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May's Spotlight Star- Bryson

Meet Bryson, a determined and passionate 10 year old that is full of personality.  He enjoys music, books, animals, anything outdoors, Spider-man, and time with his friends.  He is able to put a smile on the face of those around him and impacts people more then he may ever know.

Bryson has overcome many struggles in life and is a survivor of child abuse.  He is diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, apraxia, childhood acquired aphasia, and ADHD.  He has a unique joy about him and has started to create his own path in life.  Bryson is currently able to use about 50 words verbally that are understandable to others but relays upon assistive technology to really have his voice heard.

Previously, Bryson had tried multiple high-tech AAC options before latching onto TouchChat on the iPad.  After about a year of success his family pursued a dedicated device for better portability and an external speaker.  He immediately picked up the NovaChat 5 and has not put it down since.  Bryson's private SLP reports, "Over the past year, Bryson has demonstrated tremendous growth initiating independent, spontaneous communication using his device.  Both his core and fringe vocabulary has grown significantly, and he is able to generalize vocabulary to novel contexts.  He is even beginning to use word combinations.  His entire team is ecstatic about his communication progress!"

Bryson is able to combine 2-3 words for simple sentences for a variety of functions across environments.  He enjoys not only using core and fringe words but also using visual scenes during play and when communicating with his peers. Bryson has even recently started using vocabulary that he has learned through incidental teaching through adult and peer modeling.

Thanks to the NovaChat, Bryson has finally found his voice and a way to express himself.  His family and friends now know that he prefers rap and alternative music instead of country and that if he were allowed he would eat pizza for every meal and a granola bar for every snack.  He is able to express his love for animals, draw adult and peer attention to the books he is reading, and comment on the world around him.  He thinks it is hilarious to make adults sing and also loves seeing what hoops adults will jump through as he makes other requests.  Bryson is finally able to show the world his personality and interact with all that goes on around him.

 

Nova Chat version 2.0.2 plus NEW Chat Editor

Introducing the new Chat Editor.  Chat Editor is a FREE download, replacing the former NOVA Chat Windows Editor.  Chat Editor will allow users to modify or create page sets on a Windows computer and then transfer them to a NOVA Chat OR TouchChat device.  Find more information on installing and using the new Chat Editor.

The release of NOVA Chat 2.0.2 also comes with the following enhancements:

  • Updated SS and PCS libraries
  • New Image Categories
  • ChatPower files are now named WordPower
  • Addition of 108 WordPower
  • Addition of 48 WordPower Español  (When Spanish option is purchased)
  • 2.0.2 should start the update automatically if you have Wifi On and if you have the setting On in Help>Check for Updates>Menu
  • New button action, Play Audio Library –  plays music
  • New button action, Play Video Library –  plays videos
  • Animate All - On/Off setting that animates all page transitions (Settings>Style>Page Animations)

 

 

AAC Ambassadors Inspire and Educate by Demonstrating the Power of Technology for Communication

Individuals with Disabilities Show Others What's Possible using Speech-Generating Devices from PRC and Saltillo Corporation

 

Wooster, OH, March 2, 2015--Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices enable individuals with speech disabilities to express their thoughts and ideas and actively engage with others at home, in school, at work, and in the community. And there’s no one better to demonstrate the life-changing power of AAC than someone who relies on a device every day.

That’s the premise behind the groundbreaking AAC Ambassador Program operated by global assistive technology companies PRC and Saltillo Corporation.

Speech devices and other technology solutions from PRC and its sister company, Saltillo, enable adults and children with physical or neurological disabilities to fully express themselves and achieve their communication potential.  Both organizations provide a wide array of AAC communication systems and accessories.

Device Users Show Others What is Possible

PRC and Saltillo AAC Ambassadors are real device users who share their stories of everyday life as a person using AAC.

“Our Ambassadors are amazing spokespersons for the power of AAC,” says David L. Moffatt, PRC President. “Ambassadors personally and powerfully deliver the message of hope that AAC offers to those with speech disabilities.”

Moffatt says that focusing on abilities instead of disabilities is the philosophy that drives the employee-owners of PRC and Saltillo. “Our Ambassadors bring that approach to life,” he explains. “These programs also enable us to provide employment opportunities to those with disabilities, which is a strong and important message to send to other employers.”

Government reports indicate that less than 20% of individuals with disabilities participate in the labor force, Moffatt notes, “a statistic we’d like to see improve as more employers realize the true potential of people with disabilities and the power of AAC to overcome workplace communication challenges.”

PRC Ambassador Noah Trembly, a technology and accessibility consultant at a major university, is pleased to have found work that leverages his interests and talents.  “Like so many people with a disability, I had a very hard time obtaining gainful employment,” he shares. “Then I was fortunate enough to be chosen by PRC to be a part of a pilot program [the AAC Educator Project] that they wanted to do at Ohio University. That pilot program went really well, but more importantly, it started a relationship between me and Ohio University and their employees, which I can proudly call my colleagues now.”

Trembly communicates using a speech-generating device because of disabilities related to cerebral palsy. He operates his ECO2™ using infrared head-pointing.  In November 2014, he presented the prestigious Edwin and Esther Prentke AAC Distinguished Lecture to hundreds of professionals gathered at the 2014 annual convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in Orlando.

Helping Professionals and Families See Communication in Action

Exposure to AAC Ambassadors enables speech-language pathologists (SLPs), educators, augmented communicators, and their families to witness the communication successes achieved by actual AAC users.

As Trembly did, ambassadors often present their experiences to SLPs at professional conferences. Other times, ambassadors meet one-on-one with someone starting their AAC journey who can benefit from “seeing the future” and having a friend who understands the challenges of getting there.

In every venue, Ambassadors strive to promote greater understanding of AAC and acceptance of AAC users by sharing their personal experiences and demonstrating skillful augmented communication.

“Our Regional Consultants find that inviting an AAC Ambassador to a local conference or university seminar on AAC greatly enhances the experience,” says Trudi Blair, PRC Consultant Network Operations Coordinator. Blair has been involved with the PRC Ambassador program since its inception 19 years ago and continues to oversee it.

“PRC currently has more than 40 Ambassadors nationwide and Saltillo has 10,” she says. “These Ambassadors Skype with therapists and AAC users, work at AAC camps, mentor other device users, present at national conferences, represent and lobby for the AAC industry to Medicaid/Medicare offices, present at PRC and Saltillo company meetings, and organize user groups. A few Ambassadors have also been employed by PRC as contractors on special projects, including beta-testing new PRC products.”

Seeing is Believing for SLPs

Exposure to AAC Ambassadors can be as motivating for speech and language students and professionals as it is for AAC users, says Saltillo President Dave Hershberger. “Many people, including some SLPs and educators, have never had the opportunity to personally interact with a competent AAC device user. This exposure can positively influence an SLP’s future decisions and recommendations for clients who may benefit from AAC.”

“I want every student who works with individuals who use AAC to have an expectation of success, of self-determination, and employment as the baseline,” explains John McCarthy, Ph.D., Associate Director of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences at Ohio University. “As someone who is employed, Noah helps demonstrate that expectation of success. His example helps move students from not expecting to encounter individuals with more severe disabilities to asking, ‘Hey, where are the people with disabilities in this organization?’”

How Ambassadors Benefit

Serving as an AAC Ambassador provides an AAC user with a sense of pride, says Blair.  “These are talented and motivated individuals who want to be productive. They enjoy leading the way for those new to AAC or struggling with communication challenges.” All ambassadors are compensated for their time and travel expenses.

Bac Shelton, 44, a painter and art instructor in Texas whose communication challenges are related to cerebral palsy, says he became a PRC Ambassador 15 years ago “to help nonverbal people to get a communication device and to become their role model. I also want to be able to make my own money along the way and meet people.” In those early years, he remembers, “most people did not know what AAC was. For me, working at the booth during conferences and traveling with John Halloran, PRC Senior Clinical Associate, opened the eyes and minds of other people when they saw me using my AAC.”

 

 

 

For Jamel Mills, 29, who has Moebius syndrome, serving as a Saltillo Ambassador is one way to “show people I can do some things without speaking. I love dancing and I am writing a novel and a musical. I love my NOVA chat 7. I can finally talk after all these years.”

 

 

 

Saltillo Ambassador Adil Sanai came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1999 when he was 15. “I was very determined to have a better life here,” says Sanai, who has cerebral palsy. “There were no schools for people with disabilities, so I never went to school in Pakistan. I couldn't walk or close my mouth. I did not have a wheelchair so my family carried me everywhere. When I came to the United States, I received medical help and had many surgeries. I can now walk and close my mouth. I now attend AHRC Queens Workshop in New York City. I also work at Marshall's [department store] three days a week. I use a ChatPC device so people can understand what I have to say.”

 

 

PRC Ambassador Kim Vuong enjoys serving as a role model and mentor to AAC users, especially children. “I have often talked to many parents and teachers who are concerned that young students are not using their devices effectively in real situations. When I asked them why they think this is happening, they generally have said that their children don’t have anyone to learn from. This is not hard to understand, since modeling is a powerful form of learning. A child needs to see that another person has the same experiences, so that it does not seem weird for them to use their device.”
 

 

“Our Ambassadors bring a believability factor to AAC devices and what a client could accomplish with them,” says Cara Hubers, National Market Consultant at Saltillo. “They show the public that just because someone cannot speak, it doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say and contribute. By showing others their success and the power behind speech devices, they are having a big impact.”

About PRC

PRC is a global leader in the development of AAC solutions, including augmentative communication devices, computer access products, and other assistive technology for people with speech disorders.

A 100% employee-owned company headquartered in Wooster, OH, PRC pioneered the use of technology to bring speech and language capabilities to adults and children with disabilities nearly 50 years ago. Since then, the company's products have enabled children and adults worldwide to achieve spontaneous, independent, and interactive communication regardless of their disability, literacy level, or motor skills.

In addition to powerful AAC devices, PRC provides teaching and implementation ideas, therapy materials, curriculum sequences, funding assistance, and training to speech-language pathologists, special educators, and the families of AAC communicators.
 
For more information, go to prentrom.com or call (800) 262-1984.

About Saltillo Corporation

Saltillo Corporation, an employee-owned company in Millersburg, Ohio and subsidiary of PRC, has developed and manufactured augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, computer access products, and other assistive technology for people with speech disabilities since 1996. Saltillo also operates an assistive technology e-commerce website, Silver Kite, at http://www.silver-kite.com/

For more information, go to saltillo.com or call (800) 382-8622.

 


 

 

 

 

January's Spotlight Star- Owen!

 “When everyone works together and has the best interest of the student [in mind]…it all works out.”-  Julee Nawa, Ladd School Speech-Language Pathologist    

Please meet Owen.  Owen loves to spell.  Owen is an adorable, sweet 5 year old boy who really enjoys using his NOVA chat 10.  Owen has Autism and was essentially non-verbal.  He had previously used a variety of low-tech AAC options and apps to increase his communication but nothing seemed to be the right fit.  Owen would easily become frustrated when he was not understood or when he wasn’t feeling well, as he had no way to express himself.  

Owen attends Ladd School.  The staff and administration at Ladd School knew that something needed to be done to help Owen communicate so that he could be successful and understood in school and at home.  Mr. Lawrence, the school’s Principal, contacted the Illinois Assistive Technology Program (IATP; www.iltech.org), a state funded program that provides a wide variety of services from providing a device lending library to providing grant funded, school based AAC evaluations across the state, to seek assistance for Owen.

Marguerite Simon, a Speech-Language-Pathologist who conducts AAC evaluations for IATP, evaluated Owen last school year and began the process for determining what device may best work for Owen.  Marguerite stated, “The beauty of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) grant AAC evaluation program is that we are able to reach out to small towns who don’t have the AAC resources available for evaluations and device trials.  I love the fact that we can reach so out to so many districts across the state.”   

The school staff and administration have fully supported Owen and his family prior to and during the funding process until he received his NOVA chat in September 2014.  Ladd School has even purchased an additional charger to ensure that Owen’s NOVA chat is fully charged and ready to be used at school.  At home, Owen is able to “find something that will help him convey his feelings”; something that he was not able to do prior to having his NOVA chat.  His school and family have demonstrated consistent support, team work, advocacy, and dedication.  They have seen Owen’s moments of frustration decrease and have observed an increase of wanting to communicate with others.

Julee Nawa, Owen’s SLP, reported that since September, Owen is using his NOVA chat to independently say ‘hello’/ ‘goodbye’ to his peers and staff members at school.  She has noted that Owen has increased his use of eye contact, interacts with his peers more, participates in classroom activities, and he has been observed to be producing more sounds and some word approximations! Julee noted that “Everyone [at Ladd School] has gone above and beyond.”   Julee says it best when she said that Owen’s NOVA chat, “Has given him a voice.  It’s his voice!”   

 

NovaChat – new communication path opens up

"The inability to speak his thoughts gave him a lot of frustration and us, a lot of confusion". I'm so glad this family finally found their solution in the Nova Chat 7!

Read their story here

November's Spotlight Star

 

Winn is our celeb for the month of November. She was born on May 20, 2003 so that makes her 11 years old. Mom, Jennifer, reports that the family did not realize there was something wrong at birth, but by the time Winn was 4 months old, it was apparent she was not progressing developmentally as she should. After 2 years of doctors visits and therapies, Winn was diagnosed with a rare condition that would “take pages” to explain! Basically she is missing most of her cerebellum, which has affected her balance, speech, and coordination. Winn also has sensory integration issues and is on the Autism spectrum.

Due to the great love, support, and care from her family as well as continued therapies, today, Winn is able to walk, say a few words, use some sign language, and use her NovaChat7 independently and spontaneously.

Winn is a fifth grader at Sonny Carter Elementary in Macon GA. Her first speech generating device was not a NovaChat! However, she did learn to use it well enough to communicate basic needs and her family realized that she knew a bunch more than they imagined and that she was capable of learning much more. Winn completed a successful trial with a NovaChat 7 and received her own NovaChat in December of 2013. The family and Winn were so excited because of the many features that made the NovaChat easier for her to use than the other device. They are thrilled that it was so much lighter than her previous device. It allows her to carry her it everywhere independently. They love the larger buttons and better software because she is able to communicate much faster. Even though Winn has about 5 words and still uses some sign language, her NovaChat is her main form of communication.   

Winn’s teachers and SLP at Sonny Carter describe her as a delightful 5th-grade student. They say she currently uses a NovaChat device for her main means of communication at school. At school this device is known by her peers and teachers as her "talker"! Winn carries her "talker" from class to class, for all activities, and to lunch. She uses it to greet teachers, staff, and friends in the hallways, as she enters the room, and around the school. She enjoys using her NovaChat at lunch to chat with her friends. Her "test answer" page allows her to respond to multiple choice and true/false questions during assessments or class response activities. You will often find Winn in a group of students who are so eager to talk with her using her "talker". She enjoys being social and her “talker” helps her engage in more meaningfully communicate. She is currently working at the sentence level to communicate. For example, she will create a sentence such as "I am hungry or I want to eat to express her wants and needs. Winn knows that she needs to use her "talker" at school to communicate her needs. While social academic-related communication is critical and made possible by her NovaChat, Winn can also use her "talker" to communicate more serious, personal information. For example, Winn recently was not feeling well at school. When asked what was wrong, she responded with "I am sad. I am sick. I want to go home. I need mom." Winn was, in fact, sick and was quite happy to see her mother when she came to pick her up from school. Without her NovaChat, this important message would have likely not been known. Winn's NovaChat makes a wide range of communication possible at school, and with staff training, implementation becomes more successful each week.

It’s always great to hear success stories like this. Everyone is so proud of Winn and glad to share her story. They all know Winn will continue to be a great success.

NOVA Chat version 1.13.0 now available

Check out the latest update, version 1.13.0 for your NOVA Chat Device and NOVA Chat Editor.  It has some awesome new features, including auto updates!

Saltillo Corporation Donates Speech-Generating Device to Maryland Kindergartener with Speech Disability

Employees of Assistive Technology Leader Present NOVA chat 10 to

Five-year-old Ryann Frantz at

Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children

 

Photo Courtesy of Adelma Gregory-Bunnell of Cecil Whig newspaper

 

Millersburg, Ohio, October 14, 2014:  The employee owners of Saltillo Corporation, a leading manufacturer of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices, are celebrating Employee Stock Ownership Plan Month (ESOP) in October by donating a communication device to a Maryland child with severe speech disabilities.

 Five-year-old Ryann Frantz of Chesapeake City, Maryland, was selected as the recipient and received her NOVA chat 10 plus device today at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, where she is a speech therapy patient. The device was presented to Ryann by Aaron Shute, a Saltillo Regional Consultant.

 Ryann, who attends kindergarten at Chesapeake City Elementary, has low muscle tone, or hypotonia, which makes speaking or using sign language extremely difficult. She is one of only two individuals in the world diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation.

 Nova chat 10 plus is a powerful speech-generating device with proprietary Chat software designed to help children acquire and use language skills. Built on an Android platform, NOVA chat 10 plus offers a durable yet sleek, portable design with features that include a 10.1" display, switch scanning, ChatPower vocabulary, IVONA speech synthesizer, and many other Chat features. The device costs about $4,395.

 “Ryann is a very happy little girl and she has a real desire to communicate with those around her,” said her mother, Heather Frantz. “She took to the NOVA chat device immediately when she was introduced to it during speech therapy. However, our insurance company does not provide coverage for speech devices.

 “Having her own NOVA chat 10 that she can use not only in therapy but at home and in school is going to change her life immensely,” Frantz continued. “We are so grateful to Saltillo and its employees for their generosity.”

 “Ryann, her mother, and her Nemours Speech-Language Pathologist are so very appreciative of the roles that Saltillo and the Nova Chat are playing in her journey to more effective communication throughout all domains of her young life,” stated Richard Lytton, M.A., CCC-SP, Coordinator, Clinical Assistive Technology Services at Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children.

 “Our employee-owners take great pride in helping our customers succeed to their greatest potential,” stated Saltillo President Dave Hershberger. “Like all Saltillo AAC devices, NOVA chat 10 plus supports speech output as well as robust language development. We are very proud to help Ryann live her life to the fullest by enabling her to communicate to her greatest potential.”

The donation was also featured in Ryann's local newspaper today.  Get the full story here.

 

About Saltillo Corporation

 Saltillo Corporation, an employee-owned company in Millersburg, Ohio, develops and manufactures augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, computer access products, and other assistive technology for people with speech disabilities.

 Saltillo is a subsidiary of Prentke Romich Corporation, a global leader in AAC technology, and a member of the PRC consortium of AAC solution providers. PRC and Saltillo have enabled thousands of children and adults worldwide with speech disorders to achieve spontaneous, independent, and interactive communication regardless of their disability, literacy level, or motor skills.

 The National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) estimates there are roughly 7,000 employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) covering about 13.5 million employees in the U.S. in 2014. Employee ownership demonstrates dedication to innovative, quality communication technology products and customer-driven service standards.

 For more information, go to saltillo.com or call (800) 382-8622.

 

 

 

Free Exhibition Admission to Closing the Gap 2014

If you're going to be in the Minneapolis, MN area on Friday, October 17th, and you'd like to learn about Assistive Technology in Special Education, Rehabilitation and Everyday Living, be sure to head over to the Closing the Gap Conference to gain FREE admission to the Exhibit Hall.  The FREE Exhibition Admission is only good on Friday, October 17th between 9am-1:30pm.

32nd Annual Closing The Gap Conference
Minneapolis, MN

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bloomington
7800 Normandale Blvd.
Bloomington, MN  55439
 
 

September's Spotlight Star- Carmen

 

Meet Carmen, an energetic 5 year old with a cheerful personality and contagious smile.  She enjoys bubbles, music, computer activities, and sensory-motor play. She has a strong interest in letters and numbers and is beginning to demonstrate early literacy skills. Carmen enjoys looking at books and pictures of animals and can identify and name more animals than most other children her age.  Carmen is definitely eager to learn.  

Carmen has faced many challenges, including difficulties with gait, balance, coordination, regulating body temperature, self-care skills, and functional communication.  She was diagnosed with a seizure disorder, characterized by frequent, intractable seizures, often followed by the global regression of skills including decreased verbal language.  Carmen is able to imitate verbal models; however, she struggles to express her wants and needs spontaneously.

Previously, Carmen was successfully using a mid-tech communication device at school.  She was able to access a static voice output device with up to 20 buttons. About two years ago, the family and school team decided it was time to introduce a device with robust vocabulary system. After trialing multiple high-tech communication devices, Carmen received her NOVA chat 7 just over a year ago. During her early time with the NOVA chat, Carmen enjoyed exploring the device.  She quickly learned how to label items in her environment with the support of her new device. Her favorite phrases included “Are you kidding me?” and “I’m so over it”.  As her navigation abilties of the NOVA chat 7 improved, she began to include functional phrases in conjunction with her favorite phrases. She is able to greet, request items, specify using modifiers, request actions of others, request more, close an activity, and bid farewell.

Carmen’s skills fluctuate following seizure activity; however, her NOVA chat 7 has provided a consistent form of communication. Strong family support has been a defining factor in Carmen’s communication skills. Her mother, father, and brother are always supportive and encouraging of Carmen.  The family is learning how to implement the device across settings.  Despite Carmen’s many challenges, she continues to make great leaps and bounds with her communication.  She is a joy to watch as she continues down her path with the NOVA chat 7.

 

 

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