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Am conducting research for the development of a new conference on disability and employment which is getting some great early feedback.  The conference will connect an often overlooked workforce with forward-thinking, bottom-line focused employers.  The key has been to keep it local and gain buy-in from all key constituencies.  More info to follow on www.disabilityandemployment.net.

 

Happy to report that Augcomm New Jersey attracted 50 attendees and that there were lots of good take-aways for both the parents and professionals in attendance. One of my personal “to do’s” is to add more conversation starters to MJ’s device. He has shown an interest in being more social and we want to give him the opportunity to approach his classmates and others.

Lots of good suggestions for future events from attendees who represented districts including Bernards Township, Lawrence Township, Elizabeth, Berkeley Heights, Bridgewater-Raritan, Piscataway, Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission and South Plainfield among others.

Looking forward to Augcomm New Jersey on Monday. I’m happy to report that our discussion on augmentative and alternative communication will benefit from the input of special ed supervisors, classroom teachers, speech therapists, parents and others with an interest in AAC from around the state.

I’ve enjoyed organizing this conference because I have already had the opportunity to speak with many parents and professionals who have offered helpful perspectives that I can apply to the challenges faced by my own child.

A while back, I spoke with Chantal Sicile-Kira, a well-known speaker and author, and the parent of an inspiring young man. Check out this video and you’ll see what I mean.

 Advancing Opportunities’ Assistive Technology Team will participate in Augcomm New Jersey  and offer hands-on demonstrations so that you can and learn what’s possible with the latest devices and software, including the iPad and the myriad of AAC apps. AT professionals can show you the subtle nuances between similar devices and can provide valuable insight on what might work for you, your child or student.

Limited seating is available at the event which is produced by SpeakerSelect and sponsored by Prentke Romich and Saltillo.

 

 

 

Amy G. Dell will be one of the featured presenters at Augcomm New Jersey, a forum on augmentative and alternative communication for parents and professionals.

Dr. Dell is professor & Chairperson of the Dept. of Special Education, Language & Literacy Director, Center on Assistive Technology & Inclusive Education Studies (CATIES), at  The College of New Jersey.   Dr. Dell, in collaboration with Jerry Petroff and Deborah Newton (Univ of Southern Connecticut), has recently authored the textbook  Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities published by Prentice Hall.

Dr. Dell’s presentation will describe strategies  for teachers to use in their classrooms to encourage students to develop and refine their augmentative communication skills. It will explain how to integrate communication objectives into classroom activities and daily routines and how to provide multiple opportunities for students to use their augmentative communication systems throughout the school day.

 

This year, I will be shifting the focus of my company,  SpeakerSelect Inc.  to serve the needs of the  autism community. Instead of producing business conferences as I  have for the past 15 years, I will use proven research and  production strategies to develop programs to serve educators,  parents and others with an interest in autism.

The first program, Augcomm New Jersey, is scheduled for September 26, 2011 at the Holiday Inn in Somerset, NJ.   As the parent of non-verbal 9-year old,  I am surprised and  disappointed to see that there are many non-verbal children who  are not making use of tools that are available to facilitate  communication. It has become clear to me that this situation is a  direct result of a scarcity of information on available options.

I am thankful to the speech language pathologists, assistive technology experts, AAC advocates, special education law experts, AAC equipment vendors, parents and others who have offered advice on topic matter for this important forum.   Augcomm New Jersey will offer a process-oriented overview of the steps necessary to create a person-first strategy for the use of AAC tools.  Speakers and panelists will provide participants with practical advice and perspectives on:
 
-The effective use of AAC in the provision of a free and appropriate education
-The elements of a thorough, professionally-conducted AAC evaluation and the importance of an evaluation in making informed decisions
-The increasing availability of mobile AAC applications and its effect on our ability to select and implement effective AAC solutions
-How parents and professionals can collaborate to enhance a child’s communication ability in the short- and long-term

I’ll post additional information on the agenda and speakers, so check back for updates or visit our Facebook events page.

Temple Grandin spoke yesterday at Colorado State University about the importance of maintaining high expectations for people with autism.  She is truly a great advocate and has done a great deal to help the rest of us understand what it is like to be on the spectrum.  Her speeches and comments, reflecting her own experiences, give us a particularly good perspective on the significant struggles faced by people with Aspergers and others who are generally considered to be on the high-functioning end of the spectrum.

According to the Denver Post article, Grandin says that the biggest obstacle for most autistic students is to learn to do well in social situations.   This challenge is, of course, even more difficult for people on the “low-functioning” end of the spectrum; i.e. those with no verbal speech and who have difficulty attending to an individual or task for even a very short time. 

Although Grandin’s comments in Colorado don’t appear to have addressed the issue of setting social expectations for low-functioning individuals, I’d suggest that it is important not to short-change anyone on the spectrum by giving them a pass in social situations.  My son, for example can’t say “hello” but he accept a handshake or offer a greeting by using his augmentative communication device.  He may never be as socially adept as Temple Grandin but he’ll continue to make progress.