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The Do’s and Don’ts of Conversing: Speech Device Etiquette brought to you by Awesome in Action

 

After many, many years and conversations in the community with people unfamiliar with Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Nick and his team have put together a comprehensive guideline for the average Joe (or Joe-ette) to reference. Hope it helps all parties within a conversation!

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Here I am teaching preschoolers at T.R. Paul Academy how to use my speech device.

We’ll Start with the Do’s, since they seem more positive:

Do…Hear me. Listen to my words, and ask me to turn up my device or repeat if you do not understand.

Do…Focus on me when I’m talking. My words are important, too.

Do…Realize it is hard to speak in complete thoughts. It takes a lot of work for me to move my arms and find the right word on my speech device

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Here I am with my Speech Language Therapist, Linda Everett. I still practice twice a week on my speech device!

Do…Recognize that I use a combination of gestures and words to get my point across.

Do…Understand my care providers are here to help me communicate.  I am the one who wants to talk to you.

Do…Talk to me, not about me or above me.

Do…Talk to me like you would anyone else. I have a sense of humor, and I am just like you!

Do...Respect my personal boundaries. I do not need to be touched  while you are talking to me. Family members and care providers need to remember this especially!

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This is the layout for one of my speeches. I have over 10 speeches programmed into my device. There are 84 keys on my home screen, each which lead to 1 or more pages with even more words. That’s a lot of choices!!

Do…Wait for me to finish talking. Be o.k. with quiet as I look for the correct words.

Do…Minimize distractions,  it takes a bit of focus for me to communicate.

And now for the Don’ts….

Don’t….Talk too loud. I have a great sense of hearing, my friends call me “bat ears”

Don’t…Move too fast.I need to look at my speech device and cannot always have eye contact with you. Sometimes I miss gestures or facial expressions that you may need to repeat.

Don’t… try to respond for me because I am taking too long.

Don’t…assume I’m unintelligent and talk down to me just because it takes me awhile to respond.

Don’t… talk above my head. I can hear and I have feelings!

Don’t….ask me to perform. I will say the things I want to say when I want to say them (and deal with the repercussions!)

 

 

 

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Here I am conversing with my friend, Alex. 

 

33 Third Graders “Walk In My Shoes” at Stansberry Elementary School

IMGP0176Jan. 15, 2015   A Big Thank You to Mrs. Bush and her 3rd grade class at
Stansberry Elementary School in Loveland, Colorado 

Nick Roussos presented “Walk in My Shoes”,  his disability awareness workshop, to 33 eager and active 3rd graders.  Nick, and assistants Audrey and Sue, had a great time interacting with the students as they learned how to use a wheelchair and try out a communication device. We also had a discussion about Disability Etiquette which is: Good manners in our actions and speech with people who have a disability. This was a large class, but they were very respectful and attentive. Thank you for being such great participants!

Nick told them,  “I hope that I can open your eyes today, and give you a perspective on what a person who is differently abled can achieve. Remember, people with special needs are just the same as you.   Everyone has something that makes them feel different than others; shyness, clumsy or uncoordinated, too tall, too short, too thin, too heavy, language differences, color of skin, etc.  We shouldn’t treat anyone different than we would like to be treated.

The words and actions you chose can really affect the people who hear them. We all live in one community, one world, and we can make it better for everyone if we show each other the same amount of respect that we expect for ourselves and our loved ones.

I challenge you to leave here with a new perspective that is two fold; first, do not limit yourself. You are capable of amazing and great things- nothing can stop you from pursuing your dreams. And second, do not place limitations on others especially those who are differently abled. When allowed to soar, you will be surprised how far a person, even one faced with great challenges such as myself, can go.

Remember Life is Awesome!”

Nick Roussos is the author of Helping in Action, a children’s adventure based on his childhood as a boy with cerebral palsy, growing up in Africa.  He conducts workshops, in Northern Colorado, for any age group on the topics of disability awareness, anti-bullying, and self-esteem. Please email with interest in a presentation at your school or service organization!:  nick@totalspeed.com

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