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Bridges-Over-Barriers
Communication Support Initiative

A creative communication group was started in 2004 by six Ontario men who live with quite severe challenges of Autism. As they do not speak with their voices, other people might assume that they have nothing to say—even that they do not think or feel. But they are very expressive, on many topics, supported by AAC technology (alternative and augmentative communication) and the presence of family and friends who believe in them. The idea of meeting regularly began with one of the men, who also proposes agenda topics and acts as host. Family members and friends just facilitate the dream in practical ways--and listen! The men gather in Guelph from all over southern Ontario, and there are corresponding members in faraway places too.

The pioneers have a dream of Bridges-Over-Barriers as “a centre for friends and family who live with the challenges of autism to come together to share support, ideas and community. Bridges is the beginning of an idea for us to build on a small community of adults with autism who have been meeting a few times a year since January 2004. We have been developing our skills as communicators and sharing technology ideas and friendship.
“We want to extend this community of pioneers to include more people. We would like there to be more opportunities for others to benefit from our experience, and to encourage and train more people to support those of us with communication and movement disorders.”

Members of Bridges share the philosophy of "People First": "Nothing about me without me" and "Though I may not speak with my voice, I have plenty to say." Friends and families of the men like the potential of Bridges-Over-Barriers to help with supported decision-making, and are supporting them to start realizing the vision.

They share a vision of helping more adults who use supported typing and other forms of AAC to express their thoughts and dreams. The newsletter (see links below) contains more information on specific projects, such as a demonstration DVD, a resource manual, and an IT system designed to enhance communication among the group in both real and virtual gatherings..

Some of the men express themselves in poetry, some of which may be found in the Bridges-Over-Barriers newsletters. In My Mind is a published collection of thoughts and words (often expressed as poetry) by one of the Bridges group.

Two Bridges newsletters were published in 2006, one in 2007, and the latest in November 2008:
Newsletter 1, 2006

Newsletter 2, 2006
Newsletter 3, 2007
Newsletter 4, 2008
Newsletter 5, 2008
Newsletter 6, 2008

To communicate with Bridges-Over-Barriers, please send a message first to OAARSN at oaarsn@uoguelph.ca

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