PRESCOTT, AZ, January 9, 2023—Members of the Sweeney family, creators of FidgetPockets—apparel for wiggly people—are on a mission this year to change it up. First order of business: to share with the public tips for communicating with those who communicate differently, including Ben and Keagan, two of the four Sweeney siblings, who happen to have autism.
“We’re going to change it up, in a million different ways,” said their mom, Joanna.
Keagan and Ben designed FidgetPockets, sweatshirts with sensory fabric in the pockets, to help them relax. It quickly became a family affair; parents Joanna and Stan and older siblings Zach and Kendra work alongside Ben and Keagan to promote the clothing and the message that everyone deserves to be heard.
FidgetPocket proceeds go toward installing Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices in public places. In this case, an AAC is a board that “speaks” words when someone pushes corresponding buttons. The goal: to help normalize different modes of communication. To that end, the Sweeney family is sharing their experience-based tips for communicating respectfully with those who communicate differently:
- When you meet an individual with a unique voice, talk to that person—not the people they are with (such as a family member or caregiver). Give them time to respond.
- Parents and/or caregivers, give your unique communicator an opportunity to talk with others (don’t do all the talking for them!). Introduce yourself and your unique communicator and tell people you meet that they’re welcome to talk to your unique communicator and ask questions. Speaking for your unique communicator removes them from the conversation completely.
- Just because someone communicates differently doesn’t mean they can’t hear you. Treat everyone the same way you’d like to be treated … regardless of how they communicate.
Members of the Sweeney family—and a fast-growing network of community partners—are working to change the way others interact with one another … so no one feels isolated or trapped
“Everyone has something to say,” Joanna said. “Let’s put Prescott on the map as the first community to include everyone.”
Learn more at fidgetpockets.com.
FidgetPockets is a Prescott-based 501(C)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a space where all voices can be heard. Through its clothing brand, which features sensory fabric, the organization strives to increase awareness relating to different styles and modes of communication, and to raise money to install Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices in public places. Learn more at fidgetpockets.com.