Finding a Voice For a Child An SLP dives into nonverbal communication to help a young client, and the result is a regional AAC program. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   April 01, 2018
Finding a Voice For a Child
Author Notes
  • Lynsey Decator, MS, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual clinician and director of the AAC program at Children’s Therapy TEAM, which provides multidisciplinary services in the Northwest Arkansas area. lynsey.decator@childrenstherapyteam.com
    Lynsey Decator, MS, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual clinician and director of the AAC program at Children’s Therapy TEAM, which provides multidisciplinary services in the Northwest Arkansas area. lynsey.decator@childrenstherapyteam.com×
Article Information
Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Speech, Voice & Prosody / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   April 01, 2018
Finding a Voice For a Child
The ASHA Leader, April 2018, Vol. 23, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.23042018.72
The ASHA Leader, April 2018, Vol. 23, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.23042018.72
When I met Kylee, a little girl with cerebral palsy, I learned that augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) was my calling. But I didn’t always know it was my calling.
When I was an undergraduate, a professor told me I would be good at AAC—but I had no idea why. As a speech-language pathology student, I worked with a teenager who used a picture exchange system, and I remember being keenly interested in his communication system—and in awe of the amount of lamination involved. However, it was not until 2015, after seven years in the field, that I realized that AAC was my “calling.”
That’s when I met Kylee. She was 4 years old, nonverbal and in desperate need of a way to communicate. In Northwest Arkansas, resources are limited—there were no AAC programs, leaving few options for Kylee and other nonverbal children in our community. Communication couldn’t wait, so I decided to develop a program at our clinic.
I quickly learned that there’s quite a bit to AAC: choosing equipment, considering access methods, selecting symbols, writing reports, understanding funding. The number of tasks seemed insurmountable—however, as someone who likes a challenge, and knowing how urgently Kylee needed this, I dug right in.
I stared at the contents of my new equipment closet and saw abstract icons, complicated systems and uncertainty. I had all of this “stuff,” but still wasn’t sure how to get started—even though I had gone to conferences, read articles, borrowed books from colleagues, searched for funding, and learned about report writing and insurance processes. I knew that if I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right.
So, despite my uncertainty, I put a picture exchange system and voice output devices in front of Kylee and we learned together. Soon, I realized that establishing an AAC system is not just about what symbols you choose. It’s about applying your knowledge and skills to unique people who do not fit neatly inside any box. It requires you to get comfortable approaching the unknown, believe that every person can communicate, and work with a team to help your patient succeed. Stepping outside of the box isn’t easy, but it sure is rewarding!
As the new AAC provider, I was flooded with referrals from clinicians in our four clinics, parents and other private providers. I continued to complete evaluations and to consult with clinicians and families. Next thing I knew, I was training an assistant to help with our quickly growing program. Since then, I’ve become experienced with completing evaluations and consultations, applying for funding, and using a variety of systems for clients with a wide variety of diagnoses.
Our program is still growing. We accept referrals from other providers and are developing relationships with local school districts.
As I look back, I realize my professor’s comment made sense. At the time, I knew nothing about devices and symbol sets—but she had picked up on something more. She saw my interest in tackling complex tasks, willingness to problem-solve, and belief in never giving up. AAC is challenging, exciting, frustrating, and empowering—just the right mix for me. It helps find a voice for children, keeps me on my toes and brings me fulfillment.
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April 2018
Volume 23, Issue 4