Once upon a time … In May 1993,
five speech handicapped persons using an alternative communication system were eager to get to know other people using a similar alternative system. Three of them, Monique, Lea and Bert used BLISS symbols on a plastic writing board. Ronald and Diederick used printed capital letters on a plastic board. In August 1993, when following a training organized by the Province of Hainaut, Belgium, we met the chairperson of BLISS, who gave us invaluable information on Augmentative and Alternative Communication systems.
On May 5th 1994, we organized a meeting for speech handicapped persons using BLISS symbols. In january 1995, we followed the BLISS training. During eight years we have been an active member of both Dutch speaking and French speaking associations in Belgium involved in BLISS & AAC. Still today, Anne is a regular participant in the meetings organized by the Dutch speaking community of Belgium. Over the years, we have encountered many cases of isolation due to a person’s inability to speak.
These speech handicapped persons sometimes have a portfolio containing : pictures, images, pictogrammes of words they need on a daily basis to express their needs, thoughts or desires, etc. This helps them a great deal but their dream is to have a voice through technology. We followed trainings in technology systems (lightwriter, alphatalker, deltatalker, tellus, macaw, cameleon, ..) and communication systems (mind express, silence, stratégie du mot, ….) to find out more about them and to learn which systems are most useful for future users. In January 1996, we started as self-employed speech therapists to provide assistance to any speech impaired person (aphasic, multihandicapped, Down syndrome, autistic…).
Our aim is to find a practical solution and to give the person a chance to communicate in an alternative way. Since September 1996, we work closely with the non-profit organisation AP3, which is very actively involved with multihandicapped persons) In January 1997, we followed training sessions in Facilitated Communication in Namur and Brussels (SEPTIS) and a practical training session in Paris (EPICEA). In February 2000, we followed a training of the system Minspeak in Namur (CRETH).
From September 2002 until May 2003, we followed a training session related to communicating by gestures: SMOG In 2004, we followed a year-long sign language training in French : Français Signe. In January 2008, another training followed at the « Centre Apprendre et Parler » ( LPC). During the course of 2006, many persons, parents of handicapped children and relatives of speech handicapped adults asked us to create an Alternative Communication Centre in Belgium where any person with problems using the spoken language due to a handicap, an illness or an accident can find practical answers to their questions. Many people struggle for years before finding the right solution to their needs and few speech therapists are specialized in Augmentative and Alternative Communication systems. In 2008, we thought it was time to react.
On 18th January 2008 our non-profit organization COM.AL.SO (Communication Alternative Solution) was officially established (Date of publication in the Belgian Official Gazette (Moniteur belge / Belgisch Staatsblad).