*The more-precise-but-too-long-to-fit title would actually be: "This is what 4 months of using an appropriate (as in, a good fit for the child and family that are using it) AAC 'device' (or, in our case, an iPad with a killer app, great case, and perfect keyguard) looks like (for Maya, as obviously other kids/adults could progress more or less quickly). PS. Also, the Word Book/picture card stuff that we did in the fall likely prepped her for success with this, but it wasn't included in the 4 month time frame." See? Way too long for a title.
Last night I uploaded a video (which you'll see at the bottom of this post) right before bed. In the video, Maya is using her talker and I'm speaking to her. Since editing this video was the last thing that I did before climbing into bed last night, it was at the forefront of my mind as I laid in the dark. I started thinking back to the fall, when Maya was getting ready for preschool and I was searching, searching for some system that would work for communication. I thought about the boards that we tried, the Word Book, the decision to move aggressively towards some sort of technological AAC, meetings with reps from the device companies, my big app search . . . it seems like a lifetime ago.
It's getting hard to remember what it was like when she couldn't use the talker.
It's getting hard to remember what it was like when she didn't have a voice.
She doesn't use it constantly yet, as she knows that we can understand a lot without using it, and we don't want to force her hand, but when I don't understand her (which you'll see in the video) I can say "tell me with the talker" and she will. That's amazing.
So I sat down this morning to start writing this post and I decided to click back through the blog and see how long we've been working with Speak for Yourself (SfY) and, as it turns out, it's our 4 month anniversay. On January 9th I put up a post saying that I thought we had found the solution. I was right.
I started to watch some videos from the beginning of our time with the app, and I'm blown away by the progress. I'm so happy that I made videos, because this is the type of progress that you don't always notice unless you take a step back and look. So, take a step back and look with me . . .
This was the first day that she used SfY. Notice how few words are open, and how much hand-over-hand assistance she needed:
5 days later, she was able to independently say a few things. There are a few more words open, but not many:
Progress was slow, but steady. Our biggest issue, for which we tried a few solutions, was her tendency to accidentally hit buttons with the heel of her hand. Three weeks ago, our keyguard arrived and changed everything, instantly. Here's a video from 2.5 weeks ago, her first attempt with the keyguard on. You can see that more word buttons have been opened over the previous 3 months:
And that brings us to yesterday. If you follow us on Facebook, you've seen me mention that Maya has learned how to turn the babble function of SfY on (which opens every word and gives her a suddenly very large vocabulary). She loves being able to say all of the words, despite the fact that she doesn't know what many of them mean. Oddly, one of her favorites is "illegal," and it's hilariously disconcerting when I'm busy in the kitchen and hear "illegal. illegal. fasten your seatbelt. underwear. illegal."
At first I attemped to turn babble off, assuming that having all words lit up would overwhelm her . . . honestly, it overwhelmed me, and I struggled to find things that had come easily to me with the babble off. Maya was insistent, however, that the words stay lit up (you'll see that in the video, too). This was taken yesterday after school, and she's a little tired, but you can see that she'll turn the babble on and still be able to communicate effectively with the full screen lit.
It's amazing. This is 4 months of progress. (And honestly, if the keyguard had been available sooner I think this progress would have been greatly accelerated.)
It's hard for me to remember 4 months and one week ago, when I was still searching and frustrated, so sure that Maya would latch on to a system if only I could find the right one. I can't imagine where she'll be 4 months from now, and I can't wait to see.