This Christmas, Nathan became the proud owner of an iPad, thanks to a few very generous family members. Lately we'd been searching for ways to help him communicate more easily. He has used Picture Exchange Communication from the getgo. I attended a seminar in PECS about a year and a half ago; Nathan had a homemade communication book about 2 wks later, thanks to a local craft shop and a semester license for Boardmaker via my university studies.
However, there are drawbacks to using PECS, one big on being that your child's "words" can get lost (especially if he has a strong propensity to play with them), you face a constant worry of your child not having the words he needs available, and your child may lose interest in the method. Flipping through pages to find what you want and then having to pull off the velcro cards, stick them on a sentence strip, and then hunt down a person to give it to would be tiring to me after a while, too.
We requested and got an Assistive Tech/AAC assessment done through the school district in Albuquerque. The results were waaaayyy off from being accurate. They indicated that not only did a more high tech device NOT suit him, but they wanted to start him over with PECS at Phase 1! We have had a problem for some time now with Nathan's "true colors" not showing to his teachers. This problem has been alleviated some by his reintroduction to his old teachers after our ABQ stay, but we still struggle to get teachers to really BELIEVE in his true abilities, expect, and require that he use his abilities to hold his own in the classroom. He is allowed to get away with NOT communicating in the classroom...NOT a good environment for encouraging generalization of skills! We're looking foward to what a fresh, new method can do, that's for sure.
After receiving the iPad, we immediately got to work with getting Nathan interested in it. We downloaded free games, interactive music apps, and drawing apps. A game that rivals bubblewrap addiction, called "Pop Balloons", is now a favorite of his. Last week, I found a tremendous AAC app called "My First AAC". This app is especially for ages 4-7, is SUPER kid-friendly in its design, and can be customized! It's an awesome starter. $25 to turn a game console into a Speech-Generating Device???...yes, please!! Families of young kids who cannot afford the $200 for large-scale apps like Proloquo2go will be thrilled with this one. It's not perfect, but it's affordable and does the job. Below is a screenshot of what the app looks like...pretty nifty, huh?
Since downloading "My First AAC", we've been following Nathan around, doing what in the SLP community is called "aided input": expressing some of what we said by using his device paired with gestures and speech. It's hands-down the best way to get a person going on a device. After about a week of doing this, Nathan is now seeking out the iPad, scanning through the pages, finding what he wants, and choosing the particular item with very appropriate eye contact! He so far is using "I want upside down" (a fave!!) and "Home". Talk about a quick study!
Our next challenge is getting an appropriate case to protect the iPad along with jimmy-rigging a carrying case w/shoulder strap. Then we can get that device more mobile, get out in the community with it, and make those teachers a bunch of BELIEVERS! :)