For my very first to post I was excited to interview my very good friend Dr. Jeannie DeFazio who is the Chairperson of the Division of Education at Walsh University in Canton, Ohio. Early in her teaching career she worked with children with speech disabilities when AAC first came on the scene. Currently, she only intermittently interacts with device users through her university teaching. Also, she interacts socially with young adults in a transition program who have exceptionalities and some use AAC.
Before I moved to Texas I used to speak to her special education class at Walsh University just about every year. To prepare her students for my visit she told the students that she thinks the most important barriers to overcome for an AAC user are access and motor planning. Once those are figured out Dr. DeFazio believes the next things to work on are basic understanding of cores vocabulary and language surface structure.
She feels one of the challenges of interacting with an individual who uses AAC is sometimes people do not understand that it may take an individual a little longer to complete a sentence or response. Dr, DeFazio thinks if the individual shares that they use AAC and it may take a few moments for responses in a prestored utterance in their device may help to have a better interaction. In addition, the device user could give a short explanation of their device and their access method could be helpful. Lastly, they can prepare a friendly greeting or a question to help break the ice.
Dr, DeFazio formed a love and respect for the individuals who use AAC because there is so much work that goes into their communication. She realizes sometimes it is easier for a family member or a caregiver to speak for an individual. However, she prefers to directly interact with the individual because she wants to respect them by directly communicating with that person. She also feels people need to be patient with the individual and not automatically turn to the family or caregiver