Let me tell you about something that has happened to me many, many times over the course of my life as Mateo’s mom. It’s happened when we were chatting in restaurants as a family, standing in line for attractions at Disneyworld and riding on trains and planes. It’s happened at the Grand Canyon, Cleveland Indians games, monster truck shows, campgrounds, beaches and waterparks. People are intrigued with how Mateo communicates and he communicates EVERYWHERE. There is nowhere he goes without his device or, when he needs something that fits in his pocket, he uses his iPod touch with an app on it. He tells us it doesn’t bother him anymore when people appear to be staring. I think it used to make him feel uncomfortable because there was a time he was very reluctant to speak in public places, refusing to order his meals in restaurants, for example. Now he proudly sings the National Anthem with his own voice for crowds. Don’t get me wrong. He wishes he could use his “real” voice if he could, but with AAC he can say anything that’s on his mind.
AAC has been a part of our lives since Mateo was four years old. He’s attended camps to promote his communication, gain confidence, meet other AAC communicators and learn to advocate for himself.
Before meeting Mateo, many people have said to me that they’ve never met someone who communicates using AAC. Others have said to me that they’ve never met an individual who is able to communicate as proficiently as Mateo or who could truly communicate anything they’d like to say. To me, this is still so surprising to hear. Maybe that’s because we’ve been fortunate to be a part of an amazing extended family all brought together by Joan Bruno and her beautiful Camp Chatterbox. Maybe that’s because I’m a speech-language pathologist. Maybe it’s because I’ve met cool kids at Camp ALEC as well. There are AAC communicators all over the world. Thankfully, we are not on this crazy rollercoaster ride on our own.
So, here I am on my soapbox again. Individuals who are nonverbal can only communicate exactly what’s on their mind if they are able to write. Mateo uses a robust core vocabulary program called Picture Wordpower 100 on his Dynavox Maestro. But, despite all my efforts to convince him that he’d be faster if he used his core vocabulary, he prefers to spell and use word prediction for the bulk of his messages. That’s because he can. Language + Literacy = Empowerment!
I want to show the world how Mateo communicates–and how others are empowered with AAC as well. He’s given me his permission to do so. Here he dishes about Camp ALEC in an interview. We’ll post more talks soon.
Want to show off your mad AAC skills? Just getting started and proud of those early words? Let me hear you ROAR! Email a link to your video to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share it.
If you’d like to learn more about Camp ALEC, a literacy camp for AAC communicators offered August 14-20 at Indian Trails Camp in Grand Rapids, MI please visit http://www.campalec.com.