Children who use augmentative and alternative communication systems (AACS) and their families are frequently excluded or have limited opportunities to participate in activities that are taken for granted by those who do not have communicative challenges. Reasons for this lack of opportunity are varied and quite complex.
By design, users of AACS have access only to language that someone has had the forethought, time, and expertise to program into the system. This leaves many users with a very limited communicative repertoire, which is functional only in a limited number of communicative environments, usually school and home. They rarely have the opportunity to use language in the novel and fun manner associated with childhood. This issue is complicated by the physical disabilities that many children who use AACS often have, creating a barrier between them and the typical childhood activities. These physical disabilities also make it difficult to transport them to events and activities, impacting their participation with their families and typically-developing siblings.
Children who use AACS, their parents and siblings face a number of complex issues which are certainly not limited to their communication needs. These needs can only be supported by a number of professionals with many areas of expertise such as speech-language pathology, special education, law, human services and nutrition. Training opportunities in these areas are limited.
The purpose of this program is to facilitate participation of AACS users and their families in a weekend family-based camp with a theater theme.
1. To support participation of children of AACS in an activity associated with childhood – being in a play, and supporting use of language not currently available to them.
2. To provide an opportunity for children who use AACS to participate in such an event with their typically-developing siblings.
3. To provide parents with information in a mini-camp format in diverse areas such as estate planning, special education law, nutrition, community resources, and family issues.
4. To support participation of Fontbonne faculty from several departments in a collaborative effort.
5. To provide training and participation opportunities for students from each of the disciplines involved in the camp.
Fontbonne University’s It’s Showtime! Family Augmentative and Alternative Communication Weekend Theater Camp was featured on HEC-TV’s IMPACT, below. (The segment is the first story in the video and is about five minutes long.)
It’s Showtime! was also featured in the ASHA Leader, the magazine of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Read the article now.