Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The ipod touch, Proloquo2go and echolalia = communication for my child with Autism

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 : )


The McNultys said...

Beth, This is wonderful!! I have heard from our speech therapist who has recommended the Dynavox for Laurie that studies are showing that speech seems to increase at an amazing rate with this additional communication piece. I am glad that you got this. Also, the "cool" factor of the iTouch could help on a social level as well :) Looking forward to hearing about Stephen's progress!!ret

Queenbuv3 said...

I've tried to not expect anything from him having this device but knowing my son the way I do, I am not surprised that he is taking to it. It's so exciting!

Please let me know how your daughter does with her Dynavox when she gets it : )

The McNultys said...

Laurie's speech therapist was here yesterday with a Dynavox device for her to use during the session. She was doing marvelously, and was repeating the words that were said when she pressed the buttons! I am super-excited now! Unfortunately, though, we have to wait until all of the insurance paperwork goes through, so we likely won't get it until mid-late February. Don't ya just love bureaucracy?

Is your daughter very involved with this part of Stephen's communication? Annie (our older, "typical" daughter) is likely going to be very helpful, once she figures out that the device is not a toy!!

Queenbuv3 said...

She isn't too involved with him using it right now because he isn't using it very much to start off. She LOVES playing with my husbands ipod touch and has put tons of free app games on it.

So sorry things are taking so long with your daughter getting a communication device. We have been trying to get one for Stephen for YEARS. No joke. Every year at the IEP meeting they kept coming up with more excuse not to get him one.

His IEP meeting is coming up in a couple of weeks and I can't wait to show the ipod to the SPED director. His reaction will be priceless, I'm sure ; )

The McNultys said...

I don't understand why a speech therapist (is that what SPED is?) would be against AAC, although sadly, your story is not unfamiliar! I do have a friend who had lived in VA and couldn't even get her son with DS approved just for PECS! That is just absurd. So now he just signs, and he is a pro at it, but I can't communicate with him beyond the basics, and I'm sure that many others are in the same position with him.

In any case, I'm glad that you have been able to acquire the iTouch and app on your own. I have to say that you and Pat seem to be amazing parents and extraordinary advocates for both of your children.

Did you ever hear of Wrightslaw.com? It's a website about Special Education law - maybe it would be useful for you?

Queenbuv3 said...

Actually, SPED is short for special education director for our district.

I have used Wrightslaw.com in the past. What a wonderful free resource! It gave me all the info I needed to avoid hiring a lawyer.

Thank you for the compliment but I feel like what we do for our kids is just what any good parents should be doing whether or not their child has issues. We aren't perfect but we do the best we can at any given moment and want to raise happy, healthy and considerate kids. We also know that they are a precious gift from God and he is trusting us to take good care of them. I wish all children had the love and care we give our children. The world would definetly be a better place.

K said...

Beth this is MARVELOUS
I think we need to get this too
So glad its working
Thank you for visiting my blog

Queenbuv3 said...

K-Thanks for stopping by my blog!