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Chennai school for disabled kids showcases communication devices

Vidya Sagar, a centre for special education that focuses on the development of children with disabilities, has been changing the lives of families for the better since 1985. From a small centre, it reaches out to around 4,000 people with disabilities.

Founded in 1985 by Poonam Natarajan, it has helped children with disabilities and their parents by offering the support needed to deal with daily challenges.

It does this through special education programs and rehabilitation.

The month of October is celebrated as the AAC Awareness Month. AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication and refers to devices that help children with speech and communication difficulties.

In October, Vidya Sagar held an open day to create more awareness about AAC devices. Many of them were displayed at the event and it attracted a large number of crowds. The aim was to answer questions regarding such devices.

The Speech and Communication Department at Vidya Sagar has been using many of these devices regularly. Around 450 people are helped in learning to communicate by specially trained staff.

About 250 people from various sectors such as speech therapists, special educators, rehab professionals, mainstream teachers, technology students, innovators, funders and parents were present. Also present was the faculty of Anna University, who worked with Vidya Sagar to develop the devices.

The AAC Open Day opened my eyes to a variety of AAC options (both high tech and low tech). It was interesting to learn how one simple item can be used to teach different things. All in all, I think it will benefit children as well as adults who are non-verbal. - Rushda Hussain SLP, Intern

The AAC communication devices are based on a wide range of technologies, both simple and complicated. They may also be software-based. These include low-tech communication charts and voice output communication aids (VOCA) to high-tech APP & software of AVAZ, Read It, Board Maker, Math Software, Sweep Stick and Eye Gaze Technology and more.

These devices can be further made accessible to users through switches known as Aditi, Vinner & VBoss. These amazingly simple, low cost yet effective switches have been indigenously developed by Vidya Sagar.

"I am happy to be a part of AAC open day that was conducted at Vidya Sagar on October 22nd ' 18. It was a good experience to know the devices that are currently available in the market that helps individual with special needs to communicate. We tend to communicate our needs through speaking. For the individual with special needs this AAC is their voice. We can't force all the children to speak instead, they communicate their needs via non-verbal mode. Various AAC devices (from low- tech to high-tech) were displayed which can be modified according to individual needs. I really liked Eye gaze technology and ' Read it' which made me to amaze. I thank Vidya Sagar and my department of SLHS (SRIHER) for giving us an opportunity to get our hands on. "This is what Jayakumudha R S from the Sri Ramachandra Institute Of Higher Education and Research said.

Parents were able to observe the devices closely and were informed about their uses and impact on communication skills of disabled children.

Here is what a parent had to say. "On visiting AAC Open Day at VidyaSagar,I was wonder struck by the variety of devices displayed ranging from low-tech to high tech. All these would indeed make us aware that our children can communicate effectively and can participate in the society. But, if they are cost effective and maintenance free, I feel it would benefit even the low economic group parents in turn their children. The Open day indeed served as a ray of light for many of us as parents but I wish such events should be conducted frequently to reach on a wider scale," said Bharathi, a parent.

To know more about Vidya Sagar, click here

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