Happy Second AAC Anniversary!
Two years ago today we gave Nathaniel an iPad mini with an augmented communication app. He was twenty months old. There was much we did not know at the time. We knew very little about augmented communication or Nathaniel's long term communication needs. We did not know about key guards or child friendly cases or stands or modular tubing to hold the device at an easy access point. In some ways this might have worked in our benefit. In all our not knowing, we did not know how unusual it was to give a twenty-month old a high-tech, voice output device. We wanted to give our son access to words. Lots of words. All the words he needed to be fully twenty months old
I have such strong memories of that day and the process. I had spent the evening before at Barnes and Noble coffee shop downloading the app, Speak for Yourself, and learning to program it. I felt giddy. I could not sleep when I got home. I was twenty-three years a homeschool mom and working on a Master's Degree in English, but the hope and idea that the next morning my youngest child would be able to say his first word surpassed all my educational dreams up to that point.
Rich spent today helping a young man from our Boy Scout troop with an Eagle Scout project, so I spent time focusing on our AAC journey. Nathaniel and I went to Target and bought a heavy duty binder, my fourth binder for All Things Nathaniel. Augmented Communication has overtaken and outgrown the THERAPY section of my main binder. The new one will hold all the scholarly articles, reports, word lists, printed web pages, screen shots, lists of goals, and other paperwork I have gathered pertaining to AAC. I sorted, stapled, hole punched, labeled, and stuffed the new binder while Nathaniel napped.
When Nathaniel woke up, I tried to capture some video of his communication skills. There is still much work to do. He gets frustrated with communication at times. He continues to have an expressive language delay. But he turns to his device and works harder to be understood and is adding to his skills daily. He interchanges using his device and sign fluidly. He uses all the operation controls on his device - turns it on, returns to the home screen, message window, clears a word or an entire message, and enjoys turning on all the words to babble. He repairs communication break downs. He combines two words frequently and three occasionally. He labels, requests, asks questions, gets our attention, protests, comments, corrects, directs, negotiates, talks about his feelings, and talks about the past. He uses negatives. He carries his talker around the house and to the car when we go out. He comes to me, taps my leg to get my attention, and shows me something he said on the device. He asks his peers for toys. He teaches new communication partners his sign language using his device. He used his talker to tell a waitress he wanted a BANANA PLEASE for breakfast Friday morning. There is much we still do not know - about augmented communication and Nathaniel. But today we celebrate two years of being communication partners with this vibrant, expressive three year old. Hooray!