Myself in my glasses with a big girl holding up my phone showing my text to speech communication app. Written in the app in a yellow box is "Hello my name is Georgia".
Cerebral Palsy

Coming to Terms with Needing AAC in the Professional World

Effective communication is a massive part of any work and in healthcare, it is really important. It’s unlikely that you will pass a practice placement if you can’t demonstrate these skills. Which leaves me feeling very worried about being on placement. You can guarantee that most of my reflections on placement will end it being about my speech impairment and communication strategies.

I’ve always viewed my speech impairment like I view my physical impairment, it’s there always has been always will be I’ll embrace it. However, when on practice placement it’s easier said than done.

My feedback for my first placement was to work on strategies for communication as at this point I wasn’t using anything and I was a bit naïve to the fact that I may need AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) when in practice. But having it there in black and white, I began to release that this issue wasn’t going to go away.

Therefore, I started having open discussions about this with my academic advisor. I started looking into communication apps that I could use; however, I still was reluctant to get one as I’d managed 19 years without one so surely it wasn’t a big deal? When university contacted me over the summer and said that I could do this on the software that I’d already got on my laptop I was relieved! Problem solved, right?

My next placement in assistive technology was almost straight after the summer holidays and I was ready with my plan that I’d talk myself and only use AAC if I really had to, on my laptop. However, seen as this placement involved AAC itself I began to understand how important this was.

During this placement my educator gave me the task of looking through all the communication apps and writing down pros and cons, we then applied the apps to my needs as yet again my speech impairment was causing issues on placement and getting out my laptop was not the most convenient. I understood now that I needed to make a change. I picked the app downloaded it and added key phrases in such as “Hi, I’m Georgia an occupational therapy student.”

However, I didn’t use it as I was only using the free version that only came with a male voice. But this was alright because I was only using it the odd time, right? It wasn’t and yet again I scraped by on the communication competencies when passing the placement. This placement taught me a lot about AAC and played a big role in my personal and professional development.

However, I still wasn’t ready to admit that I needed more support with my communication. I use to hide it and kid myself “I can talk for England I don’t need AAC” when we all know that it wasn’t about that… and yes we all know that I can talk for England as well, no point in hiding it!

My virtual placement came, and it was upon me I had to use AAC for my SHOUT talk. What was the point in doing a talk if no one could understand me? I was prepared to do the whole talk via AAC, but my friend suggested that I do a mixture. This felt perfect that way my own voice could still be heard.

I couldn’t use the male voice time to get my money out this needed to be done! Or I could just record the audio on my computer and then record it onto my phone… it would take 10 times longer but it’s not worth buying the app for this one time.

But now over the space of 2 months, I have done this around 6 times due to being involved in more talks and I want to do more! So, I have finally bought the app and admitted that I need it. Yes, I’m going to still have to add the new phrases in there but at least I’ll not have to record anything.

I didn’t think admitting that I need AAC would have been as hard as it has, but I’m getting there. I don’t think I’ll ever like using it and being told to use it but now I’ve realised it’s about so much more. In a years’ time, I’ll be a qualified occupational therapist and I want to be taken seriously. I am now finally telling people that I use AAC and will use it if needs be, I find that when I don’t have the pressure to use it, I don’t mind using it.

I’ll never stop talking (sorry about that, lol) I’m a talker and I’ll talk anyone’s ear off any day. But at least I can use AAC if needed now, I’m not saying that I’ve completed my AAC journey yet because I haven’t. For example, when I qualify, I’ll probably need a tablet that I can use for AAC instead of using my personal phone. However, I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I have accepted that to be the professional I want to be and to be taken seriously this is a move I have to make and I know it is the right one to help me go further in my future career.

Admitting this was hard but now I can see the benefits.

Thank you for reading,


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13 thoughts on “Coming to Terms with Needing AAC in the Professional World”

  1. Thanks for posting this. Such an interesting read and i had never heard of aac before so good to learn !

      1. I’m probably being quite controversial here Georgia but could a suitable communication aid be provided as a reasonable adjustment/part of your learning contract to assist with placements. I am sure you have come across Grid 3 which is typically my go to device for communication and environmental control. Grid for iPad would be a good solution? A varied choice of voices and accents as well! perhaps that is the app you are using?

      2. No, you’re not we have discussed this before at University. Ideally, I do need a suitable communication aid for when I’m in practice. Yes I have come across Grid 3 I suppose I could try Grid for iPad. I’ve just used this app that I downloaded (ClaroCom Pro) for a podcast and I did experience a few teething problems as it’s going to take a lot of getting used to. The trouble is that I don’t use it enough to invest a lot of money into it but I probably do need to try out a lot more apps.

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