A six week long practice period at Tøndergård school and resource centre is coming to an end - Oslo, exams and the DSL+ project is waiting. But first I'm contributing in one last network meeting for preschool employees working with children with communication impairments. This network is an initiative from the counselling service at Tøndergård. The inter - municipal special school in Molde offers special education for about 50 pupils. In addition they offer counselling to the schools and preschools in the owner municipals. Children and teenagers with Down syndrome (DS) represent a considerable amount of the pupils at the school, many of them with complex communication needs.
One of the areas of counselling is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Ingunn Ostad is leading the AAC - network in collaboration with the Educational and Psychological services. Ingunn and I both attended the AAC - educational programs at Buskerud and Vestfold University College. Common interests within the field led to a collaboration in two practice related projects during our two years at HBV. During my practice I`ve been able to take part in the start-up of this AAC - network. A useful experience - now in my first year of the masters program in Special Education - Counselling and Innovation at the University of Oslo. The goal with the AAC – network is to reach preschools with similar needs and be able to give thorough information regarding complex communication needs and implementation of AAC - interventions. The notion of the importance of individualized interventions is of course taken into consideration - and the participants of the network will all receive individual counselling in addition to the network meetings.
Many individuals with Down syndrome depend on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Children with DS represents a group where the use and benefits of AAC is well documented. What set this group apart from others with developmental disabilities might be the combination of early diagnosis and the knowledge of the benefits of early intervention to support language development for this specific group. Most common for individuals with DS is the use of an augmentative form of communication to support the use and development of speech. Some will manage without communication aids further on in life, others will need augmented or alternative forms for communication across the lifespan.
Networks as arenas for counselling of professionals working with children with DS and other developmental disabilities can be beneficial in several aspects. Effectiveness in use of resources and the ability to reach professionals simultaneously is one aspect - but there`s also possibilities to create a motivating arena for learning and development for co-workers in preschools. Hopefully the network will contribute to create a community between the professionals working with AAC in the municipal area - and continue independently after ended counselling from Tøndergård.
Thanks to Tøndergård school and resource centre for an inspiring practice period!
- Written by Silje Hokstad -