Angel Voices: Creating AAC Community-Based Groups
Kate Ahern, an assistive technology specialist, discusses her experience running an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) group called Angel Voices. The group is designed to support children and families learning to use robust AAC systems. Ahern shares the activities and routines they do in the group, such as singing, storytelling, crafts, and games. She emphasizes the importance of communication and ownership in the activities, as well as the positive impact the group has had on the children’s participation and self-advocacy skills. Ahern also provides tips for starting and running a similar group.
In this talk, we will explore the concept of Angel Voices, an AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) community-based group that was started in Massachusetts. We will discuss the origins of the group, its goals, and the activities it offers to children with Angelman Syndrome and other disabilities. We will also highlight the benefits of such groups and provide tips for starting your own community-based AAC group.
The Origins of Angel Voices
Angel Voices was initially formed to address the needs of preschoolers with Angelman Syndrome. Due to the high demand for services, the group quickly grew and expanded to include children with other disabilities. The group started meeting in a private home, but as the number of participants increased, they moved to larger venues such as an elementary school gym and a rec hall at the Boys and Girls Club. Currently, the group meets at a YMCA in a classroom, which has proven to be a suitable environment for their activities.
The Activities and Structure of Angel Voices
Angel Voices offers a variety of activities tailored to the needs and abilities of the children. The group sessions typically last for an hour and include singing, storytelling, writing activities, crafts, and sensory breaks. Parents actively participate in the sessions, working directly with their children to model and support their communication efforts. Siblings are also welcome to join the groups and often become involved in the activities.
The Benefits of Angel Voices
The Angel Voices group provides numerous benefits for children and families. The predictable routine of the sessions helps children feel more comfortable and engaged. The activities promote communication skills, social interaction, and self-advocacy. The group also serves as a platform for parents to connect with each other, share resources, and learn from one another’s experiences. Additionally, the group has seen positive outcomes, such as children transitioning from low-tech to high-tech AAC devices and increased participation in other environments.
Starting Your Own Community-Based AAC Group
If you are interested in starting a community-based AAC group, here are some tips to consider:
- You don’t need to be a professional to run these groups. They can be structured or unstructured, depending on your preferences and the needs of the participants.
- A neutral space, such as a community center or school, tends to work better than someone’s home.
- Be gentle with yourself and understand that not every activity will work perfectly. Embrace the fun and learning that comes from the unexpected.
- Start small with a few participants and gradually expand as the group grows.
- Encourage parent participation and provide opportunities for siblings to be involved.
- Seek local resources and connect with other families in similar situations.
- Consider the accessibility and safety of the venue, including accessible bathrooms and sensory-friendly environments.
- Be mindful of the cost and explore options for funding or support from local organizations or parent groups.
Angel Voices is a shining example of the positive impact that community-based AAC groups can have on children with disabilities and their families. By providing a supportive and engaging environment, these groups promote communication, social interaction, and self-expression. If you are passionate about helping children with disabilities and their families, starting your own community-based AAC group can be a rewarding and impactful endeavor.
For more information and resources, visit the Angel Voices website at AACvoices.org.
- Title: Angel Voices
- Author(s): Kate Ahern
- Author(s)’ affiliation: Easterseals
- Publication date: 2016-12-03
- Collection: 2016 FAST Educational Summit