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Public speaking may come to mind when you first learn about Toastmasters, but the heart of this international nonprofit organization is leadership. Toastmasters is an education program that focuses on helping individuals develop skills in various areas such as influence, communication, and relationships.

Founded in 1924, Toastmasters is headquartered in Englewood, Colorado with approximately 270,000 members in more than 14,200 clubs in 148 countries. Those numbers include one specialized club for individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Former PRC-Saltillo employee and friend to many, Jane Odom championed this online Toastmasters club through PRC-Saltillo to create a safe space for men and women to learn and grow together.

“Jane wanted a way to support and train ambassadors to develop their public speaking and professionalism before having them represent PRC-Saltillo,” said Kevin Williams, PRC-Saltillo Ambassador, TIPS Contractor, and club participant. “Toastmasters and its Pathways educational program gives people the opportunity to come together and learn techniques of speaking in public. A support that wasn't available to ambassadors previously.”

“When Jane approached me with questions about Toastmasters, I was on board to support her in whatever way she needed,” said Cortney Maholtz, M.A., CCC-SLP. Cortney is a member of PRC-Saltillo’s training and implementation team. She’s also the current club coordinator. Cortney continued, “As an active member of a local club, I knew the potential benefits and supports a club like this could offer individuals who use AAC and the greater impact it could have in so many ways. We spent a lot of time going over how a Toastmasters meeting typically operates, meeting with the club mentors, and figuring how to adapt our club to support our members.”

AAC Peer Support

Now in its third year, the group provides a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth. Members include PRC-Saltillo ambassadors and staff along with other adults who use AAC. Besides the accommodations for composing messages with AAC, members share and contribute equally.

“I like our Toastmaster's club because it has a welcoming and supportive environment,” said Kirk Behnke, M.Ed., ATP. Kirk is a member of the training and implementation team and a club participant. “Members and guests positively interact and share feedback which set the stage to develop communication and leadership skills, at personal, individual levels.”

Online Toastmasters Club Meetings

The club meets twice a month on the second and fourth Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m., Eastern Time. The packed 90-minute online meeting includes both prepared and impromptu speeches followed by a time of review with peer evaluator roles for general communication, grammar, and counting filler words, like ahs and ums. Guests are welcome.

“I remember my first time when I was asked to provide an impromptu speech,” reflected Kirk. “I was nervous, at first, but the group encouraged me throughout. I was amazed at the number of filler words I used and continue to work pausing, reflecting, and increase my communication clarity while speaking. Very enlightening.”

Recruiting New Members

The PRC-Saltillo Toastmasters Club is currently recruiting new members (18 years and older). If you use AAC and are interested in increasing your voice with leadership education and peer support, please contact Kevin Williams at kevin.williams@prc-saltillo.com.



Educational Resources  -    toastmasters aac,