Is it inappropriate to begin every blog post apologizing for not blogging for so long- again? Yes? Then I won't do that.
In the whirlwind that our life has been of late, with me going back to school after 12 years at home with the kids, husband taking over most of the daily child care duties (he's doing amazing) and the kiddies all in their respective schools, life has been busy, busier than ever before.
But, amongst all this chaos there is excitement. Soaps has had a real "explosion" of AAC communication after a rather bleak several months, communication-wise.
First a tiny recap- this was the post where I first expressed how frustrated I was with our current system and how limiting I felt it was for Sophie's current and future needs. Since then most of our readers know Sophie has been using the app Speak for Yourself to communicate, with varied success. Seriously varied- like tapping out a five-word phrase within the first week of getting the app to completely going on a communication strike for a long and sad several months.
That's the enigma of Sophie. The mechanics or access to the app never seemed to be an issue- she was always able to physically use it. However I must admit that there was a few months I began to worry that perhaps her issue was language-based and that no matter how many words she had access to, she wouldn't be able to derive meaning from them? But she could, initially. I was so confused and also there was the "what if" shadow there- what if it's too advanced, what if I'm expecting too much, what if she's not ready, won't be ready... the what if is a dark demon indeed. But we persevered, what ifs be gone.
Then we had the issue that can be summed up as "when all the iPads died various but equally tragic deaths", which you can all I'm sure appreciate the meaning of. Did I mention that I was paying my college tuition about the same time?
So after all this and once we didn't get rich, but did get approved for a student loan, the iPads were next on the must-get-items. The fact that Sophie was without an actual talker for over a month was making me feel very anxious. But I also knew that a talker itself was not enough- she needed a dedicated talker, this time not "dedicated but Felix will still use it when she's not communicating" but DEDICATED, dedicated. AND this talker was to be encased in a case that was evidence-proven to withstand tanks driving over it and tornados, hail and high waters or something like that.
And so here we were. I documented it in this Facebook post here.
Then I sent it to her school and took a deep breath of cautious optimism.
And then magic happened. Sophie, seeing that Thomas is not threatened by the communication app, began to reach for it. She started off with the regular requests for juice, fruit, thomas, etc but also started to hit other buttons, not in error, but in curious exploration. She took real interest as to where words are and what they are.
It snowballed from there- it's amazing how little feedback can surge a wave of new motivation through a household. We all began to model in earnest and for once Sophie is an active participator- reaching, responding and engaging with us. Her utterances show intent and of course learning still. Once in a while we get a genuine answer to a question, especially a "what would you like Soaps?" question- food, juice, etc. She's loving Costco's giant chocolate muffins and requests them often. Once she finishes her piece, she passes me the talker so I can press "more" and she completes the request with "muffin". We get a lot of talk about engines, today I added the words "smash", "crash" and "bash"and she began to use them instantly.
Another thing is when I model a new word she attends to me showing her the path of how to get there- I added "swing" today and showed her several times that it is under "then". Might have to show her several more times but the fact she took interest- huge. And perhaps the most exciting thing is that when she's done with communicating (or anything really) she has the ability to press "stop" or "no" or "all done", or as demonstrated here, all of them at once. That's why I am doing this- sure I want to talk with her. But mostly I want her to be able to speak up for herself.
So that's that. Close to 2 years after my overwhelmed post seeking solutions to Sophie's lack of voice and about 18 months after purchasing her app I finally feel that we are on the road to actual communication. When and how it will proceed, I won't even guess. But I'm betting it will be amazing.