Can’t find what you need? Create it yourself!

Claire- Inspired to Create

We are so inspired by one of our volunteers that we just had to share with everyone!

Can you imagine being a child and not being able to communicate what you want to others? What if you were a parent, and you could not determine what your child was thinking or feeling? This is what a segment of our children and families cope with daily.

Dynamic Duals, one of our Playhouses’ programs, focuses on participants who have a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism or Down syndrome and behavioral challenges. Most of these participants use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices to communicate. After a parent expressed disappointment in the lack of representation of kids with communication devices in children’s books, one of our bright and highly active, high school volunteers decided to take matters into her own hands.

Claire Schmitt, who just graduated high school and is heading to Chapman University in Orange, California, knew she would be able to design images that would help our children. She plans to explore  illustration in college so she  offered her services to all Dynamic Dual participants.

Many robust AAC systems come pre-loaded not just with words, but also with standardized symbol sets (simple pictures) that can be used alongside words. After learning one child’s AAC device was pre-loaded with lots of words and standardized symbols already, and discussions about other ways illustrations could be helpful, Claire offered to author a story about children and peers using their AAC devices to communicate. A target goal for our participant, Max, is to help him use his AAC system to communicate with others, especially peers.

This daunting task did not stop or slow Claire at all! She said, “The goal was to create a plot that did not center around Garbanzo (the main character) using his device, but rather having the device briefly alluded to and shown in each illustration. I wanted the storyline to be lighthearted and fun to read!” She also said “I love to illustrate and letter, so this was a perfect opportunity to put my sudden abundance of free time to good use. I used Adobe Illustrator to create the pictures, using a Wacom Tablet to sketch and design the page layouts.”

Claire’s hard work paid off! She not only wrote and illustrated a story called ‘Garbanzo and the Great Parade’ that include characters who use AAC devices, she also had it published on Amazon!  There are few story books that include characters who use AAC devices, so this book is very special to Max and his family. As you can see in his picture below, he couldn’t wait to start reading!


We are so proud of Claire and are grateful for not only her dedication to serving the group on site but for helping families behind the scenes.

Here’s a sample of one of the pages in her book and to check out Claire’s books visit: Garbanzo and the Great Parade

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