I remember my colleague and friend Dr. Sheldon Loman said that he likes to support practices that work and not necessarily get into the brand names of the educational approaches that gather these practices up into packages. I think his view is interesting because it makes you think about the elements of an educational intervention package and not get caught up with an amorphousness of something that is the latest craze.
With our recent weekend intensive called AAC by the Sea, I had the opportunity to reflect on practices and how both families conceptualize the “moves” we do in AAC and how my team looks at them too. One team member, Jessi, has created this terrific game that connects to the hashtag #SeeMeSeeMyAAC. In this game people are rewarded with a rubber bracelet when they have their AAC system with them. It was great fun. There was this moment when I saw one of the fathers’ wrist full of bracelets. I smiled because I had seen images of him on Facebook implementing AAC and this tangible record of his success was something new for him. It is awesome to speak AAC with people with complex communication needs. Often times, we get to see the fruits of this practice right away. I was so happy for my team, as many of them came up to me throughout the weekend telling me about these incredible moment of connection with the individuals we were focused on. One such story about a young man showing his yes and no that may have been forgotten or lost is one of those moments you’ll never forget. We treasure these moments of connection and growth. How lucky are we to be able to observe and pay attention to these steps forward.
However, practices sometimes are sewing seeds that grow and bloom at later times. I’ve learned about this in my yoga practice that both the physical asana work and the meditation practices not only provide some immediate reward, but can be important for future moments. In my yoga studio, a CEO of a local firm, described it in a funny way saying he practices so he does not yell at everyone he works with (my greatly sanitized paraphrase). In parallel fashion, much of the work I have been leading is focused on creating moments that have key elements of rich language learning environments. We sometimes call our core practice AAC Modeling and other times call it AAC Immersion. As a leader and research scientist, I call myself to look at both the technical level and a macro level regarding our work. What is emerging from our work over the last couple years and made so vivid this weekend is that something special happens when you create high levels of immersion. One immediate effect that I can see is that it is much easier for the people with CCCN who we serve to use AAC when they have been in one of these environments regularly. The parallel for me is when I travel to Brazil and am immersed in Brazilian Portuguese, I’m able to receptively process the sounds and words so much better after a few days of immersion. Yet, I want to take a moment to honor what does not happen right away. I think that practices whether they be yoga, AAC modeling, or something like healthy eating are investments. Some of the fruits of these investments are often seen immediately, but other just as important parts happen stretched out over time. As I gather my own thoughts, as well as process every participant’s reflections from this past weekend, I ponder how to balance the patience necessary to work practices when we do not or cannot see the fruits immediately. I’m going to take a look at Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations and look at work about generalization. My initial thoughts are that we need to create contexts that are rewarding in both the short, medium, and long term and simultaneously developing the resilience necessary to persevere when we encounter challenges, need to come back, or reset the course.
Dr. Samuel Sennott, Universal Design Lab Director
Assistant Professor, Portland State University
October 9, 2018