Now I bet that you're dying to watch it, right?
I realized yesterday that it's been a while since I got video of Maya and I chatting, or using AAC, or really anything. This is due to the fact that she generally strongly protests to sitting and being video'd, I generally honor her request not to be recorded (because, you know, right to privacy). I set up the tripod yesterday while Will was napping and eventually persuaded her to hang out and chat and let me record a little.
Here's a brief summary of the recording (spoiler alert): we chatted about things to do during the last few days left of our break, and then Will wakes up and we look at him on the video monitor.
It's not really noteworthy, but also it's a good representation of what our home communication looks like. Maya is an AAC user, but she's also a speaker, a gesturer, a user of facial expressions and some intonation. In choosing to honor total communication, we mostly let her choose the method she wants (typically, a combination of methods) to get her point across (the mostly is because she sometimes needs prompting or questioning to know that her message wasn't clearly received, and she needs to use a different method to help clarify).
You might notice that I'm not doing a lot of modeling. If you're an AAC professional (or experienced AAC family) then you know that modeling language is basically the most important thing that any communication partner can do for an AAC user . . . and you might be wondering why I'm not modeling more. The answer is kind of two-part, but it really boils down to knowing my kid: First, I don't always model everything when I talk to Maya. She knows where a lot of vocabulary is, and if she's very interested in a conversation and I start to over-model, she gets fidgety and bored and wanders off. Second, the video camera + over-modeling combination feels kind of like a contrived activity, rather than what a spontaneously multi-modal conversation really feels like. You'll see that at the end when I'm trying to prompt for synonyms she gets tired, physically starts to move away, and keeps saying "no"----we would have hit that exhaustion/rejection sooner if I was trying to make it more "teachable" and less "conversational".
Some things worth noting:
- Her speech is pretty great, right? She's got some clear, well produced words (Daddy, Mommy, happy) and some others that are clear to us (Will, wake up!). What you can't see here is how limited her clear words are. One of the interesting things about her speech is that she doesn't attempt words that won't be understood (so you don't hear her saying any unintelligible things here).
- She will choose to speak something that is clear but might not be an exact fit for the situation, rather than trying to generate a novel word/sentence that she doesn't have the motor plan down for. For example, she wants to shout that Will "woke up!" or "is awake!" but she's never said either of those utterances, and it would take a lot of motor planning to form those words and put them together----so instead she shouts "Wake up!" which is something that we ofter say while playing (one person pretends to fall asleep and the other yells "wake up!") so it's easy for her to produce.
- I think it's funny when uninformed critics have said that AAC users may become overly robotic because they "just stare at computer screens and type things" (I've heard this a lot from people saying nonspeakers should focus on learning sign language because it's "more expressive"). I think it's pretty clear from her expressions, clapping, etc, that using AAC isn't disconnective.
- I love at 3:21 when she runs her finger along the line of choices and selects the past tense verb "woke" very deliberately. (The picture below shows that row and the choices that she rejected, including "awake".) She wanted to say (appropriately) that he woke up. I helped finish the thought by modeling the addition of "up" and then said the whole thing together.
she chose "woke" on the far right
Here's the video: