Our First Ever Young Adult AAC Event | SPD - Singapore

Our First Ever Young Adult AAC Event

The Specialised Assistive Technology Centre (ATC), SPD held their first ever Young Adult AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) Event on the 27th of October, 2017.

4 young adults, 5 caregivers and 5 volunteers came together for a time of fun and communication. The young adults used their communication devices to make choices, express preferences, and negotiate with their partners as they played games and shopped for tea time!

The planning for the event started a few months back when the team decided that having planned two successful AAC parties for the younger ones, it was time to focus on the young adults. Learning objectives included the following: (1) Clients will improve their communication skills and increase communication functions (e.g. requesting, asking/answering questions, and commenting) and (2) Caregivers will be able to network and learn more strategies to facilitate communication in their children.

Then came the sourcing for ideas, the mobilizing of volunteers, the designing of flyers, and the team meetings… all the fun stuff!

The event started with a self-introduction by all the participants and explanation of the modified Amazing Race where speed was not the key, but the focus was on communication instead! The participants were rated on their communication with each other and the pit stop facilitators, along with the use of various communication functions and their game score.

Overheard in Enabling Village:

At the beginning of the event, Ruppa typed on his Lightwriter - H-E-A-D-A-C-H-E.
After some persuasion he added T-R-Y T-H-E G-A-M-E.

Two hours later, Ruppa and his partner were announced the winners of the event!

Lesson of the day: Don’t let a headache stop you!

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Leonard: I want to stop (playing the Hedbanz game)
Rachel: No
Leonard: I want to stop (playing the Hedbanz game)
Rachel: No
Leonard: I want to stop (playing the Hedbanz game)

Rachel finally gave in and the team moved on to the next pit stop.

Lesson of the day: Persistent communication is the key!

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While shopping for tea time in NTUC, Seng Koon expressed his preference for a chocolate cake while Ruppa chose a butter cake. A minute later, Seng Koon excused himself to go to the washroom. Ruppa then informed the facilitators at the NTUC pit stop that the team would go with 2 chocolate cakes and 0 butter cakes. What a sport!

Lesson of the day: While your rights are important, communication is also about give-and-take.

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Seng Koon was playing music on an iPad app with one hand.

Facilitator: Ruppa, how would you rate Seng Koon’s performance on a scale of 1- 10?
Ruppa: 7

Seng Koon laughed and started making music with both hands enthusiastically.

Lesson of the day: Use the power of communication to spur your friends on to greater heights!

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It was apparent that although everyone had something to say, they were accommodating to each other’s preferences and suggestions!

The caregivers had a separate programme because when you hang out with your friends, you don’t bring your parents along! They gathered to share, network and reflect. Through Skype, they were able to communicate with the President Elect of the International Society for AAC, Meredith Allan. Meredith is a person who uses AAC and an accomplished presenter and advocate of AAC. During the Skype session, the parents shared about their experiences and opinions about the AAC situation in Singapore. They also listened to Meredith’s perspective and advice on strategies that might help facilitate communication.

Some of the key themes expressed included –
- The lack of understanding in the community for individuals with Complex Communication Needs who use AAC
- The need for a support community of caregivers of individuals who use AAC
- The limited number of opportunities that individuals who use AAC have to develop friendships and relationships

All the parents, however, expressed that the ability to communicate had greatly changed and empowered their children’s lives. At the end of the session, the parents agreed to share their contacts with each other, so that they could further network and support each other.

It was an insightful and meaningful time of sharing, reflection and a lot of talking!


Written by: Deborah Yong & Sarah Yong, SPD