Cerebral Palsy Alliance client Jack, who is non-verbal, has worked closely with the therapy team at CPA Dubbo to unlock the power of communication. He and his family recently sat down with the Dubbo Photo News to discuss how Alternative and Augmentative Communication has been a game changer for them.
For 18-year-old school leaver Jack Cosier, bugging his parents, Beryl and Andrew, to take him places and to hang out with his friends is a rite of passage. But unlike a lot of his peers, Jack lives with cerebral palsy and uses a specialised communication device that allows him to communicate with those around him.
“Jack’s communication device has been a game changer for him. It is so rewarding to see the gains he’s made and we are so grateful for Jack to have a voice,” says Beryl.
Last month was AAC Awareness Month across the world. AAC refers to Alternative and Augmentative Communication, encompassing all of the ways that someone communicates besides talking. The focus of the month is to raise awareness of AAC and to inform the public about the many different ways in which people communicate.
For the Cosiers, raising awareness of AAC is of the utmost importance.
“People in the community are always amazed by Jack’s communication device and haven’t seen anything like it before. They always say how wonderful it is that he has something that enables him to speak,” says Beryl.
Hannah Russ, Speech Pathologist at Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) in Dubbo, supports Jack and many other clients to use specialised communication devices so they can communicate their wants and needs with those around them.
“At CPA, we have a high level of expertise in helping people with disabilities to communicate in a range of different ways. This might include using their eyes with specialised software, using touch, joysticks or switches and buttons,” says Hannah.
Speech pathologists would typically lead the way in supporting people to find the right communication device to suit their needs.
“Helping clients find the best communication device for their needs and life can be quite complex. As a global centre of expertise for cerebral palsy, CPA has strong clinical knowledge, research and a wealth of resources to ensure we do this well for clients”, says Hannah.
“Being able to support Jack to initiate conversations with his friends and empower him to have control and choice in his life is one of the most satisfying parts of my job.”
CPA and the Cosiers want everyone in the community to know about the power of AAC and how it can transform lives for people living with a disability.
“We want Jack to express his needs, wants and dreams just like everyone else – and to be able to do that in a tangible and meaningful way. His device is giving him the opportunity to be able to do that with lots of different people. And it allows him to organise his social calendar too!”
Beryl finds it difficult to know how they would’ve helped Jack without the support of Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
“CPA is a dedicated organisation providing specialised services for exactly what Jack needed. We were able to tap into knowledge and expertise and connect with other families. We are so blessed to have this service here in Dubbo.”
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A version of this article was originally published in the Dubbo Photo News.