It just came to my attention that for those that are not following us on Facebook (and by the way- why not?), the last post here about our communication journey was this one. We have come a long way since then.
At the time of that writing, I was overwhelmed by all the choices and doubtful as to how to proceed. To be honest I was also afraid. Not afraid of spending $200 per se, but what spending that money signified- that we were going for it. No more dabbling with picture cards or simple press-and-go apps. We were taking the communication plunge; I was going to start teaching Sophie a comprehensive language system. I was terrified.
The app we chose (after months of deliberation) was Speak For Yourself. I'm not going to write a complex review of its features as it has been done before, by people smarter than I. You can watch the company's overview video here, or read Dana Gaeckle Nieder's review here (if you are at all interested in AAC, and especially if your child has been evaluated as having complex communication needs you need to be following her blog. Need). Those two links will tell you all you need to know as far as features and what makes the app so brilliant. I can tell you why I chose the app myself.
At the start of this year, I just had it with PECS. Sophie was very good at ripping off little velcroed images and bringing them to us in exchange for snacks (mostly) or favourite activities (sometimes). I kept discovering words which I thought she might want to say and running to the printing/laminating place, then cutting the sheets and arranging the cards in her binder in the evenings. But I always felt like we didn't have all the words she wanted to say, the cards kept getting lost and I was generally getting frustrated. I wanted something more cohesive, easier to edit and less cumbersome. I also wanted a system that could start off very simple, essentially replacing her binder, but which could grow in a way her binder just could not. Speak for Yourself fit that criteria perfectly.
|Sophie's initial screen (note the cheeky argument she has in the message window)|
|Her Thomas character screen|
|Her food page|
As you can see, there are not many things there. That's what I love about this app. We could start as simple as we wanted (could start with one word if that's what was needed) and keep adding words - the capacity is 14 000. The genius part- due to the motor planning component, as we keep adding words, the existing words will never move (hence all the empty black space we have. Room for many, many words).
Sophie took to it immediately. My girl, she is clever. Now, I am not bragging about her IQ or whether or not she will have learning disabilities or cognitive disability or anything like that. She needs a language to be able to be tested for those things, any test we would do now would grossly underestimate her abilities. Given her unique brain, I'm sure there are many challenges ahead- BUT. She is clever. I think I am fumbling around more with teaching her words than she is at grasping them. We are going very slow (so I can keep up).
|Sophie's screen now|
Every weekday during little man's nap Sophie sits in the kitchen and we do our AAC lesson. We go with her level of interest, lots of modelling, lots of motivating items and repeat, repeat, repeat. As some of you know, I managed to secure a communication disorders/AAC therapist for once a week to help with our lesson (no small feat, trust me). Seeing how she models and reinforces with Sophie is quite helpful. This Friday was our first session with her. When she saw Sophie produce spontaneously "I watch jack", "more meatballs" and "want juice" she assessed her at using 2 word phrases. If I could convey how it felt to hear those words about my "nonverbal" daughter... I'm still walking on air.
It feels more comfortable now, we are falling into a groove. Next step is getting Sophie a dedicated device where she would be locked into the communication app. Communication just can't compete with Thomas I'm afraid. This is next on the agenda.
I'm attaching useful links regarding AAC that I personally use. I'm sure there are many others, but my time is limited so I stick with the tried and true. Enjoy! Feel free to ask any questions.
Speak for Yourself website:
Speak for Yourself closed Facebook group (I find it very helpful, many AAC devices are discussed, it's not SFY exclusive):
Uncommon sense blog:
PrAACtical AAC (good resource page):