How I Prepare for Our AAC Consultations
We meet with our AAC team Wednesday afternoon for one of our quarterly consultations. It will be a transitional meeting for Nathaniel as his weekly speech therapist is anticipating a new baby soon. Nathaniel and Miss Rebecca had their last "before baby comes" session yesterday. (Many blessings to you and your little one, Rebecca!) Our therapy plans for the fall include continuing in Development Language Group two mornings a week and private therapy (Occupational and Speech) one morning a week. He is going to be working with a new Speech Therapist on a regular basis - someone familiar with his case through these periodic consultations.
As I prepare for our AAC meeting, I am again shuffling papers, making lists, and thinking about goals I have for Nathaniel's language growth. I reflect on times Nathaniel experiences communication frustration as that often indicates areas that need solutions and work. This document, Language Functions & Early Generative Language Production by Gail M. Van Tatenhove, PA, MS, CCC-SLP, was given to me very early on in Nathaniel's AAC journey. It continues to be a help as I prepare. I have revisited Tatenhove's word lists and compared them to the open words on Nathaniel's device. I have created a list of words that I think we need to work on learning.
Prior to these meetings, I make sure everyone on the team has current reports from other therapists. Language Group provided a multiple page report at the end of summer session; I copied and gave it to everyone on the team a few weeks ago. The feedback of Nathaniel's language use in a group of peers is helpful to the therapists who see him one-on-one.
Additionally, I record language samples for the therapists. I do this two ways - a written record based on his functional use of language and a few video samples. For the written portion, I use this template. I make notes on Nathaniel's communication for one week. Nathaniel mixes sign, facial expressions, gestures, breathing rate and volume and his talker to communicate. By focusing on his pragmatic competence, I see a fuller picture of his communication skills than if I only noted his talker use.
I make notes of what I am modeling. There are some fantastic tracking aids of daily modeling (see here), but I have quit taking these detailed records with me to the meetings. I find the therapists are far more interested in what Nathaniel is doing than in my daily modeling log. I now synthesize the information into brief bullet points highlighting length of utterances, use of morphemes, over all frequency, settings, difficulties, and questions.
Lastly, I pray. Our AAC Consultations are two hours and always in the afternoon. If all Nathaniel's therapists have shadowing students, there can be six to eight participants waiting to interact with us. Nathaniel usually falls asleep the last half hour - likely a combination of missing his nap and being overwhelmed by the number of people and length of the session. The session is exhausting for me too. I answer questions and brainstorm. I talk about my personal and our family's weaknesses. I learn. I admit our lack of follow through. I take notes. I share our successes. I plan. I offer insights and goals. I strategize how to implement the new plan into family and home life. When I walk out of the therapy department, I have committed again to be Nathaniel's primary communication partner. Without prayer and God's grace, it would be an overwhelming meeting and task. Over and over again, God makes a way and gives the strength day by day.