April is Autism Awareness Month. We posed the question to our community, “What does Autism Awareness Month mean to you?” We received many different replies but we wanted to share one in particular with you from Megan Stewart, MS CCC-SLP.
If you would like to follow Megan on social media, you can find her on Instagram at @aacandasdslp and on Facebook at @aacandasdslp.
Autism and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) - two things that are near and dear to my heart - and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to work with in my daily life as a Speech/Language Pathologist (SLP). All of the students I work with either have a diagnosis of autism or a related disability and use AAC of some sort. The AAC options vary from low tech (paper-based) to high tech speech generating devices (iPad or dedicated devices such as an I110), or any combination of the two, to replace or supplement their verbal communication. Therefore, it is only natural that I would hold a special place in my heart for celebrating Autism Awareness month every April and World Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd.
As an SLP that specializes in autism and AAC, I have had the privilege of witnessing the joy and sense of pride that students feel when they are provided with a way to communicate effectively and efficiently with those around them. Because students with autism are often visual learners, modeling vocabulary, directions, etc., via AAC increases their comprehension and provides a real-life model for students to see how to use AAC. Talking to students who use AAC with AAC is vital to helping the AAC user learn how to say whatever they want to say, to whomever they want to, whenever they want to - a skill that all students should have the opportunity to practice, learn, and use!
Autism and AAC are such a big part of my life that I could not and do not want to imagine my life without either. That’s why I happily and readily advocate for awareness and support for both all year long, but especially this month. Nothing can replicate the feeling of hearing a student express their innermost thoughts, feelings, and opinions for the first time, or watching a student complete math assignments and book reports on their speech generating device, or using a plural “s” to make sure they get more than one chicken nugget. These seemingly simple and mundane tasks, simply would not be possible for my students if they weren’t given the opportunity to see AAC being used and use AAC themselves! We all have different voices and students with autism, AAC users or not, are no different. These unique voices should be celebrated and accepted because we all have more to say and are more alike than different!