Posted on September 2, 2014
It is human nature for us to take for granted our ability to communicate. We forget the power of words. With our words we love, dream, fear, hope, encourage, tear down, and rejoice. All the while never dwelling upon what it would be like if we didn’t have a way to communicate. As a Speech Language Pathologist, we face this challenge almost daily when we are presented with an individual who does not have an effective way to communicate. Luckily, we live in a society that has made great strides in technology. Individuals who previously never had a voice – now have the ability to be heard.
When I took a job with Active Development Therapies LLC in the greater Houston, TX area, one of my first cases was an 8 year old boy with the diagnosis of autism. He displayed classic autism: echolalic speech, perseverative behaviors, stemming, no joint attention, extremely limited expressive language, and limited eye contact. For months, I attempted a picture exchange system, but the only item he requested independently was a Thomas the Train toy. In addition, he experienced poor behaviors such as screaming and tantrum like behavior. One day I finally made the decision to trial high-tech devices with him.
Initially it was a struggle, but slowly he began to realize the devices I presented to him were a mode of communication. We trialed multiple devices but I never could find one that quite fit him. Throughout the trials it became apparent that his dominant language was Spanish. I contacted a representative at Saltillo to receive a trial device upon learning they produced a bilingual system.
I’ll never forget the moment that I saw comprehension dawn on his sweet face. I was attempting to have him label various animals using the NovaChat 10-bilingual (it hadn’t been going all that well), and then all of a sudden it was like a ‘light bulb’ came on. He grabbed all of the animal figurines I was holding, and one by one he held up the animal and told me their names using the device. Over the past few months, I have observed his vocabulary explode. Upon entering a treatment session he immediately searches for the device. He requests activities independently and during structured activities labels animals, colors, body parts, and food independently. In addition, while using the device, he demonstrates joint attention in shared book readings; he requests items to complete structured tasks; and he is beginning to share personal information like his name. All the while, his expressive vocabulary has begun emerging and his eye contact has improved. This device is impacting his life in phenomenal ways and I believe it will continue to empower him in the years to come.
The Nova Chat is an amazing user friendly device – read below what my fellow co- workers have to say:
I have been working with a 9 year old child, who first came to us with self-mutilating and aggressive behaviors in addition to a complete lack of verbal language. He was resistant to physical touch and often became extremely agitated upon being presented with any task that required him to attend. We began by slowly introducing a picture exchange program upon gaining rapport and found that we were quickly in need of a higher tech form of alternative communication. Eventually, he began using the Nova Chat 10 and presented with increasing success within each therapy session, resulting in decreased aggression and demonstration of appropriate communicative intent. The best moment in working with this child and the Nova Chat 10 device was definitely hearing his boyish giggle and sharing in his elated smile as he received bubbles upon requesting for them independently. His smile was worth a thousand words. – Candace Kopech M.S. CCC-SLP
I have personally been very pleased Saltillo’s communication devices. I currently have a patient who owns the NovaChat 7 and I have seen immense gains in her communication skills with the use of the device. As she is nonverbal secondary to her diagnosis, she once demonstrated frustration from the inability to communicate with others, often resulting in breakdowns consisting of screaming and crying both at home and at school. When she was introduced to augmentative communication, she responded with ease, resulting in changes in her overall attitude noted by many. She now smiles and laughs often, as well as reaches for her device to communicate in times of frustration. Using the NovaChat 7, she is now able to communicate in all settings with all conversational partners. The NovaChat 7 has provided for both her basic and complex communication needs as she is able to use appropriate social greetings such as “hello” and “goodbye” as well as introduce herself. She can also successfully use her device to provide personal information such as her address and telephone number, providing her parents with a sense of security, given a time of emergency should arise. The device has empowered my patient as she is now able to request desired activities and foods, as well as express her feelings and wants to others. Additionally, she uses the device to participate in leisure and play activities, by completing phrases in books and songs, which she loves. Having used various types of communication devices and by speaking to parents of both NovaChat and other device users, the programming and set up for the device is to understand for both service providers and caregivers. As the device is lightweight, durable, and easy to carry using the shoulder strap, my patient transports her device with her everywhere. Recently, as is common with technology, the device began malfunctioning for an unknown reason. The technical support team at Saltillo was phenomenal and walked me through the trouble shooting over the phone with great patience and even allowed me to ship the device to them, performing maintenance free of charge. They understood my need for timely assistance with the device and I received the device back within a week! The NovaChat 7 has been successful in assisting me with my goal in providing my patients with a means for communication, and I will consider the use of Saltillo’s devices in the future. I cannot speak for all NovaChat users, but I do know one little girl and her family whose lives have been immensely blessed through the use of her NovaChat 7 communication device. – Stephanie Mitchell M.S. CCC-SLP
I have been a certified Speech-Language Pathologist for only a short 3 years, and I will admit that when I graduated with my Masters degree I knew very little about Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices and strategies. However, when I began my clinical fellowship year at a pediatric outpatient facility it was immediately evident to me that I needed to learn more – and fast. The population that we serve at Active Development Therapies varies widely in severity and types of diagnoses, but what I noticed immediately was that so many of the kids on my caseload had little to no hope of being successful verbal communicators – what was I going to do? I needed to find a way to move my kids beyond communicating with basic signs (which most people do not understand) and to encourage them to use their communication skills for more than just requesting (a limitation I was finding in using printed pictures).
Thankfully, through the help of my colleagues and some clinical research, I began delving deeply into the world of AAC. And boy, were my eyes opened wide! The opportunities for communication through the use of AAC are endless! I currently have two children on my caseload going through a trial period with the Nova Chat 10, and in recent past I have assisted in obtaining a Nova Chat 7 for two other patients. I am a firm believer that not one device fits all; however, I have found that the Nova Chat can be tailored to suit the needs of several children on my caseload. I have one child with severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, age 10, who is non verbal and in a wheel chair using the Nova Chat 10 with two head switches, communicating information about her (name, age, brother’s name, what she likes), communicating what she wants to do, and communicating greetings through the 2-switch scanning access mode on the Nova Chat. In contrast, I have a child with Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome, age 13, who is also non verbal using the direct access method with his right and left hands on the Nova Chat 10 to communicate primarily basic wants and needs with the hopes of expanding his language once he becomes more familiar with the Nova Chat.
I cannot say enough positive ways in which the use of AAC has significantly improved the quality of life of many children on my caseload. The Nova Chat has proven to be a device that is easily tailored to fit both the communication and physical needs of my patients with the ability to modify the complexity of the vocabulary system used on the Nova Chat to meet my clients where they are communicatively. Feel free to call our speech therapy team for more information on our success with using the Nova Chat! – Hannah Key M.A. CCC-SLP
Here at Active Development Therapies LLC, we have seen the Nova Chat impact many children’s lives, and we will continue to consider this awesome device as we strive to meet the needs of our patients. - Jessica McAdams M.S. CCC-SLP
Posted on August 28, 2014
NOVA chat 8 is our newest addition to the already popular NOVA chat family of products. Like the other models, NOVA chat 8 runs on an Android platform and offers a variety of vocabulary choices including ChatPower. NOVA chat 8 includes thousands of SymbolStix symbols with the option to add PCS.
- Front and rear facing cameras
- Single and dual switch scanning
- Automatic updates feature
- Word Prediction (Plus Models only)
- 4 interchangeable color shells included with purchase
- Ivona speech engine or optional Acapela speech engine
Click here to learn more about NOVA chat 8.
Posted on August 7, 2014
Would you like to learn about the various funding sources available that fund SGDs, as well as the report writing requirements for those funding sources? Then we have the course for you! Our funding partner, PRC offers this course on a monthly basis and the next one is coming up on September 9th. Don't delay, sign up today!
The course will provide training in effective report writing strategies for securing speech-generating devices (SGDs) from various funding sources such as Medicare and Medicaid. Participants will learn about the various funding sources available that fund SGDs, as well as the report writing requirements for those funding sources. Please note this course covers national guidelines. State specific differences do exist, but will only be briefly covered here. Participants will also learn strategies for responding to deferrals or denials of SGD funding from the various funding sources.
This program is offered for 0.1 CEUs (Introductory level, Related area). See course handouts for instructions and the ASHA CEU Participant form.
- September 9, 2014 11:00 am EST - 12:00 pm EST
Register for the class.
Posted on June 20, 2014
With the release of NOVA Chat version 1.12.0, ChatPower60 was added to the availale ChatPower options. Click here to read more about ChatPower60, the additional voices added and other important update information. Please note that these changes DO NOT affect or update your custom vocabulary files.
Other general ChatPower changes that were made to the software include:
- Updates and corrections in all files
- Updates and changes to SOCIAL pages based on feedback given
- “what + color” – logical next word
- “clear” added to Story Templates
- “appointment” added to 60 and 80 location vocabs
- take + “a picture” added to logical next words
-ChatPower24 with Phrases:
- the word “that” added to vocabs, so now you can say “I like that,” “I want that,” “Do you like that?” etc.
- when Gestures are enabled on the NOVA chat, “swipe down” gesture now clears the display on ChatPower vocabs
- 42 and 48 location vocabs – keyguard keyboards now properly setup to align with Saltillo Keyguards
- added “octagon” to SHAPES category
- added the “Find a Word” tool to ChatPower spelling pages
- Fixed a problem with “does” and “has” following the “he” and “she” pronouns. You can now say,
“What does he have?” or “What does he do?”
-changed the PEOPLE icon on the PCS versions of the ChatPower vocabulary
-added “hurts” to the BODY pages so that when you go to the BODY pages, you can now say, i.e. “My leg hurts.”
-added “may” to the QUESTIONS category so that you can now go to QUESTIONS and say, “May I …?”
-added “USB” to categories CONTAINERS and TECHNOLOGY
Posted on June 10, 2014
"The lights are on in there," the doctor would say at every visit. And they always have been for our sweet Parker, who is 6, and although still undiagnosed, struggles with severe mitochondrial dysfunction, hypotonia and cyclic vomiting among other things.
Parker is non-verbal, but has always been an excellent communicator - it was easy to figure out what he needed. But still, he needed and deserved a "real" voice. We knew he had things to say, things we wanted to know about him - and mostly when he was sick (Parker has been in the hospital 119 times) we wanted to understand what was wrong so we could help him feel better.
Before Parker was matched with the Nova Chat we had tried it all. We had Big Mac Buttons, communication cards, charts and binders. We did PECS. We tried sign language. We moved on to the iPad and tried many different apps. We tried the GoTalk. They all worked with minimum success, and they were exhausting. The reality was, I was often times taking care of a very sick child, and I really didn't want to carry around a (fill in the blank...binder, necklace, chart, large device).
On our journey, we have been so very blessed to have worked with two of the best speech therapist. Our first super-therapist, after working with Parker for four years, looked up at me one day and said "it's time, you need to see Pat."
And it was. Now we had found our amazing second super-therapist. She, after months of working with Parker and trying all different devices, matched him with the Nova Chat. Pat, Parker and the Nova Chat are a match made in heaven. Finally a device that could house all his vocab in one spot. Finally a device that was portable. Finally a device, that with Parker's low tone, was easy for him to use. Finally he had a voice.
There have been many magical moments in the year since Parker received his Nova Chat. The first time he requested to eat (eating was something he did not learn to do until he was 5). Pat got him a snack - and he ate it! He really did, want to eat. His love of music was also confirmed through using the device, Parker told Pat he wanted to play music, and would pick out individual instruments to play. I've been in awe watching him grow more proficient and stronger (in the beginning he needed 100 percent assistance to find the right word and push it) at using the device. But mostly, I have also had the opportunity to get to know my son. Yes, he really did want blueberries for a snack every day. No - he really did not want to watch "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" anymore. He told us he needed a hug, a break, a drink -a juice box to be specific, and so much more.
And then one day, my real dream came true. We knew Parker was having a so-so day, but all of a sudden, in the middle of his session with Pat, he used the Nova Chat to tell Pat his head hurt and he needed medicine. There was a moment of silence and disbelief - and then cheers (and I really wanted to cry).
I feel lucky that we were able to match Parker with the right device (and therapist) so early in his life. I know this is only the beginning of what he will learn and be able to tell us, and I can't wait to find out what he has to say!
Posted on May 23, 2014
We have decided to phase out the 20 Location communication board, which will directly affect AAC Users who have a ChatPC Silk and Chat PC 4. The 20 Location communication board will continue to be available through the end of the summer, at which time they will be removed.
Posted on April 2, 2014
There is a saying, “Not being able to speak doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to say”. Communication is essential to everyone. I should know, because I have a disability that keeps me from speaking and, even though I can’t say words, I do have something to say.
To make a long story short, I have Cerebral Palsy. In my lifetime, I have had thousands of AAC devices. I may be exaggerating a little, but I was there before they were known as AAC devices. I was there when electric typewriters were the wonders of the day. I was there before computers. I was there before push button phones. I was there when people actually wrote letters. I have seen the development of AAC devices over the past forty plus years and it has been amazing.
I started communicating as a “regular “child by crying and smiling. My first AAC system was to answer yes/no questions by raising my hand for yes. My first AAC device was a board with pictures. Magically, the pictures turned into words, the words became more numerous and the board got larger and larger and larger until it was the size of a piece of large tag board that fit on a chart stand that went where ever I went at school. I had a similar board at home on the refrigerator and by the table. It eventually became the size of a 12” x 16” art canvas, which I could have with me all the time.
My first electric device was an electric typewriter. For the younger generation that is an ipad before steroids. It was just a keyboard with a print out.
Since that time many devices have passed over my chair. Like people, they each had their own personality, all of them quirky and extremely frustrating.
One of my devices was so was so frustrating, that I wanted to take a hammer to it. My father gave me a hammer and said, “Go for it.” At that point in time, I said I would never, ever have another electronic device.
Well, a couple of years ago, I kicked myself in my bootie and said, “Ok, let’s try it again”. I was associated with CTEC, the Communication Technology Education Center in Sacramento. They did an assessment and after trying numerous devices, I decided the NOVA chat 10 would be the best for me. I was right. It has been a life changer. I can hold conversations without someone standing next to me; I can carry on conversations with people in a room close by; it doesn’t take a person with special skills to be with me and read my board; it’s dependable; the size is great for me; and on the occasions I have had to use tech support, because it is after all a computer, they have been very knowledgeable, helpful and patient.
My NOVA chat 10 is my Knight in Purple Amour!
Posted on March 24, 2014
The Strengthening Your Core workshop in Peoria, IL has been rescheduled for April 29. Click here for more details!
Posted on March 11, 2014
CANCELLED – The Strengthening Your Core Workshop scheduled in Peoria, IL, for 3/12/14 has been CANCELLED due to weather. If you are already registered, you will receive an email with the rescheduled training information as soon as the new date has been set. If you have any questions, please contact the seminar coordinators at 800-848-8008.
Posted on February 27, 2014
Meet Jeremy, an active and fun-loving 12-year-old boy with a diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome. As a child it was thought that he would never speak, read, or write; let alone be an effective communicator. At first, Jeremy communicated through a means of pushing/pulling, grunting, screaming, verbalizing 4-6 words, and using barely recognizable signs. His constant inquisitiveness showed an enthusiasm for learning and communicating, which his SLP recognized immediately. She was certain that there was more that met the eye when it came to Jeremy. He was a smart boy; she just had to prove it to everyone else and to Jeremy himself.
At 6 ½ years old, Jeremy started using his first communication device, a Dynavox V. There is nothing like seeing a child’s face the very first time he activates a button saying, “My name is Jeremy.” Jeremy grew like a weed in the use of his device. Of course, he loved to “play” on it, so he had to be locked out of the settings, but he really used it to communicate. He proved that he was and is a very bright boy.
Eventually Jeremy grew tired of carrying his big device around and took to hiding it. He refused to use it and also began throwing it; needless to say it was out for repair frequently. Finally, after 5 ½ years he qualified for an upgrade. We knew Jeremy needed something that was more portable and looked cooler, which is when we found the Nova Chat.
In September 2013 his new Nova Chat 7 arrived. Despite all of our worries about how he would transition to the new device, Jeremy took to his Nova Chat like a duck to water. He needed extra guidance for only a few short weeks and then he had it down. He loved that it “looked like an iPad” and he felt cool carrying it around; he didn’t feel so different anymore.
Jeremy uses the Chatpower 42 vocabulary file on his Nova chat 7 successfully in the classroom to answer teacher guided questions, do his math work, practice his writing, learn his Edmark reading words, read books, and to interject a novel remark here and there. It goes with him to every class, including field trips.
He loves to explore his Nova Chat and “work” on it every chance he gets. Jeremy is an excellent speller; nothing makes him happier than to go into the typing page and type out short messages, people’s names, or simply words that come to his mind - pretty amazing for a child who was not expected to read or write. Jeremy recognizes kindergarten and first grade site words and one of his favorite things to do is take a note book and pencil and write or copy words from books or his device. Not only did the device help to increase his literacy skills, but he has also increased his verbal vocabulary to over sixty words. He is still very hard to understand but will always go to his Nova Chat and try to find what he is trying to tell you.
He prefers to speak in two or three word phrases using his device, but can usually get his point across. His ability to communicate with others has increased even more with the use of his new Nova Chat 7.
Although he continues to hide his device on occasion, and must still be locked out of the programming mode, he enjoys using it in class and most of the time at home with his mom. It has really helped him to continue to grow as a person, and we cannot wait to see where he is in another 5 ½ years.