We recently spoke with Kim Vuong, our Community Liaison, and how she utilizes her AAC device and more!
Q: Hi Kim! Can you give a brief introduction, please, for those who may not know you?
My position with Tichenor Clinic for Children, I am the Community Liaison. I also run a teen support group and I am a coordinator for the Life Skills classes.
My position with the City of Long Beach Citizens Advisory Commission on Disabilities, I became the Chair recently. I will continue my Chair service until next June, hopefully.
My position at Harbor Regional Center is as a Board Member.
My position at Prentke Romich Company, I am an Ambassador. As an Ambassador, I get to go out to Colleges and Universities to make presentations about our devices.
Q: You recently shared on social media about utilizing an AAC device to prepare for your role as Chair of CACOD. What is an AAC device? How did you first learn about them?
An AAC device is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device to help people with communication disorders to express themselves. These devices can range from a simple picture board to a computer program that synthesizes speech from text.
I first learned about AAC devices in 1998 when my boss at Independent Living Center told me that my client didn’t understand me so he suggested that I go and get an Augmentative and Alternative Communication assessment. I went to my Department of Rehab counselor and asked her to refer me to a place that does AAC evaluations. They referred me to an Assisted Technology Center. I was seen by a speech pathologist. They had me try out different devices for more than 3 months. Then I found the Vantage from Prentke Romich Company and I have been using it ever since. I have upgraded to the current model.
Q: Can you take us through the process of what you do to prepare for CACOD and other meetings?
Ever since I became Chair of CACOD I had to work even harder to prepare my meetings. I realized that I could do what I usually do when I use my device to make a presentation. Because one of my commissioners is hard of hearing, he doesn’t understand my device when I use my notebook, which is in my device and lets me store all of my presentations. I wanted to figure out another way to make it easier for him to see what I am saying. So, I contacted my PRC rep and I figured out how to do it. I had to create some blank pages which have buttons for storing phrases. Every month I coordinate with the ADA coordinator. She is also the coordinator for CACOD. She gives me a script of what I have to say and I put it in my device. That is how I prepare for my meetings.
Q: What advice would you have for parents who are interested in learning more about AAC devices?
I would like them to know that communication is very important for children to express themselves. There is no pre-requisite for them. It is very important to start looking early for your child to communicate. It may help with behavioral problems.
Q: Your lived experience is so valuable to the many leadership roles you hold, and our society has a long way to go to being truly inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. What are some of the things you’ve advocated for or are working on now?
I have been advocating for universal playgrounds and access to public places. One of my biggest accomplishments that I achieved was accessible beach mats in Long Beach. I have been working for accessible playgrounds for all children.
Q: What would you like to tell non-AAC users about how to best communicate with AAC users?
A: Speak with the person not the device.
Respect screen privacy.
Check for understanding.
Ask one question at a time and discuss one topic at a time.
If you are unsure, ask! Ask the user about their preferences or if you are not sure you are understanding, ask for clarification.
Be patient and remember that as with any technology, you will encounter limits and glitches!
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
I love working at Tichenor because I have the opportunity to develop new ideas for what the community wants and needs.
Q: Thank you, Kim!!