Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Assistive Communication Device?

Raising a child with special needs always presents new ideas to consider. Lately I've been stewing a lot over assistive communication devices. These are gadgets that can be used by those who don't speak to play sentences aloud for them. I think the technology is terrific and there are many who benefit from this type of device.

The reason I'm spending so much time thinking about this topic is because several people at school have suggested one for Whitney recently. I guess I hadn't really ever considered this for my little girl because she and I and Melanie and the rest of our little family all communicate well using American Sign Language. Whitney gets upset a lot more often because she can't have what she wants than when she can't communicate what she wants. Why would I want her to have to learn yet another way of trying to communicate?

I asked Melanie that exact question and she had a good answer. What about all the other children in the neighborhood? Whitney can't talk to any of them. Other than us and a few other signers out there, she's completely cut off socially. Good point.

But can she really pick up yet another method of communication and use it effectively in her everyday life? Will it be a good fit for an active little girl who's already packing gadgets in her ears to hear? Would a device like this take the focus off actual speech skills? We haven't given up on Whitney speaking. Will this work any better than the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) program that Whitney totally didn't get? Who knows? I'm just full of questions and I'm seeking answers. I'll be sure to share what I find.


Kajsa Farnsworth said...

This is a tough decision! We have had Brady's device for a month or two and it is definitely a lot of work. Troy and I require extensive training to learn how to program the device as well as implement the device correctly with Brady.

The most frustrating aspect has been that Brady likes to randomly push buttons for fun and is not yet able to put two words together. He is currently using the device at the same level as he was using his PECS book. However, we are still hopeful for more meaningful communication via the device over the long term.

With that said, an unexpected bonus was that when Brady discovered he had a "voice" he has actually been vocalizing more (his "yeah" suddenly appeared after a year-long absence) and signing WAAAAY more than he previously did. He does enjoy saying "hi" to his classmates and asking for his favorite people, toys and food items. We are learning as we go!

Shantay And David said...

You have such a cute family!! I am a student at Salt Lake Community College in the Pre-teaching program and I had an assignment to do an interview with parent of a child with disabilities, or find blogs and do the assignment. I'm so glad that I went looking for blogs because I found yours. You are an amazing family and I hope that you don't mind that I used your blog to do my assignment. If you want, you can look at my blog just so you know that I'm not a crazy person. :)

Thank you so much!

Nate said...

Shantay, thanks for stopping by! You're very kind. I hope your assignment turns out well. :-)

Kajsa, I totally forgot you guys had told us Brady was getting a communication device. Thanks for all the terrific information. I'm starting to warm to the idea a little more. Anything that'll help Whit. I just want to make sure this is more of a help than a hindrance. :-)

Jenny said...

We have been testing devices for about 6 months now trying to find the perfect one for Taylor because they are around $6,000.00 and medicaid will only pay for one every 10 years. She has been doing wonderful with them. She loves it and she types in what she wants using the pictures and it says her sentences for her and we know exactly what she has on her mind with sound. It makes her so happy when she has it. Her speach therapist has been working with us on this and we are getting closer to finally narrowing it down to which one we will get. I would definatly check into it for Whitney. It's a easier way for them to communicate with others in the class room and neighborhood.

Nate said...

Glad to hear Taylor is doing well with one of these devices as well. Hopefully you'll find the right one. We've set up an appointment for Whit to be evaluated next month. So many folks have told us enough good things that I'm convinced.