Sunday, May 20, 2012

Interactive Reading with the Talker

Last week I began gathering some information on how to use the talker most effectively when I'm speaking to Maya.  If you're not a speech/AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) person, this might sound strange, since Maya understands me perfectly without involving the talker at all . . . but think of it as learning a foreign language.  If you can only share your thoughts in German, but everyone is speaking to you in English, it's going to take longer to learn all of the German that you need to communicate.  If your friends and family began to mix some German into their conversations with you, that additional immersion would help you to learn more rapidly. 

So I needed to start translating myself into German. 

With the assistance of some research papers, some websites, and some super helpful SLPs (speech-language pathologists) who don't mind my constant trickle of questions (in person or via email) I was able to determine some best practices and started using the talker to model my speech on Friday (2 days ago). 

The reason that I didn't start modeling my speech with the talker earlier than now is because I thought that it might be overwhelming to open all of the vocabulary that I would need.  So, in prior months when talking to Maya I might say "You're having a waffle with syrup," only hitting the buttons for the underlined words. Now that she's using the babble function regularly to open up all of the words, I wasn't worried about overwhelming her by opening some more of the basic verbs, prepositions, articles, etc. So now I would say "You're having a waffle with syrup" and use the talker for the entire second half of the sentence (I say the whole sentence with my voice as well).

I'm not requiring her to say things to me perfectly. I'm just showing her what it would look like if I keyed my spoken language.

Friday night I spent a good deal of time brainstorming games and activities that we could incorporate the talker into to offer more practice with combining words, using articles, etc.  I remembered seeing a lot of SLPs do reading activities during speech therapy.  I'm sure that there's a name (that I don't know) for this type of activity----but basically they hold up a book and read "I ride the  . . . " and then the child says "bus" (or buh, or whatever approximation they can say).  I thought that this same interactive-reading strategy would be great for us to try with the talker, so when Maya brought me a book to read on Saturday I decided to try it out.

This video was taken this afternoon, 24 hours after the first time I tried reading the book with Maya and the talker.  It's pretty amazing, if I do say so myself.

A few things:

1. Did you notice that she turned the babble function on right before she said grocery store?  That's because I (erroneously) didn't have the buy catergory, which contains the button for grocery store, unlocked on the main screen.  So, Maya wanted to say grocery store, looked where buy should have been (she actually reaches out to touch the empty spot), realized it was missing, and decided to turn babble on so that she could access all of the hidden words.  Smart girl.

2. Once babble is turned on, it stays on the whole time.  How great is she at navigating through the (kind of overwhelming) full pages of words?! 

2. After Maya & I made the phrase "go to the grocery store" (around 1:42) I usually tap the top strip so that the talker will read the whole phrase, but I forgot to this time.  (She's seen me using the top sentence strip for about 3 days now, and she is now sometimes tapping it herself.  It's so impressive to see her observe and learn from the modeling.)

3. When she said "more book please"  at the end, I felt the way that a gymnastics coach must feel when their gymnast manages to stick the landing on a new, difficult routine for the first time.  That's a completely unprompted, spontaneous 3-word combination.  We're about 2 days into my attempts at more conscious immersion/modeling with the talker, and we're getting a lot of "milk please" or "book please" but the 3-word-combo is brand new (and awesome).

This was a pretty great way to end the day.  I'm looking forward to trying the same strategy out with other books----Maya clearly loves being able to chime in with the book, and it's pretty fun for me, too. 

Note: As I always say, I am not an SLP or a trained AT/AAC specialist.  I'm just a parent who researches her butt off and is trying to do what seems to make the most sense.  If you're a professional who watched the video and has pointers, other ideas, or possible corrections, please comment below or send me an email---I'm always looking to learn.  Thanks!



Cheryl (in Buffalo) said...

Does Maya's communication program have a button to "clear" the speech window at the top? So that eventually she can place several words up there and then "speak" a sentence all at once? (without having unrelated "old" words there) I am assuming it does, but this might also be a good thing to teach her, since she is putting words together so well! So, she could tap "More" "book" "please" but then press the speech window at the top to say "more book please" all at once. Eventually she will be able to not have each picture "speak" when she presses it, but only speak when she presses her speech window, so that you don't hear her "formulating" sentences (as you don't hear the average person...) but, of course, this is for down the road. I am not sure if this program allows words to not speak when you press them or not, but that is a good thing for down the road.....Just my thoughts....

Tara said...

That's AMAZING. What a smart smart girl. Great job Maya and great job Mom!!

Nancy Cavillones said...

She is just the most amazing little girl but you are equally amazing. It boggles the mind how much work you do and it must be so gratifying that you have real, tangibles dividends to show for it.

Annie said...

I've said it before but again, she has THE most amazing visual memory... which was demonstrated when she tapped that "missing" buy key.

I can't even believe at her age that she can manage and remember the placement of that many words. She doesn't even hesitate in her rapid fire move to the word she wants (if anything she's slowed by her physical challenges, yet she's still incredibly fast).

I think your main issue with her as time goes by is to make sure her device keeps up with her fast developing mind.

Dana said...

Cheryl-yes, there is a clear button. When I model I will do the whole sentence and then tap to hear it read aloud, and Maya is starting to pick up on that. I don't ask her to do it yet, though.

Nancy-thank you :) This work is much harder and much more rewarding than teaching science was---but it's also a bit of an emotional roller coaster!

Annie-she really is so visual. I wonder how much of it is just her inborn preference, and how much has developed out of necessity. Similar to the way that blind people are very attuned to sounds, Maya is attuned to images. From the time she was young she was watching as we pointed at pictures in books, scanning, etc. Maybe she didn't waste any energy developing sounds and chattering, so her inner "watcher" was more developed. (I also suspect this because she was immobile for so long. She's always been an observer.)

I actually took a picture this morning of something visual that she did yesterday---I'm not sure whether it's going to go on the blog or the facebook page, but it should be somewhere later today and it's kind of mind-blowing.

Wandering Heart said...

She's so cute. And boy is she getting big!

Katie said...

I love this! I am an SLP and I work mostly with kiddos who use AAC. First of all, it is just great to see a parent who is doing the research and taking charge - Maya is a lucky girl.
Second, I was thinking as I was reading that Maya seems like she might really like Simon Says. I LOVE using it as a structured but fun aided language stimulation activity. You can take turns using the talker to say "Simon Says + action" or even "Simon Says + agent (mommy or daddy or Maya) + action," and it provides multiple opportunities to model a similar (age appropriate!) sentence structure and have fun at the same time!
Just a thought! Also, I love reading your blog. Keep on keepin' on.

Robin said...

Great examples of aided language input (one of the most important AAC teaching strategies). Helps learner and facilitator (to learn location of vocabulary). For more about aided language input and AAC checkout Http://

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