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Children find voice at ISU-Boise’s AAC Camp

July 2, 2007
ISU Marketing and Communications

Boise – Wearing a cowboy hat and blue bandanna, 11-year-old Austin Freckleton delivered a line from a play he’d been working on all week. “I grabbed the snake and threw it far away, and I’m still here today,” he said.

The audience laughed. Austin smiled. And his mother, peering through the lens of a video camera, beamed. Austin, who has cerebral palsy, is one of 14 children and teens who attended the Advancing Adventures in Communicating Camp at Idaho State University-Boise June 18-22. The camp – the only one of its kind in the Northwest – is for children who have severe communication challenges caused by disease, injury, autism or other delays in development.

“It’s an immense challenge for these children to build relationships with their peers because of communication barriers. Our goal is to bring down those barriers,” said camp co-founder Beth Guryan, a licensed speech-language pathologist and clinical assistant professor at ISU-Boise.

Austin, who has limited use of his voice, delivered his dialogue using an alternative augmentative communication (AAC) device or “talker” – a small computer capable of storing hundreds of words and phrases. An infrared light activates his desired response.

One goal of the AAC camp is to make the campers more proficient with their AAC devices."They can practice using the ‘talkers’ with their peers and adults who will take the time to truly listen. The camp also trains future speech-language pathologists about assistive technology and how to better interact with people who use augmentative devices," said camp co-founder Anne Kuhlmeier, a licensed speech language pathologist at St. Luke’s-Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Services.

The campers spent the week, working one-on-one with speech pathologists and graduate students from ISU-Boise’s speech-language pathology program. Activities included swimming, rock climbing, writing, crafts, drama and culminated with a series of plays written and performed by the campers while using their AAC devices.

“The best part for me is seeing the campers interact — being around children like themselves,” said counselor/clinician Deirdre Morgan, a 2007 graduate of ISU-Boise’s speech pathology and audiology program.It was a week filled with inspiration, challenge and accomplishment – even for Guryan.A few days earlier, when a camper asked her to scale a 30-foot rock wall during the climbing exercise, she had only one response.“Yes,” she said with a laugh.  “The week was about living life without setting limits. How could I refuse?”

The camp is presented by ISU-Boise’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders & Education of the Deaf and St. Luke’s- Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Services. For more information, call Beth Guryan, 208-373-1721 or Anne Kuhlmeier, 208-706-5775.


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