“Five things I wish I knew at the beginning of this journey. I think hindsight is 20/20, right? What do we wish we knew at the beginning of the augmentative communication journey, or at the beginning of our conversations with the therapists about our child’s language development? What do we wish we knew? Well, let me bowl it down for you. I wish I knew the importance of language. I wish I knew that the conversations about speech and the verbal production of speech are less important than the understanding of language. Language is that representation of thoughts, ideas, feelings, actions, and activities. It’s that conceptualization in our head that we can’t see until it’s expressed, but that’s the most important part: language.
Language is the building block of cognition. Language is the building block of social interaction. Language is really the building block of learning and development. So I wish I would’ve known the importance of language.
Number two. I wish I would’ve known that I need to speak in symbols all the time for my symbol speaker to develop language — that I need to speak in symbols so that they see and hear me speak, and that means I need to develop my proficiency on their system — I need to learn their system — but I can also use other symbol displays in order to be able to provide that language.
I wish I knew that verbal language is one mode of expression. That, for me, I can speak, I can talk in symbols, I can write, I can type, I can text — I can use multiple modes of symbolic communication, and they all express my understanding.
What else? I wish I knew that there’s a lot of misinformation out there and that I need to be an educated consumer. I need to ask more questions. “Is that true? What’s the literature say on that? Can you tell me about the research that gives you that information? I really want to be an educated consumer.”
And the last point is I wish I knew that augmentative communication is a form of assistive technology — an assistive tool — that it’s not a goal in and of itself. The goal is language and language development. But the way I get there is through augmentative communication.
Now, Symbol-It is not a form of augmentative communication–not for the symbol speaker. It’s a form of transcription and translation for me, the communication partner, so that I can speak in symbols. But it does not provide augmentative communication for your developing symbol speaker. For them, we make a decision on a speech-generating device on a system specifically for them. But Symbol-It is a tool for me to use so that I can support the language development of my symbol speaker.”