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March's Spotlight Star- Kristen

Posted on 2014-04-02 11:43:59 by Admin under AAC in Action

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!


February's Spotlight Star- Jeremy

Posted on 2014-02-27 11:55:13 by Admin under AAC in Action

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.


Barb and her "lifeline", the Nova Chat 10

Posted on 2014-01-21 10:31:55 by Admin under AAC in Action

Meet Barbara Weber from El Paso, IL.  About one and half years ago, she started losing the ability to use her voice.  Currently, she has a possible diagnosis of Bulbar ALS.  She is retired now, but remains a very active member in her community and in her church.  She received her NOVA Chat 10 in May of 2013. Her NOVA Chat 10 has changed her life!  Barb’s vocabulary system is called Essence.  It has been modified to meet her needs best.

Barb was a stay at home mom for several years, then went to work in an insurance and real estate office for 25 years.  She has two grown children.  Over the years she volunteered to provide meals on wheels to elderly individual with disabilities that are sometimes homebound.  She also became a helper for her neighbor who had a disability and has now moved to a nursing home.  The NOVA Chat has been a lifesaver, as she can still communicate with her neighbor and everyone else!

Last year, her method of communication was writing everything she wanted to say.  Barb is also part of a mentoring program for students needing help after school. She mentors two sophomore girls in a local high school.  The girls struggled to get the message because they couldn’t read Barb’s writing. Today she can communicate everything and is excited to share information with her new method of communication.  The NOVA Chat is also a “cool” tool in the high school!

Barb uses her NOVA Chat everywhere. She uses it to do her banking, talk with her doctors, at the library, shopping and with her church groups, etc.  Barb commented that the NOVA Chat has opened up a whole new world for her.   In addition to communicating with her NOVA Chat, she is using her device for email.  She is the treasurer for her ladies group at church.  She is able to give her reports using her NOVA Chat now.  People ask her where she got this wonderful machine-and that they wouldn’t mind having one!  She enjoyed a recent visit with a friend from Minnesota with her new means of communication. When she goes to the mall, people will remember her by her machine and are fascinated!  Barb said this is “priceless”!  She also joked that her husband doesn’t hear well when she had limited ability to communicate.  NOW, she has a machine that works wonders!  It is her lifeline!

 


Zach and his Nova Chat

Posted on 2013-11-22 12:17:08 by Admin under AAC in Action

Zachary Willingham is our Saltillo Spotlight Celebrity for November.  He is 18 years old and goes to East Paulding High School in Dallas, GA.

Zach’s favorite things to do are going to football games and playing on his computer and iPad. He likes jumping on the trampoline, swimming, hanging out with his best buddy, Josh, and spending weekends at Aunt Donna’s.

 

Zach has had both an Xpress and a DynaVox V before getting his Nova Chat in the beginning of 2013.  His mother, Shari, reported that Zach has been involved in programming his NovaChat from the beginning, which she thinks has definitely made a difference with his success in using it.  She also thinks that the portability has been a plus.  “He truly does use his device in every aspect of his daily living”. 

Zach is fortunate to receive communication therapy at Dynamic Therapy Associates (http://www.mydynamictherapy.com) in Kennesaw GA. Vicki   Clarke, owner, President, SLP, and AAC Specialist extraordinaire has been his therapist for many years. Vicki and her staff believe that because they work with their clients and their families for so long, they know a bit about what they really need to communicate! They organize vocabulary based on what they know makes sense to the individual client. 

The route Vicki took with clients like Zach was using their communication devices to introduce places, activities, medical procedures and people in a safe, familiar manner before big events such as going to the dentist, doctors, or community events take place. Apparently for Zach it worked!!! Zach has always had a fear of all doctor visits so that is just one example of providing the right vocabulary for scary or unfamiliar situations. To top it off Zachary actually helped label, arrange and color code the symbols on his NovaChat.  He chose to put each doctor’s pictures on one row, labeled the doctor “Dr. Ear,” (ENT) “Dr. Lisa,” and “Dr. Head” (Psychiatrist) and gave each their own color row.  For Zachary, it made sense that this page was placed under the category of “People” on his “Doctor” page.  Dr. Ear got his own special page since the event was a major surgery.

Again, mom stated, “How are you supposed to put into words the significance of this?  It’s ‘ginormous!’ For the first decade or so we didn’t go to the doctor unless it was something significant.  You only went to the doctor as a last resort, if we couldn’t fix it ourselves. Now (Zachary) goes and has physicals and regular checkups with the ENT to make sure everything is okay. I don’t have to wait until he has the 105 degree fevers, seizures and raging infections before we have it checked out.  Preventative medicine is now an option.”