I did a favor for a fellow a teacher who works in another school district today. She teaches a PDD class grades 1-4 and has a 4th grader who is ready to move on next year. The student in question doesn't really belong in a PDD room, but that is another story. She didn't start using AAC until this year when I let her teacher borrow a 32 message 6 level device from my personal collection, as the school district had no interest in providing her with a device.
Basically I met with the mom of the student and taught her about AAC, displayed three different dynamic display devices and taught her what to say to get an evaluation and a rental in order for her daughter to have a dynamic display device in the relativity near future. Basically I just told her that her daughter (and all children) are entitled to have assistive technology be considered as part of their IEPs. Nothing earth-shattering there, just the law.
I explained that the district must supply the technology if it is educational necessary, but that she could negotiate for them to just pay for the evaluation and the rental of a device to collect data and then have state insurance pay for the device so that her daughter owned it, which has the bonus of making her look like a hero.
In the end this mom said to me, "I know she has things to say. I know she wants to tell us things. I know there are things like what you are showing me out there for her. I just don't know who to ask."
It brings tears to my eyes. This mom knows her daughter, knows she can communicate. We, all of us who are part of the system, have failed. The system that prepares educators, special educators, speech therapists and occupational therapists has failed. The system that placed this child in a PDD room failed. The system that created a situation that forced a classroom teacher to have to go to an out of district teacher-friend for a "favor" of educating a mom on her daughter's rights definitely failed. Those in the medical fields failed, why haven't they given this mom the information, sent the daughter for AAC eval? The device creators and vendors failed, why aren't they finding ways to connect with these desperate parents outside of school districts? Somehow, we, the stakeholders, the moms and dads, and people with disabilities who have found a way through these hurdles themselves and teachers and speech therapists, and device makers, and OTs and PTs, and AT specialists, all of us, we need to do a better job finding a way to give all students their voices and their power.