My name is Jill Clark and I am 31. I have a Disability called Cerebral Palsy which affects my speech.
Even although I don’t have any speech due to my disability, from a young age I have always got something to say and people will say I never shut up!
AAC has been a big part of my life from my nursery days to now. I would like to take you on a journey of my experiences of AAC and how it has changed through the years and how it has changed my life but first let me explain what is AAC?.
So, AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication which means different ways of communicating such as using a communication device or symbols or sign language and a lot more. Really everyone uses AAC because now days, we communicate through texts, emails and social media.
I first started using AAC when I was in nursery when I used a symbols book. A symbols book is a book with symbols of different things like family, food, places.
When I was in primary 1 I tried my very first Communication device, a communication device is a device which speaks out. The first Communication device that I tried was called Alphatalker. The Alphatalker was a small device. It was just like a talking symbols book. I had sheets with pictures of the subject I wanted to talk about. I had to change the sheets each time I wanted to change the subject I was talking about.
In primary 2 I got another communication device which was called Vanguard. The Vanguard was a very big and heavy device. On the Vanguard I used a programme called LLL 45 which had 45 boxes of different of subjects like family, food, places and a lot more.
LLL stands for Language Living and Learning and it is a great programme to use. LLL is the programme that I use or have been using with all of my communication devices as you will see in this journal
I had the Vanguard for a few years and then I got another communication device called Vantage. The Vantage was the same as Vanguard but a lot smaller. I used LLL 45 again on this device.
Due to my disability I can’t use my hands very well, so with my first 3 Communication devices I used a head switch which was very slow because it needed to scan through the boxes on the device. I didn’t like it and didn’t want to use the devices at that time. But my next communication device changed a lot for me.
I got my next communication device when I was in my 2nd year of high school. It was called a Vanguard 2. The Vanguard 2 was smaller than the first Vanguard but bigger than the Vantage. I still used LLL but it was LLL 84 which had 84 boxes and more vocabulary. This was better for me as I was getting older and had a lot more to say.
With this device I started to use a head tracker. The head tracker is infrared. A tracker dot on my forehead picks up the tracker on the device which it moves the cursor on the screen. This is so much better than the head switch and faster.
The very first time I tried the tracker, I didn’t like it, but the more I used it the better I got and I’ve never looked back since then.
With the Vanguard 2 I started to use the computer because the Vanguard 2 could link up to a computer by using a cable. I used computer pages on the device to control the computer. This let me use emails, social media and I wrote my first blog. The Vanguard 2 also let me use a mobile phone for texts. The Vanguard 2 made my life so much better.
I had the Vanguard 2 through my high school years.
Once I left school, I got my next communication device which called the Eco2. It was big, but thinner than Vanguard 2. I still used LLL but I changed to LLL 144 which means it has 144 boxes and more vocabulary. I still used a head tracker with this device. The Eco2 wasn’t just a communication device it was a computer too. I had a communication device and a computer within 1 device. That made it better for me. I could also text with the device too. I used the Eco2 for 5 years.
In 2015 I got my 6th Communication device called Accent 1400. The Accent 1400 was mostly the same as the Eco2 but thinner. With the Accent 1400 I still used LLL 144 and head tracker and could also text. I also got a page on it to work television which I love. But my Mum and Dad hate it that I can turn television over. I don’t know why! Hehe.
In 2020 I got the device which I use today. It is called Accent 1000. The Accent 1000 is the same as the Accent 1400 but it is much smaller, which is better for me. With the Accent 1000 I still use LLL 144, and the head tracker and it is a computer too
Like I said, I have been using the head tracker since I had the Vanguard 2 and it has been great. I tried an eye gaze with the eco2 and Accent 1400. The eye gaze is same as the head tracker but you work it with your eyes. I didn’t liked it. I found it more difficult, so I decided to stick to the head tracker and I love using it. I was the first person to try the head tracker in Scotland.
So, as you see, over time the communication devices got better for me, for my communication and they let me have access to a computer and a mobile phone.
Using communication devices has given me so many opportunities. Such as doing public talks, including in the Scottish Parliament, being able to work, campaigning for Disabled Rights and many more opportunities.
Like I said at the start of this blog, AAC is a big part of my life and I have been very lucky to be able to use AAC throughout my life. I don’t know what I would have done without AAC.
Thank you for reading.