More Advocates for a Stronger Team

Jun 30, 2015

As I've talked with therapists, specialists and parents about AAC, one of the common stories I hear is the tale of the super-advocate. This is the person who maybe muscled their way through the process of getting a device for the communicator, or made sure the device had a relevant vocabulary set, or that keeps maintaining the content and trying to get everyone else enthused about value of the device. The person who seems like a nag as they say "how come the device isn't out?" over and over again.

cheering crowd from Robin Hood cartoonAAC intervention teams are a diverse bunch.
Sometimes the super-advocate is the speech therapist. Sometimes it's the parent. Sometimes it's the communicator themself. Whoever it is, they say "I don't care, we're going to make this work" and the communicator is better for having them around.

It's not the worst system in the world, but it puts a lot of weight on that super-advocate, and there's a risk that everyone around the super-advocate just follows their lead and says "you tell us when to do something and we'll do it." In practice it seems to result in limited participation by others -- and probably burnout for the super-advocate. I've heard lots of "I think it just sits in the closet at home/school" kinds of comments by super-advocates referring to the others on the team.

I think that a better team makeup would be to have maybe just a semi-super-advocate with a collection of other engaged team members. With everything else going on in life that's not an easy thing to change, but we at CoughDrop think technology can help make engagement at least a little easier.

Poor engagement often comes from feeling disempowered or uninformed. If you don't know what's going on or what you're supposed to be working on, it's a lot harder to get over that mental hump and make things happen. It's not a lack of caring, it's often just being unsure what to do or how to help.

G.I. Joe cartoon posterStrong teams make a big difference.

That's why CoughDrop has reporting and messaging tools built-in. We want members of the support team to be able to easily message each other to coordinate a strategy, ask questions, and share successes as they happen. Good news empowers everyone! We want everyone on the support team (including the communicator) to be able to see communication milestones as they arrive, and to be able to hold themselves and others accountable. We want everyone on the support team to be able to see what progress has been made, and what work there still is to do. After all, knowing is half the battle :-).

Messaging (with notifications!) and reporting tools can't do everything to make communication support teams their most effective, but we believe it can make a noticeable difference. And strong support teams will lead to more successful AAC interventions, which we like to think is a good goal to work toward.

Clayton Smeltz

CoughDrop Founder