Last June, my kid started the evaluation process with a therapy group dedicated to AAC devices. Within a few weeks, we were surprised to find that the therapist recommended the PRC Vantage Lite2 over a few other options - but it made so much sense, too. (And I owe that therapist so much because there's no way we would have come across that option on our own - but it was perfect.) After months of working with the office's device, my kid got her very own VL2 - and all of her teachers and therapists (including her other SLP) embraced it, met with the rep for PRC on their own time, and made sure to check in with me and ask me questions and ensure that we were all on the same page.
The image above is a small peek into what the talker has changed for my kid. The interview was a fill-in-the-blanks style discussion, with the teacher asking leading questions. But even though only simple answers were required, a year ago this still would've been impossible. Now? She was able to participate just like all of her neurotypical classmates -- and her personality shines through. She loves the bus! She wants to work at the grocery store! She loves her kitties!
(As an aside, apparently now she's getting in trouble for telling jokes in class at inappropriate times. I'm sorry, but that doesn't exactly upset me.)
And meanwhile, her verbal ability has grown so much this year - dovetailing perfectly with her use of the AAC device. She sings along in the car now. (She is very specific about what songs she likes - she's into the Rockabye Baby Madonna CD right now, and track 11 in particular. "Bor-dah!" she says, rather clearly. [Borderline!] She also likes to sing along with Lisa Loeb, the Nields, and - much to my chagrin - Kindermusik songs from classes we took together in the past.) She speaks in short but complete sentences sometimes. ("I want my iPad, please." "I want more Enchanted. TV. Please.") She's able to say words with multiple syllables. I feel confident that we are on the path that her SLP speaks of often, where she will be mostly, if not completely, verbal - someday.
But the talker is making that possible, is bridging that gap, and will always be there for her if she needs it. (This is like how I imagine her walker will be used - she is now up to taking eight independent steps or more - the other day she took two steps, stopped, stood, adjusted her stance, and kept walking to me - and I suspect someday she'll walk most of the time. But I also believe she'll need assistance in some form at least part of the time.) And without the talker, she wouldn't have been able to do things now. She wouldn't have been able to talk to the President or ask how many more minutes until we get home or tell me that she wants to wear the black shirt again. In my experience, it is absolutely true that AAC encourages verbal speech and does not discourage or limit it.
I say this all the time, but we continue to be surrounded by positivity. People who believe in her, who have never said "she can't" or "she won't" and who open themselves up to possibility. We've started the process to the kindergarten transition, and we've already started working on getting the PRC rep over to the new school to meet with the new teachers. We. As a team. When my husband and I moved here, we knew the school system was "good," but we didn't know that we'd need it to be good in very different ways. We definitely have been lucky in that regard.
We're no longer with the therapy group that set us on our path, so I have been busy immersing myself in understanding Minspeak and the VL2. I will be taking an introductory class in two weeks and then following that up with whatever else I can do. I have already programmed more riddles into the device - like I said, I'm not entirely upset that apparently my kid is the class clown... (Sorry Lost Voice Guy! You might have some competition after all!)
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