Today we welcome Mike Hipple, USSAAC’s director of membership, to share his personal experience from this year’s Closing the Gap conference.
I went to the 35th annual Closing The Gap (CTG) conference this October. The conference is known for having great workshops about AAC and education, a big exhibit hall with the newest and coolest AAC and AT things, and a great place to network with people in the AAC community. As a person who has a disability, I took five things away from the conference. They are: (1) some people are making a big difference in the AAC world, (2) every student who uses AAC needs to be challenged, (3) parents need to get support, (4) science is possible for everyone, and (5) students who use AAC can be public speakers. A new tool I tried out—NeuroNode—is the world’s first wearable and wireless EMG assistive communication device. A transmitter was put on my arm and the NeuroNode used my body’s bioelectrical signals to control a device. It was so cool and interesting to me! This new system might work for individuals who have limited body movements.
Science was the most difficult class for me because a lot of the classroom work involved hands-on labs. Now teachers can use AT tools like the Bee-Bot to help students with science and math concepts. In the demonstration, the Bee-Bot was programmed to move a certain number of squares in different directions. The Bee-Bot is programmed by pushing simple directional arrows. It’s an amazing tool to use with students who have a cognitive or physical disability so they learn concepts as well as basic coding.
There were many adults who use AAC running workshops at the conference; I knew many of them. I think parents of younger children who are starting to use AAC need to see what is possible with continued use of a communication system. It would be great if when you email these parents you added a link to a YouTube video of an adult using a communication device; parents could see the end goal. I will put a list of videos together this month and have that in the December newsletter.
On Wednesday we had our first USSAAC information meeting at CTG. Around 25 people came to the meeting. It was so great to see how many people were interested in USSAAC. The awareness committee and the publications and information committee made some amazing buttons that we passed out to AAC communicators, family members, and professionals. The buttons were a big hit.
CTG started out as a group for parents. It was founded in 1982 by a family that was looking for ways to help their son. Through the years it has become a great conference for professionals, but there are still events for family members and AAC communicators. These include the AAC Town Hall and the social for family members. Local AAC communicators came to the Town Hall this year. All in all the conference was great. I learned so many things to help my school district and USSAAC. I can’t wait until 2018 Closing The Gap comes around!
Jill E Senner, PhD, CCC-SLP