Did you know that individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) experience sexual assault at a rate that is at least seven times higher than it is for individuals without disabilities?
A.T. Tips for #SevenTimes provides assistive technology (A.T.) tips, tools, and resources for ending the sexual abuse of persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD). For the second in our series, we are spotlighting a communication tool shared by Carol Zangari at her PrAACtical AAC Blog. We were made aware of this tool by A.T. specialists at the New England A.T. (NEAT) Center, a partner of the CT A.T. Program (CT Tech Act Project). The NEAT Center and the nonprofit disability services agency Oak Hill launched the #SevenTimes awareness initiative to maintain focus on this unacceptable statistic and the need for education and action.
Adults and children with complex communication needs are more vulnerable to sexual abuse when they do not have a means for effective communication and/or the vocabulary to express what is wrong.
“It’s really important to think about how do we teach these words so that somebody can advocate for themselves in a particular situation,” Fader emphasizes. “[For example] being able to say ‘I don’t like that!’ If you don’t have a way to say that or you don’t know that you have a right to say that, is a huge problem.”
In addition to teaching vocabulary is the need for caregivers to learn each individual’s personal ways of communication. “Beginning communicators often use signals that are unconventional to express their emotional states, wants, needs, and ideas,” writes Zangari in her post about recognizing and responding to unconventional communication signals. “That can work really well when the people in their lives recognize those signals and respond to the communicator’s intent. But when the signals are subtle or idiosyncratic, team members may miss them or misinterpret them.”
Zangari provides two tools for documenting and sharing a learner’s gestures and other forms of communication, their “personal dictionary.” The first is from the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and provides an example grid with columns for “What I do…,” “What it might mean…,” and “What you should do….”
The AT3 Center, the Association of AT Act Programs (ATAP), and the Administration on Community Living (ACL) make no endorsement, representation, or warranty expressed or implied for any product, device, or information set forth in this blog. The AT3 Center, ATAP, and ACL have not examined, reviewed, or tested any product or device hereto referred.
The Assistive Technology Act Technical Assistance and Training Center (AT3 Center) is a project funded under grant award #90ATT0003 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living (ACL). The AT3 Center provides technical assistance and support to AT Act Programs funded under Section 4 of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended (P.L. 108-364). The AT3 Center is a sponsored project of the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP). The information on this website does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of ACL, and no official endorsement should be inferred.
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