Thursday, April 16, 2015

Communication Repair at 2: Speech, Gestures, and AAC

This is Will. Will is a "typically" developing 2.5 year old who has had access to his own AAC device since the age of 17 months. This happened partially because he really really wanted to get his sister's talker (she is an AAC user with complex communication needs), partially because I think that all toddlers could use the help of AAC sometimes, and  . . . partially because I had spent the previous 3 years shouting from the mountaintops that AAC will not impede the development of speech and now it was time for me to kind of put my money where my mouth was.

But I'll talk more about that another day.

Today I want to share this video of Will, taken yesterday morning right before we headed out to our playgroup. He was sitting in the stroller and making some sort of gesture, accompanied by word approximations that I couldn't quite understanding. Maybe something about a book? I assumed it was an item that he wanted to bring with him (he had just asked for the little Daniel Tiger popsicle stick puppets in his hand) but I couldn't guess what he was asking for.

I had just handed him the puppets, started singing a song about walking to playgroup, and moved toward the door to leave when he started gesturing and talking to me. We backed up a step and I grabbed my phone and started filming.

I don't want to spoil the ending by talking about what he was saying (we did, in fact, arrive at the answer in the end) so go ahead and watch this first----see if you can guess the answer before I did:

In hindsight, it seems so obvious. So obvious.

So, a few take-aways:

1. This is pretty great stuff. I'm so happy that he has another tool in his communication toolbox that can help him get his point across. He knew to ask for the talker when he realized that we weren't going to get there with just speech and gestures. He is a speaking child, but AAC does many things for him (again, that will be a big post), including providing a means to repair communication breakdowns. (For more on communication breakdowns and AAC, see here.)

2. I'm going to pat myself on the back for my wait time in this video. When he starts poking around, looking for some word to provide me with a clue, it was hard not to jump in. When he was on the character page, I resisted the temptation to name characters whose names have similar sounds to "doe wahn." When he was on the academic page, it was hard not to point to the tile for "book" since I thought that might be his target. But I'm glad I kept my mouth shut (and my fingers still).

3. I thought field trip was an error.  I'm glad that I wasn't dismissive or negative about that selection---I could have said "No, not field trip" and reached across and deleted it. That probably sounds awful, but I've seen it happen time and again in videos---the communication partner is sure that they know what the child is trying to say, and they keep redirecting and redirecting until they get that answer. (For more on we-can't-read-their-minds, please see: I Am Not A Mindreader (And Neither Are You).)  Instead, I asked "field trip?" and when he said "No" I repeated "No" to confirm what he was saying (my tone was a little dismissive---I wish I had asked "No?" instead).

4. This whole exchange brought me right back to two years ago, when Maya was (persistently, amazingly) trying to tell me to add a word to her talker, and I was (desperately) unable to understand what word was missing. Similarly, there was a happy ending, but boy---the emotional rollercoaster leading up to it was a bit gutting. You can see that here (and the creator of the TV show being discussed actually swung by to comment, which was pretty neat): I Need A New Word

And finally, here is a picture of Will holding a stop sign. Without a picture, this post isn't pinnable and is more difficult to share, and I like this one. I'm including two different symbolic interpretations below the picture. I prefer the first one, but if I'm being honest with myself the second is equally (if not more) accurate.

Stop! Wait! Give me time to use my device without interrupting!
Stop singing that atrocious made up song about going to playgroup! It's Wheels on the Bus or nothing at all!


Lo Herring said...

I'm confused. I thought Will used a talker because he needed special accommodations for his speech too. Is he not speech delayed? Shouldn't he have more spoken language at 2.5 yrs old?

Dana said...

No, he does not have any speech or language. He has a good deal of spoken language---a 3 minute clip (which includes nearly a minute of silent iPad searching and a good amount of speech from the communication partner) isn't a great way to produce a representative language sample of a two year old.

Anonymous said...

You and Will (and Maya) are amazing! I love these posts and videos. So interesting to see everyone learning! (I am not a parent or a speech specialist, I just really enjoy your blog.)

Dana said...

My "no, he does not have any speech or language" should be "no, he does not have any speech/language delays." Whoops.