I am over the moon with excitement right now!!! And boy, do I need something to get me excited in a positive way.
We got the grant money for Stephen's ipod touch and app to make it a communication device last Friday. We have been taking our time introducing it to him, mainly because we needed to figure out how it works (we don't need to be the blind leading the blind) and needed to take out unnecessary icons and change some of the labels on the icons, make custom icons, etc. We also don't want Stephen to feel pressure to use it all the time, right off the bat. We want it to be casual and fun and let him decide when he wants to use it along with showing him how it works. We did a demo with him a few times over the weekend. He has been introduced to it more over the past two days at school. He already used it today to request the trampoline and a book.
So, when I read that he used it at school and was very proud of himself I figured I'd try using it immediately when he started to get upset and was doing a lot of finger pointing at the drawer that has his headphones in it. He was getting very upset and almost in tears because I kept telling him "no headphones" and explained to him that they will get broken in his computer like the last two pairs. I made an icon for headphones, but he first tapped the one for music. Makes sense, we have only been letting him use his headphones with his mp3 player since he kept snapping off the plug inside the hole in his tower for the headphones. He was saying, "music". So, I had him tap the headphone icon which says "I want headphones". He continued to get upset and I showed him two icons "sad" and "I feel mad". I had him tap them. He instantly calmed down and went and sat on the couch!
It gets better. He started saying "Popsicle". So, I made an icon for it. He tapped it and it said "I want a Popsicle." and he repeated all the words!! Not just "Popsicle" like he usually says, but a complete sentence. After he ate his Popsicle he said "drink". He went into the "I want" category and then pressed "drink". I showed him the icon I made that said "I want a drink of water" and he repeated "I want a drink of water"!!!! I have always said that his echolalia was him practicing communication and pronunciation. He has been using quotes from movies and songs in the appropriate context here and there to communicate. Now we can make him his own quotes to learn how to communicate in his voice.
This is an important illustration of my theory. The school district has been saying for years that having him use a communication device will discourage him from talking. He is blowing that theory out of the water. Like most of us, he is learning how to communicate by imitating what he hears. He also can read and has a photographic memory from what I can tell. For God's sake, he has been reading dictionaries for years as a hobby. He started reading the adult versions of dictionaries a couple years ago, he picked out his first Merriam-Webster last year at Walmart, the kind that don't have a lot of pictures.
What's great about this device is that it can fill in the blank spots where Stephen knows what he wants to say but can't figure out how to speak it and will give him a model of how to say what he wants to say that he can imitate.
I will try to shoot a video clip of Stephen using it so you can see what I mean.
I am really looking forward to seeing how much he can do with this amazing device : )