Beth Poss & Tonya Williams-Walker: Improving Equity for AAC Users

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This week, Chris interviews Tonya Williams-Walker and Beth Poss about improving equity for AAC users. Tonya is an Instructional Specialist, AAC Specialist, AAC professor, and SLP. Beth is an author, SLP, AAC Specialist, and Director of Educational Programs for LessonPix. Beth, Toyna, and Chris discuss the meaning of equity, how equity is different from equality, ways that we can improve equity for AAC users, and how they have adjusted their own practices to confront biases surrounding people with complex communication needs.

Before the interview, Rachel and Chris discuss some of Rachel's concerns with the amount of time that some SLPs are prioritizing working on verbal speech when they work with young children with limited speech skills. Rachel is working with 8 and 9 year olds who have only worked on verbal speech for 5 or 6 years. Ethically, its an SLPs responsibility to build the foundation for language development, and if verbal speech isn't working, SLPs need to either introduce AAC or refer out to an AAC specialist who will.

Key ideas this week:

🔑 When looking at whether a young child (e.g. 3 years old) is a good candidate for AAC, look at imitation and approximation skills. If those skills aren't there, we should have the conversation with the family about language development and giving their child "visual supports" or robust AAC to build comprehension and alleviate frustration.

🔑 Listen to all the ways that AAC users are communicating with us about their systems, what is important to them instead of imposing on them what we think is best. To listen better, Tonya asks AAC users and families "What do you need in order to feel successful?" and then "How can I help?".

🔑 "Equity" is not the same thing as "equality". Equity can mean supporting people who have been disenfranchised more than others so they can get to a place where they have the same access, power, and opportunities as everyone else.

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