Communication Panel: Tips and Insights from Experts and Parents

Quick Overview

The panelists discussed the importance of starting the communication journey at any age, emphasizing that it’s never too late. They highlighted the need for support and collaboration with school teams and other professionals, as well as the value of finding allies within these teams. The panelists also emphasized the importance of motivation and meaningful communication for individuals with Angelman syndrome. They encouraged parents to advocate for their child’s access to communication devices and to start speech therapy when they feel ready. The panelists also discussed the benefits of peer interaction and the role of play-based strategies in early intervention. Overall, they emphasized the individualized nature of the communication journey and the importance of following the child’s lead.

By Carole Zangari, Tabi Jones-Wohleber, Sarah Rivard, Karen Horest, and Rebecca Burdine


In this panel discussion, we have gathered a group of experts and parents who have extensive experience in the field of communication. They will share their insights and tips on how to navigate the communication journey, whether it is for a child or an individual with Angelman syndrome. The panelists will discuss their own experiences and provide valuable advice on getting started and working with school teams.

Meet the Panelists

  • Carole Zangari: Speech-Language Pathology Professor in South Florida
  • Tabi Jones-Wohleber: Speech-Language Pathologist and AAC Specialist
  • Sarah Rivard: Parent of a child with Angelman syndrome and a teacher
  • Karen Horest: Parent of a child with Angelman syndrome and a labor movement worker
  • Rebecca Burdine: Professor in Molecular Biology and parent of a child with Angelman syndrome

Getting Started with Communication

The panelists emphasize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to communication. Each individual is unique, and their communication journey may vary. It is important to find what works best for your child and align yourself with professionals and resources that resonate with you personally.

Introducing the Panelists

The panelists introduce themselves and share a bit about their background and experience in the field of communication. They highlight the importance of learning from others and finding support in the community.

Tips for Getting Started

The panelists offer valuable tips for families who are just starting their communication journey:

  1. Embrace the process: Understand that communication is a journey, and it is okay to feel uncertain or overwhelmed at times. Take it one step at a time and be open to learning and adapting along the way.

  2. Find your allies: Identify individuals within your school team or community who can support and advocate for your child’s communication needs. Build a strong network of allies who can help you navigate the challenges and celebrate the successes.

  3. Make it meaningful: Focus on finding communication strategies and tools that are meaningful and motivating for your child. Consider their interests, preferences, and strengths when selecting communication methods.

  4. Foster peer connections: Encourage friendships and interactions with peers who can serve as communication models and advocates. Peer support can be invaluable in promoting communication growth and building a sense of belonging.

Starting the Communication Journey Later in Life

The panelists discuss the possibility of starting the communication journey later in life, whether it is during adolescence or adulthood. They emphasize that it is never too late to begin and that individuals can make significant progress at any age.

They highlight the importance of providing access to communication tools and strategies, such as AAC devices, and creating a supportive environment that encourages communication. The panelists also stress the need for ongoing support and coaching to help individuals develop their communication skills.

Advocating for Communication Needs

The panelists address the question of advocating for individuals to have access to communication devices and support. They emphasize the importance of open communication with school teams and other professionals involved in the individual’s care.

They suggest discussing the individual’s communication goals and needs, as well as exploring funding options for devices and additional support. Building a strong relationship with the team and sharing information about the benefits of AAC can help ensure that the individual’s communication needs are met.


The panel discussion provides valuable insights and tips for families embarking on the communication journey with their child or loved one with Angelman syndrome. The panelists emphasize the importance of finding what works best for the individual, building a supportive network, and advocating for communication needs. They offer hope and encouragement, reminding families that it is never too late to start and that progress can be made at any age.

Talk details

  • Title: Communication Panel
  • Author(s): Carole Zangari, Tabi Jones-Wohleber, Sarah Rivard, Karen Horest, Rebecca Burdine
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2021-08-11
  • Collection: 2021 ASF Virtual Family Conference