Monday, December 26, 2011

Hearing the Knock

Carole Zangari

Wishes are wonderful things, seducing us with their promise and possibility. And there is no better time to reflect on what we hope for than in the last week of the year. So our next wish is for another intangible, the big O: Opportunity.

As 2012 dawns, our AAC wish list is all about opportunities. Our parents and teachers tried to prepare us to recognize opportunity, and promised us that it would come knocking.

But sometimes the knock of AAC opportunity is drowned out by other things. Sometimes we just don’t hear it. We may miss the opportunity to teach a new clinician how to expand the language of a teenager learning to use a speech generating device. We may miss the chance to create the teachable moment for a child just learning to use AAC to make a comment. We might miss the opportunity to encourage a parent to give their child choices of what to do, eat, or wear. We may miss the opportunity to educate a misinformed professional who fears that using AAC will prevent a student from speaking.

Knocks that we didn’t hear. What to do when we miss those chances? The legendary comic, Milton Berle, had the best answer we’ve found. It’s all about creating new opportunities. “When opportunity doesn’t knock,” he said, “Build a door.”

In the year to come, we hope to build a lot of doors. Doors of opportunity, because windows are sometimes too small.

In the upcoming year, we dream of:
  • Plentiful opportunities for people who use AAC to communicate, because we all need to practice when we’re learning something new.
  • Plentiful opportunities for educators, SLPs, families, and others to give AAC a fair chance before deciding that the individual ‘isn’t ready.’
  • Plentiful opportunities to provide support to people learning AAC. More teaching and less testing.
  • Plentiful opportunities for AAC to be encouraged across activities and environments. Communication all day long, not just at snack time. Not just in school.
  • Plentiful opportunities for meaningful goals and expectations. Communication is about power and participation, not tasks and compliance.
  • Plentiful opportunities to build a dialogue with you about AAC. It’s a complex field and ongoing interaction about how to make it work will benefit both of us.

Our ears are peeled, listening for those knocks. And if they don’t come, well, I guess we’ll be building some doors.

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