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Running an Adult AAC Group – Experiences of SLT Students

As two Speech Language Therapy students at Massey University, we were given the opportunity to participate in CAGs at TalkLink. CAG stands for Communication Abilities Group; the group includes adults of all of ages and backgrounds, who each use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems as speech and/or language is difficult for them. The group come together to socialise and use their communication devices to discuss a variety of topics. CAGs happens every six weeks, at the Auckland TalkLink office.

As with any new experience, we were a little nervous but excited for our first CAGs. The TalkLink team and all group members were very friendly and relaxed, and made us feel welcome and part of the group. On the first day we helped group members to participate in the group; this was a great opportunity to have one-to-one conversations with the different group members, and to learn how the group was run. The next three CAG mornings were up to us to organize and facilitate, with the support of the SLT-team at TalkLink.

Meeting new clients always gives you the opportunity to learn a whole new range of creative communication skills e.g. sounding the alarm on a wheelchair to gain attention. It never ceases to amaze how much can be communicated through facial expression and intonation. One of the surprises was the number of technical difficulties AAC user’s experience, and how frustrating these can be.

One of the challenges has been catering to all the different needs so the activities are engaging and stimulating for all members, despite varying interests and communication abilities. We have had to learn how to give people time to create a message on their device, while still keeping the flow of the conversation and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to share. Although facilitating a group can be challenging, it also provides us with the opportunity to learn from more clients than we could have seen through individual sessions.

We have found this a great opportunity to gain the ‘hands-on’ experience that you cannot get from learning theory in class. The group members have been very welcoming and it’s been a lot of fun getting to know them. We are excited for our final session in June; we will miss this funny, charismatic group once we are finished! We would like to thank the TalkLink team for this experience and for all the valuable feedback, which will help us with placements and future work as SLTs.

 

Thanks TalkLink and CAGs members!

 

Hannah Barnes- 4th Year SLT Massey University

Chris Lemmers – 3rd Year SLT Massey University

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Jane Wendelken
I am interested in setting up environments and programmes which create opportunities for communicating at all levels and creating literacy programmes to suit the needs of my students.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.talklink.org.nz/index.php/2016/05/16/running-an-adult-aac-group-experiences-of-slt-students/

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