Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This is what 4 months of using AAC looks like*

*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.


Amber said...

Thanks for showing this, it is amazing how the right "stuff" can change a life (or lives). I love how she makes a new word/sound and you can know what it means quickly using the "talker" such as when she said, "school" and then pressed the button on the talker.

Becca said...

Wow!!! That was amazing, and I'm so glad you got periodic videos to show her progress! What a fantastic app that is! I've heard about communication apps, but never seen one before. Great job, Maya!

Anonymous said...

As a future speech language pathologist, I love seeing the progress kids can make when they have the right communication system and support. Keep up the great work Mom and Maya!

Annie said...

Her level of visual memory is just astounding. Really this high level of ability makes this program perfect for her. Her complete lack of delay in both receptive and expressive cpverbal skills is stunning. It's harder to see the expressive skills but when you see the no no more instant response to your closing of her words it's just wow. I mean she had to come up with the concept that you closing words equaled less and that she wanted the opposite. That is to say
" more". And she did that in seconds!

Jane said...

Great post - thank-you for sharing. And for sharing the videos - they illustrate things so well.

Wandering Heart said...

Maya is a very good demonstration of the fact that non-verbal and non-intelligent are not the same! (Also, she's adorable.)

Jeanne Tuthill said...

These are wonderful videos! I would love to show these in a grad level course I will be teaching this summer if you give me the ok! Also, did you order the key guard from lasered pics, or a different source?

Dana said...

Thanks for the nice comments, everyone. Her progress is starting to pick up speed and I'm excited to see how she adapts as we start focusing on phrases instead of single words, which is our next big step.

Jeanne-can you send me an email? My email address is:

Also, we ordered the keyguard from laseredpics, with some specifications. You can see more information about the stuff we're using (including links to my reviews of the keyguard and the iAdapter case) at the "Our communication/AAC journey" tab above---or click here:

Unknown said...

Oh MAN !!! Im struggling with my little guy using a dynavox device.. its so much work !!! all the extra folders and u cant find the word you are looking for without going through so many pages ughhhhhhhh... this looks more simple but at the same time way more complicated. can u change the symbols for each word? i mean when u say I and an eye appears isnt that confusing????
i dont know this app looks amazing . my child has Muscular Dystrophy so his fine motor skills are not great he uses a keyguard now, i wonder if this little holes would be too small for him :(
do u have an OT and a SLP that comes and helps guide you??
anyway thanks for sharing this videos!