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