A Bluffton special education teacher and a Decatur speech-language pathologist have joined to form Speak Up, LLC, a company specializing in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) consulting. Angela Sheets, a special education teacher at Bluffton-Harrison Elementary School, and Nicole Wingate, a speech-language pathologist for Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District, provide onsite training and webinars on AAC for families, educators, therapists and professional associations on a local, state and national level.
Augmentative and alternative communication is used for children and adults with severe speech or language challenges—such as those with cerebral palsy, autism, developmental disabilities, rare genetic syndromes or stroke impairment—who may need to find other ways to communicate. AAC involves various methods and technologies that help or replace speaking or writing for individuals who struggle to produce or comprehend spoken or written language.
Sheets and Wingate, who have a combined 36 years of experience in the education field, see serving as a resource for augmentative and alternative communication as a natural progression from their school careers, which they intend to continue. Both of them have “worked in the trenches doing AAC” with their students, have done a lot of research on AAC and have become highly regarded in the field, according to Sheets. She has taught elementary intense interventions for 18 years and also is the parent of a child with cerebral palsy who uses assistive technology.
In addition to their hands-on experience in facilitating augmentative and alternative communication, Sheets and Wingate feel they are a credible resource because they are independent of any of the AAC device manufacturing companies and therefore more objective in determining the right device for a particular student or client. They keep up with the latest in AAC technology and know what has worked best for unique situations. “We love the AAC community and enjoy sharing the knowledge we gain from other professionals,” said Wingate, a speech-language pathologist who has worked in a school setting for 18 years.
Wingate and Sheets, who are clients of the Northeast Indiana Small Business Development Center, share their knowledge through onsite training and webinars on a variety of AAC-related topics. Some presentations are targeted to parents and families and others are geared to educators and therapists.
The two travel extensively to provide onsite training to a variety of audiences. Organizations and conferences at which they have co-presented include PATINS (Promoting Achievement through Technology and Instruction for all Students), Indiana Principals’ Association, Indiana AAC Summit, ATIA, SXSW.edu, Closing the Gap, Talking with Tech and AAC in the Cloud, among others. Both also have had guest posts on the AAC Language Lab and the PrAACtical AAC, and are certified professionals in Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP).
For more information on Speak Up, LLC, visit https://speakupllc.info/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the services of the Northeast Indiana SBDC, visit www.isbdc.org or call 260-481-500.