A screenshot of Georgia's communication app it says: My Post-Graduation Communication Challenges in the yellow bar with a red speak button. Then the app is structured as followed. Phrases General Phrases Virtual Placement Podcast AAC Presentation at Work down one said then Search History down the other... Hello, my name is Georgia. See you later. My Post-Graduation Communicatio... Uh-huh. I am using this device to speak.
Cerebral Palsy

My Post-Graduation Communication Challenges

I’ve discussed my relationship with Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in various posts over the years but as it is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I thought why not give you an update. As yet again my relationship with AAC has changed since I entered the working world! I’ve gone on about my relationship with AAC more than enough times now but since post-qualifying last year, my relationship with it has changed massively. In fact, I started this blog with the plan of just having a whole mobility aids update but it turns out I haven’t got the whole AAC thing quite off my chest just yet.

So, let’s get into it!

Over the job-hunting period or my time of exploration (which I am now calling it and declaring it right here), I did a few talks that required me to use my AAC and I’ve got to say I didn’t mind it. I love that by using AAC I am not limited when communicating in the professional world. It has opened up amazing opportunities for me such as speaking at The Occupational Therapy Show.

I now realise that in the grand scheme of things using AAC now and then for a talk is not an issue yet the time it takes to put the AAC together, my word takes a whole lot of spoons! I have got into the habit of writing a transcript for my presentations as I go along now which makes things a lot easier. Yet putting this into my iPad and making sure the words sound correct takes time. For example, the reader doesn’t say ‘ableism’ correctly, which as you can imagine is annoying for my content. Another thing that adds more time is doing this with ataxic CP movements, as you can imagine I have a lot of fun and games getting this done some days.

However, I don’t think the amount of time and effort it takes to put AAC together for me or any AAC user when making a presentation gets recognised. It is not just a case of making a presentation, in fact, the AAC is possibly the longest part! I’ll admit that because I don’t use AAC very often, I have a basic app and other apps can sort out my pronunciation issues on words such as ‘ableism’ but it’s still a lot of energy! As a disabled person who easily gets fatigued, I sometimes find myself having to make a choice between using AAC or saving energy and I know I’m not the only person who has had this dilemma.

I did a presentation on AAC at work a few weeks ago where I talked about this dilemma. I am very lucky that I can verbally communicate if I am low in energy. Yet, when I am struggling to find the energy to use AAC my speech is probably going to be more marked because I am low in energy. It isn’t the biggest dilemma in the world, as I say I can speak verbally but there’s certainly a bit of weighing up when it comes to making this decision in practice and this is something I often think about.

Soon I will be going into Huddersfield University more and more instead of working remote, which I can’t wait for but of course, this is going to have massive effects on my energy levels. Once again I can problem solve, and once I know the role more it may be that I can preempt some phrases that I may need. Therefore I can prepare, meaning that using my AAC won’t be a massive energy drainer. Consequently, it is a worry as if I’m communicating with others I need to be professional, and I said I’d use text-to-speech to do so.

But where’s the line between using professional communication and saving energy so I can get through the day successfully?

I acknowledge my privileges as I can communicate verbally, yet what about those who can’t? We shouldn’t be speaking for them as everyone should have their say. Yet, on them days where their energy is low, we need to make sure that they are supported in communicating effectively without energy levels being compromised.

Thank you for reading,

Georgia x

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