I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with S2C Practitioner, I-ASC Leadership Cadre member, and overall superstar Debbie Spengler for the Getting to Fluency Webinar that was offered last month. (If you’re not familiar with these webinars, make sure to see our event page and follow I-ASC on Facebook and Instagram to take advantage of these FREE opportunities!) When I was considering all of the things I wanted to include on my end, I was reminded of the very first meeting of the I-ASC Leadership Cadre, when we sat around and brainstormed our mission and what we wanted for nonspeakers and thought about a graphic that I had created that has since languished in Canva. Some of you asked for it when it was shown during the webinar, but I also thought it was a great opportunity to get it and it’s message out to a broader audience beyond the webinar attendees!
First off, a reminder of what we are here for. I-ASC is committed to ensuring access to effective communication that supports agency and autonomy for nonspeaking, minimally, and unreliably speaking individuals. ACCESS. AGENCY. AUTONOMY. It’s our tagline, and you’re used to seeing it in our logo. Effective communication, or fluency on the letterboard, can lead to all these things for our nonspeakers! I can tell you, but it’s even better to show you!
Support, Communication, and Environment. Think of these three things as spirals we work our way through, and when we work our way through the spirals and end up in the middle of all three, well that’s where the magic happens!
The green spiral is SUPPORT. In the graphic, you can see it starts out with one S2C Practitioner, but let’s be honest, with COVID these days, in many cases a speller’s first CRP may be a parent who has been trained virtually by a Practitioner! Regardless, it starts with one CRP, then adds another, and another, and another. Over time, the MORE individuals a speller can communicate with, the better. Like I tell my parents, I have no doubt that my spellers appreciate that they can come in and communicate with me once a week, however NO ONE wants to be able to communicate with only ONE person, so we want our spellers to be able to communicate with family members, caregivers, and other prominent individuals in their lives!
SUPPORT CHALLENGE! Want to level up in the green spiral? If your child is currently seeing an S2C Practitioner, and you have not yet gotten on the boards with them yourself, ask your Practitioner for a coaching session! Don’t go it alone, coaching is important to maintain good habits, but your S2C Practitioner can incorporate coaching into your sessions, or help you come up with a plan that suits your schedule! If you’re already on the letterboard with your speller at home, who else is in their life that they would benefit from being able to communicate with? One of my FAVORITE coaching sessions ever was coaching one of my teenage speller’s younger brothers! Siblings, grandparents, caregivers…who could be the next CRP? Of course, even better, if you have a fluent speller, ask them who they would like to be able to communicate with!
The blue spiral is COMMUNICATION…what is your speller able to communicate on the board? The goal is accurate and fluid Open communication, but slow and steady wins the race, and of course PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT! We start with Known questions, move to Semi-Open, and then to Open.
COMMUNICATION CHALLENGE! Practice, patience, and good habits are key here. I always recommend at the very least checking in with a Practitioner every once and a while to make sure that you’re building good skills, both as a CRP and for your speller. Make sure you’re doing things right, and at the right speed. Talk to your S2C Practitioner, it might be time to push to a new level!
Which brings us to orange, which is ENVIRONMENT. Typically spelling starts in a quiet environment with no distractions when you are working on initial skill-building, whether that’s in a clinic setting or in the home. Then we move to spelling around distractions, around others, and then beyond that to in public. We always want to remember that generalization of a skill to a new environment is difficult for someone with apraxia! Just because your child can spell accurately and fluently with you in a quiet setting with no distractions, doesn’t mean that they will be as accurate and fluent when suddenly they are faced with the distractions of a new environment – it takes practice! They will adjust, but it can take some time, and you’ll see this as you move through the spiral!
ENVIRONMENT CHALLENGE! If your speller has gotten comfortable in a distractionless environment, bring on the distractions! Join a group, either in person or online, or take the board to a restaurant or to the park!
So, why did I stress access, agency, and autonomy? Here’s another graphic for you…
This diagram shows the same factors from the previous slide in a different way and is meant to demonstrate how each tier, COMMUNICATION, SUPPORT, AND LOCATION support I-ASC’s goals for our spellers.
LOCATION leads to ACCESS. Spelling in more and more varied environments leads to more access to all aspects of a speller’s life, including education, employment, relationships, and community!
SUPPORT leads to AGENCY. The more people one can communicate with, the more control they have over their lives and their actions, and the more opportunities they have to act on their own will!
We want our spellers to have autonomy over their lives, and COMMUNICATION leads to AUTONOMY! The ability to communicate allows our spellers to make informed, uncoerced decisions to direct their own lifes, to share their goals…in other words to call their own shots! Which, if you think about it, is what we ALL want for ourselves, and we want that for them as well!
Access. Agency. Autonomy. What is YOUR next step to support your speller along the path to their future?
Kelly Berg is the Lead S2C Practitioner at Growing Kids Therapy Center, and a member of the I-ASC Leadership Cadre living in downtown Herndon, Virginia. She values autonomy over independence, and frequently demonstrates this by asking others for help, and is always eager to offer it back in return.