"Beaumont College made a huge difference to my confidence in AAC. The staff were very supportive they saw my potential and supported me in achieving it."
23-year old Jess Forster from Lytham St Annes, who has cerebral palsy, is putting her mentoring training into practice, supporting others with speech and language impairments.
Jess has been using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) since she was seven years old, before this she communicated using eye-pointing. When she attended Beaumont College in Lancaster, Jess’ confidence using AAC grew with support from the college’s technology department. As a consequence, Jess studied for a level 2 qualification in mentoring, enabling her to use her City and Guilds AAC and ICT qualifications, to support others who need to use supported communication devices.
AAC is the term used to describe various methods of communication that can ‘add-on’ to speech and are used to get around problems with ordinary speech. AAC includes simple systems such as pictures, gestures and pointing, as well as more complex techniques involving powerful computer technology.
While undergoing her training, Jess was approached by a speech and language therapy company to become a mentor, and now she works with young people, cross-region, providing coaching and support to build their confidence and skills using AAC.
Jess said: “Beaumont College made a huge difference to my confidence in AAC. The staff were very supportive; they saw my potential and supported me in achieving it.
“It was nice to meet and work alongside other people using AAC on my mentoring course.
“I now mentor young people in AAC. It’s amazing to see how well the mentees do when supported by an adult using AAC. I go into schools to support students and to give presentations to the staff, most of whom have never met another AAC user before.”
Becky Hodgson, Pathway Coordinator at Beaumont College, added: “Empowering people like Jess to support others is the best part of our job. For one AAC user to be able to mentor others is such a powerful tool, enabling them to share real-life experiences which non-users simply wouldn’t understand.”
Beaumont College of Further Education, provides a person-centred curriculum to young people with physical and learning disabilities, ages 19 to 25.