Written by Lorraine Cohen, M.S., CCC-SLP, Assistive Technology Specialist

As Speech-Language Pathologists, we often find inspiration in our favorite adages.  One of ours is “Just because I can’t speak doesn’t mean I have nothing to say.

At AHRC New York City’s Day Services,  Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) specialized supports have provided many people without a voice a means by which they can be heard and say whatever’s on their minds.

Carolina Gaston is one of those people. Carolina is a young woman who receives services from AHRC NYC’s Betty Pendler Day Services.  Carolina has a gentle, caring, and helping spirit which was evident to all at the Caring Community Senior Center, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, and GNC Soup Kitchen, where she regularly volunteered. In fact, on days she wasn’t able to volunteer, community workers often remarked how much they missed her. Besides being an active volunteer, Carolina loves to dance and particularly enjoys singing in her music group.

However, Carolina transitioned from high school to AHRC NYC without any communication systems, without a voice for people to hear what she had to say. The ACC team worked together to obtain a high-tech communication device for her.  Her desire to be heard and speak her mind enabled her to socially interact and communicate during day services, at volunteer sites, and most regularly with her peers.

Fierce Determination

Currently, Carolina attends remote services daily. Remote services can be particularly challenging for people who use communication devices and who require direct staff support to add new vocabulary onto devices and receive guided daily practice to locate those new words. However, despite these challenges and not always having the words on the device she would like to say, Carolina’s fierce determination and perseverance has enabled her to always offer an appropriate response, participate in activities, and even offer support to a peer who also uses a device during remote services.  Carolina has found the words that enable her to participate in jeopardy, talent group, exercise, and music during remote services. Her sense of accomplishment and self-confidence in meeting these challenges is evident in her lovely smile.

Carolina’s social and communication skills and progress using her device during remote services have been remarkable not only to staff and peers but also to her mother. Carolina has faced many communication challenges during her life; she has met these challenges with perseverance and a joy that is evident for all to see. Carolina clearly values having a voice that can be heard.