I’m moving forward with AAC, life never stands still. Are you like me?  Finding that things in life constantly evolve? Following my decision to retire from elite boccia I’ve been doing a lot of reflection.  Rightly, I think I’ve been questioning where next? And, was I right in my future aspirations? Yes, I think I was, as one chapter in life closes another one opens.

Time for reflection

Not once have I doubted that focusing on my own quality of life is the right way to go. Then second, my lifelong passion for all things augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) still drives me forward. Finally, I’m convinced now my well-being is vastly improved through not overreaching. By this, I mean working steadily with a focus towards making my dreams a reality. And, that reality means not biting off more than I can chew.

Taking stock

I’m supremely grateful for the many opportunities that have come my way since the Tokyo Paralympics.  These have helped me crystalize my thoughts. As I said life never stands still, I’ve delivered assemblies and workshops in schools and the community.  There has been the opportunity for public involvement work through the university. Then there has been the opportunity to speak at international and UK conferences. Oh, and I’ve guest written for the CPISRA blog, supported post-grad students to learn about communication impairment and much more.  Woven throughout every opportunity has been the importance of dreams, working hard and being an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) user, because intrinsically that is me.

Lots of opportunities

All of these opportunities ticked my boxes as I’ve raised awareness of AAC, and I’ve enjoyed each and every one. In fact, it would be easy to be busy doing just more of this, and I will.  However, the occasions that have really excited me are when I’ve worked with others who use AAC in their daily lives. There is something special about helping others realise what they can do, that they can achieve their own potential.  With the right support we all have the opportunity to achieve and exceed our own and others’ expectations of us, whatever that might be.  With that has come a realization that this type of work is an area that is sadly underfunded, and to change this much work needs to be done.

Where next

This brings me to where I go next.  Certainly, life never stands still so working on my website is on my action list. I’m also committed to continuing to support people who use AAC. In turn, where I can, playing my part to raise wider awareness of the vital part AAC plays in empowering those with little or no voice.

During the last few months, I’ve also had the opportunity to be involved with a number of groups and activities with an AAC focus.  These have had a focus on communication, assistive technology and cerebral palsy. What is clear is that policy remains broad brush with AAC often being a tag-on or afterthought.  I always thought the funding available for high-tech AAC was ring-fenced for all who needed it.  Yet, I’ve discovered only 10% of those who need AAC get to have assessments at specialist centres. Everyone else gets their support and resources through their local teams, where local commitment and funding are variable.  The result is there remains a postcode lottery of assessment and provision.

Moving forward with AAC: Life never stands still

So, I have other news.  When I finished my degree I swore I’d never pick up another textbook (metaphorically as actually I physically can’t).  But time and space gave me the chance to look at my passions, and actually, I loved studying. And, learning is for life.  I’m delighted to announce I have been accepted to do a MRes in Social Policy at the University of York.  There are still a few hoops to jump through, but I’ll be starting back there in late September.  I’m pretty sure what I want to focus on for my dissertation, I’m sure you might guess. Of course, I’ll need the powers that be to approve my research project when the time comes.  Without doubt, life never stands still.