October's Spotlight Star- Connolly

Our Spotlight celebrity for this month is Connolly Roach from Cumming, Georgia. She is 7 years old. Connolly was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome and also diagnosed with apraxia. She is in the first grade at Kelly Mill Elementary. Connolly is very active, always on the go! Her favorite activities are horseback riding and swimming. She has been doing both since she was two years old. Connolly lives with her mom and dad as well as two dogs named Tally and Gracie. She is big sister to 20 month old Bancs. She has 2 sets of grandparents, as well as aunts, uncles and cousins who surround her with lots of love and support. Connolly’s mom, Teri says “I think her favorite thing about the device is that she can order her own meal at a restaurant. She loves being independent!!”

Jill, Connolly’s SLP at school, describes her as a fun-loving, always laughing student with a TREMENDOUS desire to communicate with teachers and peers. That wasn’t always the case though. Connolly has had the NovaChat for a few years but just recently started getting serious about using it because her speech isn’t improving. She can communicate her wants and needs verbally with familiar listeners, however, when the context of her conversation is unknown, it can be difficult for others to understand without the use of her NovaChat. Communicating was becoming more and more frustrating as Connolly wanted to say more beyond what she wanted and what she needed. Her mom thinks she is starting to see that her NovaChat can help her communicate.  Teri says Connolly is a VERY determined kid when it comes to making sure you understand what she's saying. She won't stop until you get it so this device is perfect.

Connolly went to a one week AAC camp over the summer and had a great time. She got to be a camp helper since she was one of the older campers. Jessie who was at camp with Connolly and also her SLP for the summer sees great communication skills developing for her.

At first, Connolly was hesitant to openly use her NovaChat within the general education setting, but after a PowerPoint presentation to her classmates, which displayed her use and abilities with the NovaChat, she was more willing than ever to use it. Connolly’s SLP, Jill says Connolly absolutely LOVED sharing with her class, and she even had most of the kids convinced that they needed to have a NovaChat too! Connolly thinks it is great that they were able to program it to say many things, including her favorite phrase “Go War Eagle, Hey!” This Georgia kid is a huge Auburn fan!!!

Its awesome to be able to report great stories like this. We wish Connolly continued progress and we say hats off to a great family and passionate team of teachers, therapists, and friends who provide Connolly with the motivation to be the best communicator she can be.


PRC’s Realize Language™ Service Now Available for Saltillo NOVA chat Devices

Wooster, OH, October 13, 2015: PRC, a leading manufacturer of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technology solutions for individuals with speech disabilities, announced today that its online client-data analysis tool, Realize Language™, is now available for owners of the NOVA chat range of AAC devices from Saltillo Corporation.

The popular NOVA chat now has the added capability to track an individual’s communication and then upload it wirelessly to the Realize Language website. Once uploaded, the website offers a selection of analysis tools that can help parents, therapists, and educators see how well someone is using their AAC device, and then use that information to make decisions about future intervention strategies.

Using the Realize Language system, it’s possible to generate highly visual “word clouds,” bar charts, word lists, and even calendars showing time and frequency of device use. This innovative online tool turns hard-to-read text-based data log files into colorful visual displays that are easy for everyone to  understand.

With simple, one-click tools, you can:

  • Track progress and communication development over time
  • Automatically compare different aspects of communication
  • Create a detailed dashboard summary of performance
  • Share information with everyone on the team
  • Quickly create valuable reports that anyone can understand, even those with limited knowledge of AAC

“It’s exciting that we can now welcome the NOVA chat to a growing family of ‘Realize Ready™’ AAC devices and apps,” said Russell Cross, PRC Director of Clinical Applications and one of the developers of the Realize Language system. “A key component in helping anyone to improve their skills in using an AAC system is to be able know what they are currently able to do and where there may be opportunities for change. People using NOVA chat devices can now benefit from the 24/7 logging and analysis offered by the Realize Language online tools.”

According to Saltillo CEO, Dave Hershberger, “Part of our mission has always been to find new ways to help our clients become more competent and confident communicators.  Our introduction of the ‘Realize Ready’ data logging feature to the NOVA chat range of devices is another step towards fulfilling that mission.”


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 or call (800) 262-1984.


About Saltillo

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

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


About Realize Language

Realize Language™ is a new online service that gives parents and professionals powerful ways to monitor, measure, and maximize a child’s use of an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) speech device. Some AAC devices and apps automatically collect data when a device is used. These include the Accent™, ECO™, Vantage™, Vanguard™, and Springboard™ devices from PRC; the NOVA chat devices with 2.1.0 software and above from Saltillo; the Words For Life™ app from the Center for AAC & Autism; and the TouchChat™ app. Realize Language organizes and analyzes these data logs and presents the results in easy-to-understand graphic formats.

For more information, go to or send an email to


September's Spotlight Star- Alan!

Alan Kovacs, a true survivor and experienced AAC user

Alan Kovacs was born in the Philippines in 1983, where he learned to speak and understand Tagalog.

He was adopted by the Kovacs family, and came to the United States at the age of 26 months, to live in a very different non‐tropical place, to learn a whole new way of life, and to learn a new language! Here’s Alan, enjoying some play‐time with his brother, Tom.

Alan needed life‐saving surgery to repair a heart defect, and this is where his story takes an abrupt turn. An anoxic episode related to the surgery left Alan comatose, with a loss of such basic functions as the production of tears and saliva, and reflexes such as the ability to swallow. For several months, Alan was fed through a tube and could not even focus his eyes. His “survivor” instincts prevailed, and with lots of effort and therapy, Alan re‐learned significant motor skills, and got to remove the feeding tube. The brain injury did cause permanent physical and other deficits, including an inability to read, impaired numerical skills, and significantly impaired ability to communicate using verbal speech.

Learning English as a second language – while learning to use an AAC device!

Renowned speech pathologist Tracy Kovach and her staff at The Children’s Hospital in Denver, CO evaluated Alan and, despite his limited English skills, found him to be a candidate for an AAC device. Although it was heavy, clunky, non‐intuitive to use, and had a “robot” voice, it was a step in the right direction for Alan. His kindergarten teacher observed that the device dragged on the ground when Alan
tried to carry it, and that it was probably intended for a wheelchair tray. The school staff made Alan a cart with wheels to allow him to move around the school with his AAC device!

Alan withstood a number of techno‐phobe school staff, along with those having knowledge and experience in AAC. He attended Tracy’s Talking With Technology (TWT) camp at Easter Seals Rocky Mountain Village. Alan continued to improve his AAC and language skills, during the evolution of AAC toward smaller, more portable and functional devices. While Alan was attending a post‐high‐school transition program, his speech pathologist became aware of the availability some new, smaller AAC devices. In 2006, Alan got a Chat‐PC, a handheld AAC device from Saltillo Corp.

Opportunities! Employment, Recreation, and… Saltillo Ambassador!

High school job placement efforts found Alan a part‐time position washing golf carts at a local golf course – a job that has lasted for 15 years! His handheld AAC device (now Saltillo’s Nova‐Chat 5 Plus with PalmChat software) opened up additional employment opportunities, and he was hired in 2006 to work on weekends at a recreation center gym. Employees at the recreation center are required to use twoway
radios to communicate, and a handheld AAC device can easily work with the two‐way radio system. Alan’s Nova‐Chat 5 also allows direct communication with clientele requesting gym equipment, or needing assistance with gym rules. In one case, a client was injured in a volleyball game and required emergency medical assistance. Alan used his Saltillo AAC device with the two‐way radio to call for help.

Alan had the opportunity to meet Dave Hershberger, and in 2007 Alan became the first Ambassador for Saltillo Corp. He has represented Saltillo Corp. on numerous occasions, including speaking at a Colorado Speech and Hearing Association (CSHA) conference. He also co‐taught a class at the University of Colorado, Boulder, using his AAC device. Here is a photo of Alan pictured with a member of the Saltillo staff, and Dave Hershberger at the 2009 ATIA conference in Orlando, FL.



Alan and his brother Tom (a doctoral student at the U. of Pittsburgh) co‐authored a poster presentation for the 2010 American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) conference in Philadelphia. They presented their full paper at the 2012 International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) conference in Pittsburgh.




Alan loves to travel, and has visited numerous places in and outside the U.S. His very favorite place, however, is Easter Seals Rocky Mountain Village in Empire, CO, where he first attended Talking With Technology Camp at the age of seven. He still attends adult camp sessions, and spends some time
volunteering at the camp.

In his spare time, Alan enjoys using his iPad with Saltillo’s TouchChat app, to create iMessages and email messages with family and friends. He uses the text‐to‐speech feature to read his incoming messages. Alan’s iPad station is set up with a ModularHose iPad mount.

Alan enjoys sports, as a fan and as a participant. His favorite sport is basketball; he loves to attend NBA games, and plays Special Olympics basketball. The Denver Nuggets Dancers know Alan by name. This photo of Alan with the Dancers was taken at a Special Olympics basketball tournament, and was posted on the Denver Nuggets NBA website.

Alan’s love of basketball is quite well known. A few years ago, he was recovering from another open‐heart surgery in the ICU. His doctor got the hospital to authorize a sports channel on the hospital TV service so that Alan could watch NBA playoff games during his hospitalization! More recently, Alan spent a night on the cardiac observation floor of the hospital, successfully relying on his Nova‐Chat 5 to communicate with the nurses. It was the first time he ever spent a night in the hospital without a family member to assist with communication. Wow! Life can be quite a journey, and an AAC device can make a huge difference!!





August's Spotlight Star- Caroline!

Hello my name is Caroline Tutera. I'm 63 yrs. old, I have been disabled since 1976, due to a car accident. I suffered a severe brain injury,  which affected my motor functions, like walking, and talking, etc... Physically, I'm a mess, a broken body...but mentally, I'm all here baby, as normal as you...BUT in 1976 (I was 24), our society couldn't handle people with disabilities. You didn't see many wheelchairs back then, so I regressed, became a recluse, a shut in.  I lived in Florida with my parents until they died.  Then in 1998 I moved here to St. Louis with my sister, and she introduced me to a computer, and I went to town!!!!.... exploring new things, emailing old friends, etc...  

AND NOW, DUE TO A FAMILY TRAGEDY, I have come to live in a Nursing Home. The therapists here recommended the NOVA Chat device, and I was so intrigued,....hoping my qualification would be approved, and it was...WOW, I'm in heaven!!! It's truly an amazing device, especially coming from a person whose been speechless for 40 years I can now express myself fully,  communicate with friends. I use it daily...I'm so lost without it.  Losing the ability to speak is a major, major loss, but now that the NOVA Chat has come into my life, it has opened up a whole new aspect.  

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS DEVICE, in hopes that it helps others the way it has helped me.

Thank you,  Caroline

Profile of an AAC Achiever: JJ Adkins Inspires Others, Builds a Family and a Career

Justin Joseph “JJ” Adkins recently earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University-Fullerton, graduating on the Dean’s List with a 3.2 GPA. He’s also the proud recipient of two Honor Society awards and the Sociology Department’s “Most Inspirational Student” recognition. Now, he’s investigating internships and applying to graduate schools to pursue a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling.

JJ’s drive and academic accomplishments are impressive, but all the more so considering he must  contend with physical and communication disabilities resulting from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) suffered when he was the victim of an assault at age 16.

Now 32, JJ uses a speech-generating NOVA chat 5 to communicate. The portable augmented and alternative communication (AAC) device from Saltillo enables him to converse with friends, family, caregivers, and others. “This device is almost like a mini-personal computer. It also has built-in apps that I find very useful,” he states.

JJ lives on his own with caregivers assisting daily with basic living needs. But among his greatest challenges, he says, is “the ignorance that a vast majority of the population still has for individuals with disabilities and the lack of patience. To deal with it, I keep telling myself that I have nothing to prove, and I remember my worth.”

“JJ is able to overcome the challenges of his disability with a ‘mind over matter’ attitude,” adds his fiancé Brandy George. “He has never let his limitations hinder him.”

Overcoming Obstacles to Attain a College Degree

Earning a college degree ranks among his most important accomplishments to date, and he does not  believe it would have been possible without his AAC device.

One of JJ’s professors at Cypress College, where he earned an associate of arts degree, concurs. “It was important that JJ be able to communicate with me and others effectively in order for us to understand how we could best help him succeed and   achieve his goals,” says Chrissy Sepulveda, who taught JJ’s Biological Anthropology class. Though she had not previously worked with a student using an AAC device, Sepulveda says “we figured things out as we went along and got to know each other. JJ is very patient with me and he has a wonderful sense of humor. We made each other laugh a lot.

“JJ is one of the most amazing people I have ever met,” she continues. “He is strong and tenacious and determined to be as independent as possible. He refuses to acquiesce to impasses that he may encounter, but rather finds way to transcend boundaries. What I admire most about him is his love and appreciation for life. He has a quiet and humble way of dealing with the negatives and directs his energy toward celebrating the positive aspects of life.”

JJ was the first student to use an AAC device in Cypress College English professor Joan Daniels’  classroom. “He is very patient and helped me get used to the device,” she says. Daniels was impressed with JJ’s “remarkable determination and positive attitude.” One semester, when JJ was hospitalized for an emergency surgery, she recalls, “I suggested he take an Incomplete in the class so he would have enough recovery time without worrying about his assignments for the class. But he didn’t miss even one assignment and completed the class with an A grade.” Calling him “an exceptionally bright young man,” Daniels adds that JJ “is one of the most positive people I’ve ever known or met. He’s really our Stephen Hawking.”

Volunteering and Family-Building

These days, the NOVA chat 5 accompanies JJ on various volunteer ventures. “I have been doing a little volunteer work for the Orange County Child Abuse Prevention Center (OCCAPC), mostly assisting with fundraiser events. And I’m still going through the application process for Boy’s Town, but I’m highly anticipating service with them because I’ll be able to help troubled families directly.”

Describing himself as “a true Philomath,” JJ says he loves to learn new things, “and it kills me to sit idle.  But my main focus and interest is my family. I am an only child so my parents are very dear to me. My  father works in construction and my mother is a housewife. Growing up, my father would take me to work with him and teach me various skill sets, everything from working on cars to building a house from the  ground up. My mother was my buddy. Sometimes she’d keep me home from school and we’d go to lunch,  bowling, or to the park to throw the ball around. I believe this shaped me into the man I am today, because family is everything to me.”

Now he is looking forward to starting his own family. “I’m engaged to a wonderful woman and she has two amazing children from a previous relationship whom I adore. We’re trying to expand our family with one of our own.”

Brandy calls JJ’s AAC device “a blessing” because “it has given JJ a voice of his own. We are so thankful! I most admire JJ’s unimaginable strength, intelligence, perseverance, and the way he always wears his beautiful smile, no matter what the scenario. He truly is my best friend.”

Advice to Others: “Don’t Give Up”

JJ is excited about what the future may hold: “Earning my Master’s degree, starting a career I’ll love, and marrying Brandy.” He advises others with disabilities to “stay true to yourself, don’t let others define you, and always try to smile. Happiness is contagious and understood in all languages.” For those getting started in AAC, he adds, “don’t give up and don’t let others dictate which device is best for you.”







2.1.0 NOVA Chat Software Update

In case you didn't hear, NOVA Chat 2.1.0 was released earlier this week.  It now includes data logging, which also gives you the option to upload the file to Realize Language for analysis.  Please see below for other exciting enhancements!

New Features:

  • Data Logging - includes option to upload file to Realize Language for analysis
  • Pause Between Words – a 0 to 3 second pause can be added between words
  • ChatEditor 2.1 is now speechless on new install until a NOVA chat device is connected.  Updating Chat Editor will not impact the speech.

WordPower files have been updated.  Changes include:

   WordPower Español –

  • Add “pretender” verb on A-Z page
  • Magnifico!
  • Moved “aquel” words to the “ése…” page
  • ¿ - automatically included when you open the page

    WordPower English

  • Add “appointment” to all vocab TIME pages
  • Add “away” as a logical next word after “go” and “come”
  • 42 Basic – make “was” “will” etc. follow the word “that”
    • Fix “I feel > felt” – it was covering up “blue”
    • Fix the Position Words page – “with” should be consistent
    • Make it so that “that” and “this” lead to more helping verbs
    • Fix the problem where “go” was covered up by a logical next word.

 NOVA Chat 2.1.0 Update addresses:

  • Screen is now refreshed after a Save Text to Button
  • ChatEditor has German ABC files in default library
  • Change menu item name for “SDB Height” to “Number of Lines”

 To download the NOVA Chat 2.1.0 Software Update, go to Downloads, choose your language and download the appropriate NOVA Chat Software Update or go to Menu>Help>Check for Updates to initiate an automatic update.

Fun at Authentic Voices of America Camp

First, I would like to thank Saltillo for allowing me the chance to attend and experience the Authentic Voices of America (AVA) Camp at Whitewater College in Wisconsin this summer. Their help in paying for the camp allowed me to connect and communicate with others that use a variety of communication devices while being a representative for Saltillo. My NovaChat was easy to use at camp and provided me with what I needed to communicate with others. It allowed me to reconnect with old friends and easily make new ones by sharing information about myself and family. Also, with the help of some fellow camp participants I was able to work with others in the creation of a new type of game we like to call "AVA Hockey".  We created rules, a chant and had to explain how to play the game to others. My device helped me make the best of my camp experience. The only things I would change about my device would be the volume of the speakers and to allow the Facebook app to work; but overall I love my Novachat! Thank you, Saltillo!


H Fulton

July's Spotlight Star- Isaac

Meet Isaac, he is an energetic, happy, and social young man.  He is a very talented artist. Isaac blows everyone away when he begins to draw. His bedroom is covered in his amazing drawings which include Disney princesses, houses, organs, and other cartoon characters.  Isaac also loves to dance and show his moves off when his favorite songs come on. Isaac is very fun to be around and is often making people laugh with his fun personality.

Isaac has always struggled with communication, but in the last few months that he has had the NOVA chat 7 his communication skills have increased dramatically. Isaac received his NOVA chat 7 in January and has rarely let it out of his sight since. He quickly became familiar with the device and is in love with the fact that people can now understand what he wants to tell them. Isaac recently told his parents all through his NOVA chat 7 that they should go camping, so that he and his nephew could go to his sisters for the weekend. His family and staff were impressed that he was able to express this using his device only having had the device just a few months. Along with using the device to tell stories, Isaac listens to how the words are said and then tries to say them verbally. His teachers, parents, and SLP agree that his verbal communication is now easier to understand since he has been using the device. 

In the past, Isaac would leave an area without warning and would be found in places of interest to him.  Now that he has his NOVA chat 7 he can communicate with where he would like to go and why. His staff have seen a difference in his behavior because he now can communicate his wants and needs. Isaac’s independence levels have increased with the use of the NOVA chat. This year he was able to use his device to self-direct his Individual Education Plan in which he expressed a desire to work.  We are all excited to help him reach this goal and feel like it is more obtainable than ever now that he can use his new “voice” to help communicate with co-workers, bosses, and/or customers.   

We have seen great success in the past 5 months in which Isaac has had the NOVA chat 7. His family, teachers, and staff are excited to watch him use his device to continue to improve his quality of life.  




Profile of an AAC Achiever: Elizabeth Kenkel Finds Her Voice – and Speaks Up – with AAC

Elizabeth Kenkel has something she cherishes – communication independence – thanks to her speech-generating device, the Saltillo NOVA chat 10 using WordPower 80.

While she must rely on others daily for help with her physical needs due to Moebius Syndrome and cerebral palsy, Elizabeth no longer has to rely on anyone to share her ideas, thoughts and feelings as long as her device is close at hand.

“Most people don’t understand sign language or my voice,” says the 21-year-old from Schaumburg, Illinois.  “NOVA chat helps me say my feelings and open up my world. I am more independent with my NOVA chat. I can talk to more people without my sign language interpreter or my Mom. I can join in joking with my cousins.”

How Technology Enables Communication and Conversation

NOVA chat 10 is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technology solution designed to help individuals with speech disabilities communicate with others.

The device’s mobility was key to Elizabeth’s interest, says her mother Sandra Kenkel. “Elizabeth has been given many opportunities through her school district to try different types of AAC approaches, including speech devices. But many devices are heavy and difficult to target, making them impractical for Elizabeth because she has difficulty controlling her gross and fine motor movements.

“She would use a device when forced to or when someone was around to set it up on a surface or hold it for her,” Sandra recalls. “As a result, she spent more time in the wheelchair at school because the staff was simply trying to encourage use of a communication device. That bothered her and made her very resistant to their use.”

Once Elizabeth discovered the NOVA chat, that resistance melted away. “We stumbled across it at an Abilities Expo we attended with the intention of looking at mobility solutions,” Sandra says. “Elizabeth stopped us at the booth to try out NOVA chat. It was lightweight, had a handle to hold, had a keyguard, and she could hear it! She didn’t want to leave – or return the device to the rep. We had to promise her we would look into getting her one.”

Elizabeth still prefers to sign or speak to her immediate family, her mother notes, “but she doesn’t want to leave the house without her NOVA chat. She carries it herself with the handle and strap for safety. She is mobile with it. She can easily set it on her knee for use. She programs it independently for new environments. And she doesn’t shy away from conversations with new people – she is proud to have a voice.”

An Active, Confident Young Adult, with Help from AAC

Elizabeth lives with her mother, father Mark, younger brother Michael, and younger sister Sarah. Four days a week, she takes a bus to and from an Adult Transition Program (ATP) at Hoffman Estates High School. Once a week, she volunteers at a resale shop alongside her mother. “Elizabeth sorts donations, helps create displays, and uses her NOVA chat to help research an item’s value for purposes of pricing,” Sandra explains.  “She has established relationships there by using her NOVA chat at break time to chat with the other volunteers.”

Having the NOVA chat enables Elizabeth “to feel more independent and confident,” her mother says. “People tend to underestimate her before they converse with her. People are less wary of her physical disabilities when they realize she is able to communicate her comfort level and needs.

“Having a voice has let her show people that she is intelligent,” Sandra observes. “Consequently, her self-esteem and quality of life improve as people stop avoiding contact or talking to her like a child.”

Like other young adults, Elizabeth enjoys music, watching YouTube videos, shopping, and going out to eat with her family. “She uses her NOVA chat to text, surf the web, read email, listen to music, and play games in much the same way her siblings do with their cell phones,” Sandra says.  “She often Skypes with her brother, who is off at college, or her friend.”

Teaching Technology and Inspiring Others

Elizabeth says she was especially proud to win a Technology Award in high school “since I was afraid to depend on technology when I was younger. But in high school, I learned to use the NOVA chat and it really worked.” Now she enjoys teaching others how to use computers “and how to talk with them. I tell others, ‘don’t give up. You can do it. Keep practicing and you will get better.’”

Sandra is grateful that the NOVA chat has helped her daughter find “the courage and the vocabulary to advocate for herself. She is much more articulate with the typed word than she is with sign language. The NOVA chat turns those thoughts into speech. She is better able to express her dreams and fears.” 

The device has also reduced frustration across the Kenkel household. “Elizabeth is especially difficult to understand if she is upset, and she is especially upset when no one understands,” Sandra explains. “The NOVA chat breaks that cycle. Elizabeth is now less frustrated because she can express her feelings and her wants more specifically; there is less guessing. Stress is lower for everyone because Elizabeth has less anxiety.”

As her daughter’s “chief interpreter,” Sandra also has more freedom to leave Elizabeth's side thanks to the NOVA chat. “She can form relationships independent of me because she can talk to people without an interpreter. She can independently make requests, check in at the doctor’s office, join in good-natured banter with her cousins. She can articulate thoughtful responses to others. She is also able to spontaneously express her humor and personality at unexpected times.”

At the close of each day, Sandra gladly assists Elizabeth with one last crucial task: “She does not have the dexterity for chargers, so I charge her NOVA chat and wheelchair every night.” In the future, Sandra says, “We hope to travel and seek out new adventures together.” Elizabeth wholeheartedly agrees: “I want to travel with my Mom, like a lot.”

A Mother’s Tips for Supporting a Child’s Success with AAC

Sandra Kenkel shares the following tips for other parents of children using AAC:

  • Don’t underestimate! Set the bar high and then celebrate any progress toward it. Kids in general tend to rise to expectations. Special kids are no different. Doctors don’t have a crystal ball -- we ignored the ones who told us “she will never” and felt justified when “she did!”
  • Kids are always listening. Remember that kids are listening even when they are not talking. They DO KNOW your secrets and sometimes stress over them. Don’t talk in front of your silent five-year-old about things you wouldn’t discuss in front of a chatty five-year-old. Years later, we learned that Elizabeth worried unnecessarily about things that she was too young to understand and didn’t have enough language to ask about.
  • Keep talking. When Elizabeth was a baby, her neurologist told me to “Describe the world to her -- she is listening.” I’d sit her in the dirt and talk about the dirt, help her pull cupboard doors open to play with the Tupperware. In the car, I’d talk about what we saw. We have to remember we are modeling a speech pattern that we hope they will imitate. 
  • Jump on your child’s bandwagon!  Elizabeth had so many things to work on – OT, PT, speech, feeding, drooling, walking, crawling, math, money, reading. It’s overwhelming, but at different points in her life, different things were more important to her. When she was determined to walk, we directed our attention to supporting PT and practicing with her. That meant that other goals fell by the wayside, but only temporarily. She made so much more progress in the area because it was HER goal; we knew we could always come back to working on strengthening her arms later.
  • Do WITH them, not FOR or TO them.  Elizabeth always wanted to be like everyone else.  She fought technology when she was the only one using it. She didn’t open up to it until we “stole” Dad’s laptop. I increased his font size on the screen. She liked that, because she was using a “normal” computer, not a “special” computer. But the mouse was frustrating her. I asked her permission to try the joystick mouse. That was great! She could do the keys, but it was awkward.  I asked if the Intellikeys would make it easier -- we added that piece in. By the end of the experiment, the laptop was only serving as a monitor, but she was accepting it because in her mind it was still Dad’s laptop, a computer like everyone else’s. She had time to try out “normal” and request the accommodation. Then we transitioned to the systems designed for people with her abilities and she saw them in a whole new light.




June's Spotlight Star- Justin

Hi, my name is Justin Adkins – I’m writing to share a brief synopsis of my disability and how finding the correct communication device, suitable to my abilities, has helped me regain my independence.  When I was 16-years-old I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from an assault, which damaged my motor skills, and left me with limited mobility.  When I first awoke in the hospital unable to speak but completely aware of my situation, the doctors asked me to blink my eyes to yes/no questions, which assessed my cognition. I’m 32-years-old now and I still use eye blinks as a quick response method to yes or no questions. However, this method did not allow for personal opinion.

The speech therapist in the hospital decided to construct a letter board for me, where I would look at letters to spell out sentences.  This would be my main form of communication for a few years, but it wasn’t very fast or efficient.  Then I was introduced to a Dynavox device which had speech output, was the perfect size, and I could effectively use it in social and professional settings.  But like all good things – they come to an end! Eventually this device became obsolete and they were unable to repair it anymore.  This led to a vigorous search for a new device, and not succumbing to pressure of others; that I’m being too picky. 

Alas, I discovered the Nova Chat which has allowed me to continue my aspirations of professional and collegiate success.  If there is any advice I could give others, just know your disability and own it!  Everybody’s story is different, so only you know what’s best for your particular situation, but keep an open mind.

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