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September's Spotlight Star- Alan!

Posted on 2015-09-30 15:08:23 by Admin under AAC in Action

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!

Posted on 2015-08-25 13:23:01 by Admin under AAC in Action

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

Posted on 2015-08-25 09:05:28 by Admin under AAC in Action

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fun at Authentic Voices of America Camp

Posted on 2015-08-18 11:08:25 by Admin under AAC in Action

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!

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H Fulton