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A Makeover of Augmentative Communication is Needed!

Augmentative Communication


As I’m sitting here preparing curriculum and classroom set-up for this upcoming year…I realized that I have a confession to make….

I find the illustrations and imagery used for most visually-based augmentative communication devices completely boring and unimaginative.

I don’t mean to devalue these tools as I find them to be particularly potent resources for growth (I have no idea where myself or my students would be without them), but I feel as though updating these elements for use for this generation has left more than a little to be desired.

It seems as though the same, yawn-inducing ‘BoardMaker’-esque pictures have been floating around for years and years – stagnant – seemingly without any hope of an update in the near future. Sure, they’re easy to throw together – particularly if you have free access to the software and are in need of multiple schedules in a short amount of time. (Trust me. I’m an educator – I understand the time crunch). But I can’t help but feel as though we’re shorting our students by cutting corners with this cartoonish imagery.

If I as an educator feel like I want to pull my hair out after looking at the same ‘read a book’ stick figure fifty times a day – imagine what our clients feel like? Familiarity and routine is one thing – but becoming overly-bored by our stimuli and/or our environments is another.

Simply put, not all of those whom we serve are young children – and even if they are, it is my opinion that we learn best by getting to experience the ‘real thing’ in as many ways, and as often as is physically possible. The corny stick-figure illustrations and cartoon figures are often inappropriate for many individuals on the Spectrum…and indeed any student hoping to learn skills adequately in an increasingly shortened academic calendar year.

It has long been known that most individuals with ASD have increased tendencies to focus on the literal – i.e. realism – more often than on abstract or ‘representative’ ideas. As such, I have had much more success in incorporating photographic images of actual people/places/objects that my students come in contact with every day – rather than simply printing out an illustrated version of a generalized version. An example would be – instead of printing out a generic picture of a horse figurine – I utilize pictures of the actual horse figurine that my student enjoys playing with.

So in saying all of this I have to ask:

Where are all of the resources at to create more modern, age/learning-style-appropriate devices for those in need? As a professional I find this part of curriculum and classroom implementation the most frustrating. Many of the sites that are touted as the ‘go-to’ resource data bases have seemingly never progressed much past the mid-1990’s in terms of resource material and basic site construction – not to mention (from a completely technophilic standpoint) the atrocious website aesthetics and lack of general usability that most seem to exhibit.

Where has the innovation gone? The well of creativity that once drove the industry now seems stagnant and the students, parents and professionals have been left hanging in the balance. We are in desperate need of a centralized access point for the most up to date academic/scientific/medical innovations, curriculum resources and technological advances. Who’s going to fill that gap?

I think the Autism community needs to take a step out of our respective boxes on this one. It’s up to us to make the lives of our lives, as well as those we serve, rise to a higher standard…let’s start today!

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