With multiple quarantines and lockdowns, it's been a difficult year. But there's no doubt that for kids, it's been especially hard.
It was a topic that weighed on Jenn Seiff's mind. Her own son, L.J., himself an AAC device user, was part of a very social group at school that spent time together at lunch. But distance learning was erasing all that. How, thought Jenn, could she keep L.J., and other AAC communicators, socially engaged?
While talking with her friend Jessica, also a mother of an AAC user, the two hit upon a brainstorm: Why not create a space for users of AAC to just…hang out? Spend some time together, and meet other communicators?
AAC Communicators, Just Hanging Out
The Mission of Impaact Voices
While the idea of creating a social community online isn't new, for the AAC community — and especially for users of AAC— it was an idea whose time had come.
Seiff is quick to point out that the group is NOT therapy-related. Rather, its intent is purely social. "It's all about cultivating friendships and foster a growing confidence," she said. "This is about AAC users &emdash; to give them dedicated time to speak, or not to speak."
PRC-Saltillo Ambassadors are available to act as mentors, encouraging those who may be shy to speak up, or to otherwise encourage discussion, suggest topics &emdash; or even just be a resource while the communicators spend time together.
Growing for the Future
The success of the hangouts has meant that the kids — and adults — have a place to learn and/or practice community, relationship and socialization skills. Per their website, ImpaactVoices.org, the group encourages positive interaction amongst individuals with complex communication needs. Even more, the hangouts occur in a private channel that requires admittance, to allow everyone to just be themselves.
"No gawkers," said Seiff.
Admittance is by invitation, and currently limited to those age 10 and up. "We hope to eventually open to younger ages as it grows," she said.
Currently hangouts are held via Zoom the second Tuesday of every month, from 6 p.m. — 7 p.m. ET.
"We eventually want to offer more opportunities, but we want to maintain intimacy," said Seiff. "As we grow, we'll eventually add groups by age or by interest so all can participate and have an opportunity to talk.
"But right now, we're just happy to give adults and kids using AAC the opportunity to spend time with others."
Want to Hang Out?
For more information, or to request an invitation, visit ImpaactVoices.org.