Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our AAC Journey - Still Moving Forward - December 19. 2012

Just a little update.

I continue to be pleased with our choice to go with the PRC Vantage Lite2. I've heard that the prototypes for the next generation are out (or maybe they're available now? if not, they will be VERY soon, for sure) but I am so so so glad that we grabbed the VL2 before it was discontinued. It's just the perfect size and shape for my kid as she uses it every single day. If nothing else, I'm glad we didn't wait because we might have still been waiting to even submit the paperwork--but instead we've had this device for two or three months already.

So far we've been working with the 60+1 system. In the nuttiest of nutshells, that means that she can have up to 60 icons on a screen at one time, and each icon corresponds to either a single word or a full sentence/question/joke/thought. You press the picture of an apple that says the word "apple" above it and the talker says "apple." You press the picture of a building that says the word "school" above it and the talker says "school." But her therapist finally said that in January we could move to the actual sequenced language (Minspeak) with the talker, which is, to me, the way it's really meant to be used and the reason we chose this over other devices/brands/options. I am thrilled. And again, the best way I can explain it (and it's new to me - I've read about it but we haven't actually used it yet, so my explanation may change down the road) is that instead of a one-to-one word-to-icon correspondence, the icons start to mean entire groups of words and you match them with word-families. That image of an apple now means all sorts of apple-related things - it's how you pair it with an icon that represents a noun or verb, for example, that turns it specific. Er...I think. In any case, it's a far more complex language, but it means that fewer icons represent more words. I'm just...really excited. (Also the plan is for her to go to more icons per screen at some point, though 60 seems to work well for now.)

This week at her school, my kid indicated in various ways (speech, gestures, her talker) that she wanted me to add the name of one of her friends to it. I didn't have time, so I said yeah yeah, I'll get to it later. Well, she remembered it when we picked her up, so I did do a quick add of that child's name to the Classmates grouping. Today the therapist mentioned that this was an impressive use by my kid of the device - I'm thinking it has to do with the understanding that we can add things, that the device helps her talk, and that she can choose what it says. Or maybe I'm totally wrong - it just was nice to have a therapist say something like that.

She mostly uses single words to get her point across, rather than full sentences - something I believe will change when we move along to sequenced language. I mean, right now it's a real pain to say "I want a cookie" and much easier for her to just navigate to the word cookie. (Yesterday at school she said "want brownie cookie" to ask for, well, a cookie-like brownie treat a classmate had brought in. A few weeks ago she told me she had a "chicken hamburger" for lunch - turns out it was, in fact, a chicken patty on a bun.) But she uses it so fluidly - ask her a question, she navigates to the right page (again, this will change soon) and finds the word/answer. She also likes to use her quick hits to tell people her name, ask questions, and say hi/goodbye.

Oh and she ordered her own drink at a restaurant the other night without prompting - as I was telling the waitress I'd like a glass of water for her, she used her talker to say "drink milk." As I laughed, she then said, "need drink water." (She got milk. I was so proud!)

Basically this device has really changed our lives. It's still not a magic wand. She still doesn't take the device and tell me her thoughts and dreams - sometimes she won't even tell me what she wants for dinner. But she's only five years old and she's only had her own device for a few months - we've come so far in such a short time, I am excited to see what the next months and years will bring! (Her other speech therapist did say she fully expects my kid to be primarily verbal in a few years, but I think that she'll at least need a device for clarifying things or for certain situations, just as I expect my kid to walk unassisted - she already takes many steps on her own - but I know she might need her walker for longer distances or in certain situations.)

And finally, I've found my kid a role model. Yes, my daughter can grow up to be a foul-mouthed stand-up comic just like Lee Ridley if she wants to - a choice I definitely encourage! (On Twitter, he told me he approves as long as she doesn't steal his jokes.) If you go to Lee's site, watch how he delivers his comedy - his device does the talking, but he uses his body and face to deliver the joke himself. And, dammit, he's funny!

Stay tuned because switching to sequenced language is a huge change - one I embrace!

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