While Skye and Gail are working their way across Canada meeting amazing cool communicators (not to mention fighting rain, potholes and junkyard dogs) , Burns and I are in Toronto keeping the home fires burning and providing some of that background support that is inevitably needed.
We are also involved in Kilometres for Communication events that are happening here. The day Gail and Skye left to go west, Burns and I joined in the Mabin School’s wonderful run and walkathon to raise money for Kilometres for Communication. Last week we attended a wonderful AAC demonstration put together by Laurel Robinson of Holland Bloorview Communication and Writing Aids Service to show teachers and teaching assistants in the TDSB (Toronto District School Board) the many ways AAC works.
On Friday, Burns and I were honoured to be invited to Piero’s school (Piero’s story is on the Kilometres website) to talk to … not just his class, not just the teachers, but the WHOLE SCHOOL! I was invited to talk about AAC, Kilometres for Communication, and my experiences in using AAC. The school, Father Serra Catholic School in Toronto, has done an amazing job in raising community awareness and also in raising donations for Kilometres for Communication. Our special thanks for this goes to Susy Gallucci who did a wonderful job of coordinating it all and making it happen flawlessly.
We had two sessions, one for the younger children and another for the older. Di Bennett, Technology Specialist, started off the session, explained what AAC was about, and also shared with us what people who use AAC need from the rest of us. Di had a number of specialized AAC devices, and explained how they worked, and had some of the students try them out.
After Di’s talk, it was my turn. I used my Dynavox to explain how I communicate and also what my experience as a person who uses AAC is like.
It was clear from how the students answered Di’s questions that they already have a high level of awareness about AACommunicators . They were familiar with many alternative ways to communicate. Many of them – we figured about 7 to 8% of them knew someone who either uses, or needs to have AAC support to help them communicate. Just think –if these numbers were extrapolated to the general population it means there are a lot of people with AAC needs!
We’ve now worked in two schools in Toronto to raise awareness and donations for Kilometres for Communication. Both times, excellent experiences. The energy, effort, understanding and empathy have been powerful. These are students who really get
it, and will spread it to others as they grow up. I certainly wish I had this in my elementary school years