AAC Campaign--Get people talking about AAC and help more people get access to communication technology, training and ongoing support

We are continuing our efforts to bring awareness and understanding of the need for anyone who has limited communication to gain access to other ways to communicate, termed AAC (augmentative and alternative communication methods). These methods include other ways to speak, write and read such as electronic talking aids, computers, tablet computers, boards and books with pictures, words, and letters, Talking Mats, Communication Passports, eye-gaze, partner-assisted scanning, facilitated communication training, Rapid Prompting Method, gesture and sign language, and captioning. We encourage you to learn more and to teach others about AAC methods and how they can help with expression and with understanding what is being said.

Here are some ideas for learning more about AAC, increasing the visibility of AAC and people who use it, and helping people who use AAC to teach others about communication. Invite a person who uses AAC to make a speech or other presentation. Invite a person who uses AAC to demonstrate their communication method and to have a conversation so that others may learn better to interact with and listen to people who use various AAC systems. Host a film about AAC and invite people who use AAC to share their experiences with the audience. Connect people who are new to using AAC to communicate with mentors who are experienced users of AAC. Work with people who use AAC and their families and supporters to organize fundraising events to raise funds for AAC devices in your local area and to share information about AAC. Get local news media to interview people who use AAC and to print stories about AAC technology, the numbers of people who need AAC but may not have access, the lack of professionals trained in AAC, and related issues.

AAC Visibility and Awareness Project

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Witness to Silencing – We remember and work with hope

Several years ago, I witnessed a silencing of people who were working to learn to communicate independently by typing with support using methods of Facilitated Communication (FC) Training.  These training methods were developed to help individuals with limited effective communication to improve their pointing skills so that they could point to use communication aids and eventually type independently to communicate.  

When questions about the method of Facilitated Communication Training arose, some organizations and schools unilaterally and quite abruptly stopped using FC training methods, rather than consulting with the individuals and families who were using the method and determining with them how effective this method was for them. The questions grew from a small number of court cases in which typed statements were not proven to be true (although in some court cases they were proven true) and from research studies which indicated that sometimes what facilitated communicators typed was influenced by their facilitators, although this was not always the case.  When FC training was stopped, many individuals were left without a way to communicate clearly or even to work to improve their communication.  For those of us who witnessed in horror this silencing, the effects were and still are deeply troubling.  For those who were silenced, we have few reports on their reactions, as most have had no way to express them.  In some cases, families had not learned the method before it was halted for their family member, so they did not carry on the support to communicate by typing. 

These two poems are dedicated to all the people who were silenced when their access to communication via facilitated communication training methods was cut off and to the hope that they will once again someday communicate using a method which they choose and which works for them.  They are not forgotten. 

Freedom Quest

In an echoing silence 
a once heard, 
now hushed, 
struggling, tapping voice

Active, seeking, once-typing fingers
retract to fidget, fist and plot.    
No trusted ally closed
the exit ramp from

Accusers believed
his thoughts weren't there—
not really.
Not after all those silent

Surely it was an imagining,
A wishful hoping . . .
Like an alien sighting.
Not real . . . not possible . . .

Too late to reconsider. 
Aspersions cast. 
Exit barred.  
No wistful rethinking.  
Done.  Past.    

A timid soul back in hiding
'neath layers of the onion,
Deeply burrowed away
from his wishful world
of voice, 

Grieving the lost trust,
dashed hopes,
and vanished  
escape route from

Still plots again
His freedom quest
in the echoing company 
of loud silent 

This poem is dedicated to all the people who were silenced when their access to communication via facilitated communication training methods was cut off—for some overnight without warning and without recourse or appeal.  You are not forgotten. 

Copyright 2017 Judy C. Bailey


When the bars of silence closed in again
on the once unspeaking soul, 
Who heard the pleaful gasp
from across the chasmous divide? 

When the tap tapping of lettered speech
was vanquished, 
none could peer into that silent realm
where reverberating thoughts
murmured in captivity—
meandering, drifting, racing, stumbling,
diverting inward, lost from their tenuous
tapping route to voiceless speech.
Sequestered in an instant.  No exit.  
Bridge of connection removed.
“Leap across the chasm,” authorities advised—
an impossible feat—
“Or stay clear and wait”,
came the unwelcome call. 
No courage at hand today.  

Predictability, that honored creed,
had cautioned pause, refrain. 
Await a future parole to speak,
through a sanctioned and lauded exit-- 
albeit eons hence in others' lifetimes—
not in this soul’s dwindling years.
No, not now. Not on this watch.
No detours to full scale expression for this one. 
"Yes or no" and "this or that" will fill
the speechless hopeful’s dance card. 

The fearsome cautionary verdict,
deemed judicious and safe by some,
Did leap its bounds
to squelch the tapping rightful voice.
Thoughts then caught in suspension
could not appeal, nor engage the crowd,
Nor span the gap to freedom
from the engulfing grasp
of the “silent abyss”.

Champions will arise to tell the story,
So eyes will see and ears hear
the heartful tale of a longed-for voice
gained, then lost.

Chattering souls with yakkety voices will halt
to bear witness and to champion
the racing, stumbling, meandering efforts 
of fingers that edge tappingly toward
an emboldened lettered voice that dares
to lead a dance of joyful conversation.    
They will come. 
Until then . . .
the unforgotten voice will wait
and plot to soar once more.    


This poem is dedicated to all the people who were silenced when their access to communication via facilitated communication training methods was cut off—for some overnight without warning and without recourse or appeal.  You are not forgotten. 

Note:  The “silent abyss” is a term coined and used by the poet Chandima Rajapatirana, in writing about his journey to communication by typing.  It is used here in great respect for his love of language and his ardent advocacy for a voice for all.  

Copyright 2017  Judy C. Bailey