Walking into the Special Needs Program room on a Wednesday afternoon is a special treat, because this is when several of DRTC’s individuals gather for a Talkers Club meeting where they practice communicating with their “talkers.”
The Special Needs Program has always had individuals who used talkers, or augmentative communication devices, but using them consistently can be a challenge since they require a fair amount of upkeep and practice. Some people who use talkers also worry that they’ll stand out in a crowd. The Talkers Club was developed to give these people an opportunity to practice using their talkers in a fun, supportive environment.
“We decided if we could promote talkers as cool and exciting,” said Deborah, DRTC’s Special Needs Program Coordinator, “more people would be willing to use them… especially among a supportive group of friends.”
The club is also an opportunity to update and maintain the talkers, which can be quite complicated. “One of the memebers didn’t have anything on his talker, which is why he didn’t use it,” said Shannon, a SNP Tech who has been teaching the club since the beginning. “So we made a list of everything he wanted on it. The next week he opened it and he had all this new stuff and he was so excited!”
The talkers, which can look like anything from keyboards to picture pages and which are specially designed for each person’s physical needs, let individuals advocate for themselves and prepare them to interact with new people.
The club, which has been meeting since January, has made a huge difference. Some individuals are bringing their talkers to work for the first time in years, and they are becoming more proficient in using them. “The progress they are making is incredible!” said Deborah.
You can learn more about Augmentative and alternative communication through the following links: