As the knowledge base in AAC grows, so do the number of questions SLPs have about how they can optimize language development and use by adults and children with AAC needs. These questions are being asked not only in the United States, but in many countries where AAC strategies are being used to help children in a wide range of cultures.
In the pages that follow, we are pleased to share articles on AAC with an international flavor by authors from three continents. Erna Alant gives a South African perspective on training and intervention. Martine Smith, from Ireland, provides a perspective on helping individuals who use AAC develop literacy skills. From Israel, Judy Wine shares information on AAC with young children and gives an update on AAC activities in that country.
An international community of clinicians, other professionals, and people who use AAC devices and their families has existed for decades. ISAAC—the International Society for AAC—formed in 1983 with a goal of improving the lives of children and adults with speech and language disorders who could benefit by using AAC strategies.
The organization has grown, and now has thousands of members in 50 countries—including people who use AAC and their families, clinicians, teachers, physicians, researchers, and people who make communication aids. In August 2006, more than 600 delegates from 40 countries attended ISAAC's the 12th Biennial Conference in Dusseldorf, Germany. The conference opened with a performance of music and art by young people using AAC. Some countries that are new to AAC—Nepal, Nigeria, Guinea Bisseau, and Gambia, among them—sent representatives to the conference. The next ISAAC conference will take place in Montreal in August 2008.
The articles included in this issue of The ASHA Leader reflect the increasing globalization of information about AAC, and the increasing awareness of these strategies in the United States. At my own U.S. university, I recently asked a group of new speech-language pathology graduate students how many anticipated working with children or adults who use AAC in their first few years of practice. Thirteen out of 16 hands shot up. What a far cry from the first time I had asked this question—in 1994, this query was met with only quizzical looks.
Sometimes, change just sneaks up on you. And sometimes, it's a pleasant surprise.