And so it begins... welcome to "Looking Up, Tuning In: A Blog about AAC"

For many years I have wanted a place to share my thinking about AAC, child language development, autism, and what it is like to work in this field.  Long before it became a career, helping people communicate better (including myself) was my passion.  I love watching people truly connect and am amazed at how children become more and more adept at language and communication over time.

For me, I want this blog to have a simple overarching theme:

that everything we hope to do as parents, therapists, teachers, and human beings comes down to taking a breath and looking up from our goals, worries, check lists, technology, and to do lists and really truly tune in to each other. The best therapy and teaching I have ever seen always happens when people are attuned to each other.

It is in these moments that I have experienced another magical thing:  That moment when a person looks up and wordlessly expresses, “Yes, YES!!! you are getting me.”

Those are  moments in which real communication happens and both people know it. This is what drives me.

There are so many important goals I work on as a speech therapist including learning words, grammar, social communication, comprehension, literacy, and self advocacy.  Yes vocabulary, grammar, and receptive language skills are so important, but they alone do not ensure connection nor success.  We have all seen people use a great number of words and not manage to connect with people; we also have seen babies connect with people even though they do not have the ability to say a single word.   I want my clients to be able to truly connect with people on their terms and to express their ideas, personalities, and unique perception of the world.   

So I name this blog “Looking Up, Tuning In” because I want to remind myself that I need to remember to look up and survey the big picture.

For me, this always start by tuning tune in to the person I am communicating with.

For my clients, I want to see them looking up and really see the impact they have on this world and the people in their lives. 

Using lights and song during social cause and effect

{Caption:  Me during a social interaction therapy session.  My student could press the blue BigMac switch which played a recording of every other line of a song while turning on the lights. I responded by singing the other lines of the song, smile, and dance. This was the 1st activity where I heard this teenager really giggle and anticipate that *he* had the power to make someone do something for him}

I want my clients to really feel the impact they have on their world.  For my students with autism, I want them to experience moments throughout their day in which people meet them on their terms, and also give them skills to try to make sense of all the 'neuro-typical' folks who bump into them, sometimes literally, in the course of a day. 

In every evaluation I do, I try to remember to ask the question, “what makes your child/spouse/friend/student light up?”  The answer always leads me to knowing more about where to start and where to return to if that connection starts to break down. I want to know what a person can do, can understand, and can say, but more than anything I want to see what a person can do with those skills. 

I look forward to seeing where this writing space takes me, the conversations that develops through commenting, and how my own thinking continues to evolve. I will do my best to write in New Zealand English, given that this is where I primarily practice, however please forgive me for the occasional Americanism.  Old habits die hard.

Welcome!