October is International AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) Awareness Month and what better way to raise awareness of AAC that by getting people to experience it first-hand!
Some Key Facts on AAC:
- It is used as a way to replace speech or to support speech in individuals with communication difficulties.
- AAC can also be used to help these individuals to understand what others are saying.
- There are lots of different types of AAC. Signing, eye gaze, alphabet charts, ipad apps and voice output systems are all forms of AAC.
- If you’ve ever given someone a “thumbs up” or waved goodbye, you’ve used AAC!
- AAC is used by people of all ages. It is mainly used by people with Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease, dementia, Alzheimers, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Learning Difficulties, and Cerebral Palsy.
- Approximately 652,000 people in the UK benefit from using AAC (Scope, 2008)
- You can find more information here: http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/page/what-is- aac
Last year UCLU Giving Voice held a successful AAC Treasure Hunt and we have decided to make this an annual event. With committee members scattered around the Bloomsbury area, armed with low tech AAC devices, challenges and clues, the participants had to race to the finish line to win prizes.
To start off the event, tokens were hidden around the UCL Main Campus and the team who could find the most had a head start in their journey to the first location. Committee members were easily identifiable around the area with ‘ASK ME’ signs and big glowing pink balloons.
We were surprised by the number of people not taking part in the event who stopped and asked us about what we were doing. This was a great opportunity to explain what Giving Voice was, what this event was aiming to do and where they can find out more information. None of the general public had heard of Giving Voice or AAC before, and it was often a mention of Stephen Hawking that made them understand. A member of staff from an underground station was particularly interested in Giving Voice as she said she wished she could received more training on supporting people with communication difficulties, owing to the fact that she comes in contact with them regularly.
Once teams reached their first location, they had to use their BoardMaker Communication Boards to ask for help, and were then given a written clue by committee members. If they needed further clues, participants were encouraged to continue using their AAC rather than resorting to using verbal language. Many participants realised how limiting this could be and would often search their communication boards for things they wanted to say, and had to use gestures to fill in the rest.
There were 5 locations around Bloomsbury that the teams had to find, and each location employed a different form of low tech AAC, including image boards, yes/no cards, pen and paper, alphabet boards and fingerspelling. Once all 5 locations had been visited, they would eventually be signposted to the final mystery destination, which was, of course, a bar!
Throughout the course of the evening there were various challenges that the teams were encouraged to complete in order to shave minutes off of their final time. These included “Buy something for £1 using only AAC to communicate” and “Ask as many people as possible what the time is without using your voice”. A particular favourite was asking teams to spell GIVING VOICE with their bodies!
Additional fun challenges led to 5 random objects being collected, one stranger being videoed using AAC, 10 members of the public being spoken to about AAC, 22 instances of asking for the time without using words and 5 items being bought in local shops using only AAC. One team discussed the challenges they faced when buying an item in a shop: they found it hard to get the shop attendant’s attention without using words, as he was on the phone. They then felt that he was trying to look at all the symbols on the communication board rather than the symbol that the team member was pointing to, which she found frustrating.
Overall the event was another huge success for UCLU Giving Voice. We had 25 people attend from a variety of courses including Computer Science, Psychology and Linguistics. Participants were eager and committed to using their AAC devices and were creative in the ways they tried to communicate for example demonstrating their knowledge of Makaton Sign!
This event gave attendees the chance to experience use of low tech AAC to replace speech. Some said AAC was fairly intuitive, but reflected that there were additional options on devices such as the communication board that they didn’t use but thought could have helped them in some interactions. This led to conversations about the need to promote uptake of AAC devices by thinking about the user’s needs and competence, and ensure there is support and training for users. One team member stated that AAC provided a shared experience, such as the letter board, because everyone could see what was being typed. This led to a conversation about
attitudes towards AAC, and the fact that there are types of AAC that are becoming more ingrained in everyday life. For example, the increased use of everyday devices that require typing may mean that AAC may no longer be perceived as ‘odd’ or ‘different’.
The event ended in the UCLU Library Bar where some participants even used AAC to order pizza. The man who served them was not phased at all and engaged easily with their Boardmaker Communication Board. He said it seemed to “make sense” and was appreciative when complimented on his good communication skills.
Team One were the overall winners of the 2016 AAC Treasure Hunt, and received a little parcel of goodies. Congratulations to team one! Head over to our social media pages to see more photos and videos from the evening.
UCL Giving Voice Committee
Facebook: UCLU Giving Voice Society