SW Allen First Responders Join Students at 8th Annual AAC Theater Camp

For the first time, representatives from the Southwest Allen County Fire Department will join students and faculty from the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) for the 8th annual IPFW Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC) Theater Camp.

The camp takes place October 7–9 and will be held over IPFW’s fall break, which allows CSD students and faculty to work with young people who use AAC devices to communicate, and with their families.

The camp will conclude with a public performance of the play Don’t Wait—Check the Date, on Sunday, October 9, at 5 p.m. in Neff Hall, Room 101. The local community is invited to attend the play.

In keeping with the camp’s new connection with the fire department, Sharon Mankey, CSD alumna and continuing lecturer, wrote this year’s play about fire prevention and what to do in an emergency for those who may have different abilities.

“The AAC camp illustrates one of the many ways IPFW positively impacts the northeast Indiana region,” said Stacy Betz,chair and associate professor of communication sciences and disorders.

Attendees are the actors in the camp’s play, learning their lines during the first two days and performing the play on the closing day. Their families often paint scenery and help with costumes.

Campers also participate in social activities throughout the weekend. This year that will include communicating with a group of Southwest Allen County first responders. Firefighters will demonstrate their equipment and talk with the students about safety in an emergency.

Mankey and Mariesa Rang, CSD alumna, volunteer, and limited term lecturer, advocate regionally to increase public awareness of how to communicate with individuals who cannot verbally speak. They targeted first responders because of the need for good communication during emergencies.

“Southwest [Allen County Fire Department] welcomed us twice to do in-service training for their volunteers and employees,” said Mankey, “but the crew wanted more opportunities to practice communicating with AAC users. This is how we came up with the idea to involve them in the camp.”

“People who use AAC devices to communicate often do not have opportunities to perform,” said Betz. “As campers, they have this experience on the IPFW campus. At the same time, our CSD undergraduate students gain valuable experience applying the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom when working with the campers during rehearsals and the final stage production.”

For more information on the camp or for media inquiries, contact Sharon Mankey, continuing lecturer and director of the Communication Disorders Clinic, at sharon.mankey@ipfw.edu or 260-481-6952.

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