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Charlie Danger: Working with AAC Users from Different Countries

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This week, Chris interviews Charlie Danger, an occupational therapist from the UK who specializes in assistive technology and AAC! Charlie shares some of his fascinating experiences working with AT and AAC in Qatar, including how to increase our understanding of other cultures and the importance of learning about our own!

Key ideas this episode:

🔑 Importance of encouraging more than requests from AAC users

🔑 Why “different but not less” applies to both cultural and neurological differences

🔑 Strategies for working with AAC users and families from different cultures


Before the Interview:

  • Rachel’s presentation on AAC & Autism – “Going Beyond Requesting”
  • Discussion of how peoplewith Autism can get “stuck” requesting; this may be due to social language impairment and isolated activities. Getting stuck may also involve not having a clear vision of what kinds of language the clinician can target.
  • Going from “Autism Awareness Month” to “Autism Acceptance Month”
  • Importance of accepting and understanding other people’s cultures – “different but not less” – also applies to neurodiversity
  • Neurodiversity is something to be celebrated
  • People with autism have a different brain than a neurotypical person – not a brain that is somehow “less”
  • Maintaining a strengths-based focus rather than looking only at deficits can help to keep the right mindset


During the Interview:

  • Charlie Danger – Occupational Therapist from UK and Senior AAC Consultant at the Ace Centre.
  • Ace Centre is a UK national AT & AAC charity – one of their patrons was Stephen Hawking years ago.
  • Ace Centre does AT assessments in schools and AAC assessments for people of all ages
  • They are a transdicplinary team & go out in groups to assess and then support local teams with implementation
  • Challenges & victories working for 4 years as an AT Specialist in Qatar
  • Cultural differences – belief that God is the reason why a person has complex communication needs; parents may expect a doctor not someone playing with toys; independence for AAC users isn’t always as much of a priority if someone else is a caretaker because of the high value placed on each person’s role in the family
  • Strategies to overcome cultural difference – 1) recognize signs of culture shock, 2) spend free time with people who live within that culture
  • Low-tech worked better in Qatar because it allowed another caretaker to continue to help the AAC user and keep his or her role. There was often more abandonment of high-tech AAC.
  • How do you become more culturally competent? Learn about yourself – understanding your own cultural norms can help recognize a) when differences are cultural, and b) how your own cultural norms can be perceived by others.
  • Discussion of Zaretta Hammond – Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain
    • Tree has “leaves” that represent the least emotional but most apparent cultural differences (language, dress, music, games) which makes up a lot of what is readily visible of a another culture
    • The trunk is made up of things like honesty of professionals with each other, aspects of fairness in society, which is much harder to adapt to because you have to really accept people are different and listen
    • The tree’s “roots” are things like personal independence, causes of disability that can cause huge emotional disparity and require the most adaptation
  • We need to be ready to work with people who come from all sorts of backgrounds & cultures, especially working in AAC



Interested in earning CEU’s by listening to “Talking With Tech”? Check out our course at bit.ly/twtcorepd.

Charlie Danger – @DangerOT on Twitter

Ace Centre – AceCentre.org.uk & @AceCentre on Twitter

Zaretta Hammond – Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain https://www.amazon.com/dp/1483308014/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_y2W0CbDWG7APG

We want to know what you think! You can connect with us at our Facebook group Talking with Tech, on Twitter, and Instagram (@talkingwithtech)! Also, please subscribe and post a review for us on iTunes – it helps others to find us!


Hosts: Rachael Madel and Chris Bugaj

Producer: Luke Padgett

Audio Engineer: Michaela Ball

Music: “Ebb and Flow” by Fabian Measures

May 8, 2019

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