review and synthesis of the evidence base in AAC and early intervention. Finally, it provides implications for practice and future research directions.
Re-visit this page for updates throughout October!
There are a lot of things I could say about Janelle Sampson, she is just a fantastic
woman full stop.
Janelle has taken a tremendous business risk this year and has started running
workshops by people who use AA C, which is inspiring the AA C community in
South Australia in so many ways.
Mel Smith says, I had the privilege of working closely with Janelle in November
2014 on a mentor project connected with two way street and funded by Julia Farr
Foundation, it was probably the most rewarding and enjoyable weeks in my career
as an AA C user. Janelle was incredible to work with, because she was so
passionately professional about everything and everyone. She certainly made me
feel highly valued and confident in all areas of my knowledge and expertise, and this
made my week in Adelaide incredibly easy. Janelle always makes the time to listen,
to offer advice as a mentor or colleague would and never does she take over from
one’s original ideas or suggestions. Janelle is an extremely dedicated communicator,
very clear in her mind what AA C is, and very positive at all times to learn from AA C
users themselves I am extremely proud to know this woman professionally and
The Information Award. The award is given for work that raises
awareness of AA C. It includes articles, lectures, public appearances, radio interviews or
public work of art.
This award goes to Jack White, of Shelley, Western Australia.
Jack died this year, he was only ten years old but kept using his AA C strategies until the
very last days.
Jack White is a 10 year old boy who has always just wanted to live an ‘ordinary’ life,
but in doing so, has been extraordinary. Jack has mitochondrial disease and due to
this, is unable to sit, stand, walk or talk without full support and assistance. Jack has
used the PODD communication system as his main means of communicating since
he was 3 years old. Through using his PODD, Jack has been able to share his
bright mind, wit and imagination and been able to live an extraordinary-ordinary life
full of adventure, travel, pirates and superheros, a passion for the ocean and all
creatures within it, and plenty of high-jinx spy games – finding the words to call his
nasogastric tube his ‘comms’ for example.
While visiting Sculptures by the Sea at Cottesloe Beach, WA in the summer of 2013,
Jack White was inspired by a glass sculpture of a whale shark. Set against the
turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the sculpture, named ‘Transparent Sea’,
so captivated Jack that he used his (PODD) to tell his communication partner that he
wanted to write a poem about it. Using partner assisted auditory/visual scanning
with a combination of head nods, squeezey big blinks and his voice to indicate yes,
Jack navigated his PODD, writing for over an hour. He used the same AA C
strategies and system to share what inspired him to write his poem. His poem, and
inspiration, was later entered in the Sculptures by the Sea writing competition and
Jack won first prize. This excerpt from ‘Jack’s Story’ written by his mother,
Charmaine White gives further insight:
“The message in Jack’s poem is profound. Like the whale shark, Jack is
It took Jack just over an hour to write his poem, all the while, fighting off
seizures and fatigue. His poem aptly describes how he yearns to experience
the freedom and mobility to move with ease and explore his environment just
like the whale shark, as mito has robbed him of the ability to use his legs and
he is confined to a wheelchair. On his entry form Jack was asked to comment
“What inspired your writing piece and why?” he answered: “I can not speak. I
know (what it may be like for the whale shark). I’m wanting you to know.”
I’m not dead,
I feel. I love affection.
Peaceful, I can know.
I can not talk.
I can not go.
Imagine I go to my park, beach, sand.
I, you, float, whale shark.
I need to swim.
Jack’s poem, along with Jack’s Story now sits on a plaque alongside ‘The
Transparent Sea’ sculpture as a permanent exhibit at the Maritime Museum in
Fremantle, WA. Through his poetry, Jack is raising awareness of AAC. His poem
and his story stand next to ‘The Transparent Sea’ sculpture in a public space, as a
permanent visual testament to anyone with complex communication needs trying to
have a voice, trying to make their voice heard.
Last year, Jack was chosen to be the 2014 Variety Bash Ambassador . His
involvement as the 2014 Ambassador meant he travelled up to Exmouth, opened the
water park there and formally led off the bash. Jack also had his dream come true,
going out whale watching, spotting his beloved whale sharks among other ocean life.
Throughout this remarkable experience, Jack of course had access to his PODD and
was able to use it in his ‘professional’ role as Ambassador, chatting with the
‘bashers’ and tour operators alike, advancing awareness of AA C amongst a wide
range of different groups of people within his state.
Sadly, after a long battle with illness, Jack recently passed away. That Jack was able
to communicate effectively albeit with great effort using his AA C system and
strategies right up to his last few days, meant he was, at just 10 years of age, able to
grapple with the hardest conversations one can expect to have in life when facing
the reality of one’s own mortality. It was during this time when Jack was told about
this nomination for an ISAAC Award. It gave him great joy to know that his work
would be recognised in the form of an ISAAC nomination.
We will send Jack’s parents the award certificate and the gift voucher telling them
to buy a gift for themselves from Jack.
Eli Dickenson (Maylnads, WA) is a young adult in his twenties who lives his life to the full. He also happens to
have Angelman Syndrome and associated complex communication needs, and uses a
range of AAC tools and strategies to communicate. Eli is an active member of his
community, in fact, of the many varied communities to which he belongs.
Eli has strong social connections within his immediate community. He maintains many long-
term friendships and continues to build new relationships through his skill at selecting from a
wide range of multi-modal communication strategies the best to suit his particular community
environment or friend. For example, with his mates at the footy Eli tends to ‘yell out’ using
the Big Button Box app to select from a wide range of sound effects that which most
appropriately expresses his feelings towards the ref or players, whilst he uses sign to convey
more discreetly to his mates exactly what he thinks of the opposition’s supporters. In other
contexts with his same buddies he may point to symbols on an Aided Language Display – for
example at the swimming pool he has one attached to his kick board, yet with those same
buddies out in the pub he might use a combination of sign, vocalisations, his PODD and
PODD for compass on his iPad to share in the banter or more in depth conversation. Eli
loves interacting with people and his friends are very important in his life. Learning to use a
range of AA C supports has been extremely positive on Eli’s ability to form and maintain
friendships across his communities.
In the early years, Eli’s business began hiring out Panasonic Toughbooks to other people
with complex communication needs and behaviours which can be seen as challenging so
that they could learn to use technology and find a tool to help them communicate. There are
a number of people in Western Australia who now use technology as a result of Eli’s
business. Eli’s promotion of Toughbooks lead to them being funded devices in WA, and for a
while he had the nickname ‘Toughbook Eli’. He now uses an iPad and focusses more on
public speaking for his work.
Increasingly Eli has been sought after as a public speaker whose personality and use of
technology inspires others to see that everybody can communicate and make decisions
about their own lives. His first presentations in schools included Esperance Primary School
and Presbyterian Ladies College in Perth, and he has done a number of presentations in the
School of Education at Edith Cowan University and the School of Business at Curtin
University, showing students the value of experiencing alternative communication and giving
them confidence to engage with AA C users. Eli has since presented to many family groups
and workshops, including the Angelman Syndrome national conference and the Voice
Choice Control conference in NSW in 2013. Last year he was a paid presenter in the
Supported Decision Making project workshops run by WA’s Individualised Services, and was
paid to present to the national leaders workshop for the N D I A, in Geelong last year about
his life, showing the importance of individualised services, friends and a belief in everyone’s
ability to self-determine.
Eli actively uses his AAC in his on-going post-school education. In 2012 and 2013 Eli
attended classes and studied for the “Certificate I in Music Industry”. Although he hasn’t
yet passed all components of this course and has therefore not yet attained the certificate,
through his participation, Eli has raised significant awareness in this community (for students
and staff alike) about the importance of AAC in allowing genuine academic and social
inclusion to occur in both the classroom and around campus. His use of multimodal AAC
strategies enabled him to form at least one new long lasting friendship with a fellow student
in the class. This student happens to be a refugee from Uganda and Eli’s use of AA C
enabled him to bridge differences in language and culture.
Eli can often be seen out and about in his community, cycling or trainspotting, wearing and
using his AAC systems. As well as his voice, key word and idiosyncratic signs, and other
informal communication, Eli uses his personalised 40-cell PODD book, PODD 60 for
Compass on his I Pad and other AA C technology to communicate. Eli also maintains a
strong social media presence, both with his personal Facebook page and his Merger of
Minds business Facebook page, and is nearly always pictured in his posts with at least one
of his AAC tools. Eli frequently uses his own emergent writing skills to post on his Facebook
walls independently, and also tells his friends or support workers what to post using his
PODD book or PODD for Compass on his iPad. Within this forum, Eli shares stories of his
many ‘AAC success moments’ in the community .
Wherever Eli is, he has multiple means of communication with him. Wherever Eli is, you can
be sure he will be working out which of his AAC tools the people he is intending to interact
with will most understand or respond to. Eli is constantly surprised when other people he
meets with disability do not have AAC available to them and finds ways to communicate this
to those he is with. He is a passionate advocate for AAC and an exuberant role model for
those with complex communication needs – especially those who may also have been
considered by others to have an intellectual disability and/or demonstrate behaviours which
others may consider to be challenging. Eli is changing perceptions, forcing different
members of the varied communities with which he engages to think about AAC differently, to
recognise that everyone needs a voice and that with a voice a good life is possible.
The ISAAC Australia Community Award goes to someone who actively uses AA C in
the community and actively contributes to the use of AAC in the community. This
award goes to Sue Stevens in Eltham, Victoria.
Sue is a dispensary technician at a community pharmacy in Hampton
East. Amongst her customers are a number of people with disabilities.
Sue makes an effort to communicate with customers using their
preferred methods. She has picked up a few key word signs from her
regular customers and puts these to use.
In 2014, Sue was featured in the “Good Things” video. The video
showed Sue using simple Key Word sign to communicate with a
customer. Since the video was released, Sue has had a lot of feedback
from customers and acquaintances and has developed an interest in
disability. She has gone on to study in the field.