Wednesday, March 1, 2017

AAC Device (Augmentative Alternative Communication)

I want you to picture a neatly, organized file cabinet. In this file cabinet everything is organized exactly how you want it. We can compare an organized file cabinet to a neurotypical persons brain. Our brain is like a filing cabinet. Everything is organized and our brain automatically knows where to go to recall a memory. Our brain knows the exact file to pull out in order to have spoken language (expressive language) and our brain knows the file to pull out in order to understand (receptive) language and so on.

For a person with autism, their brain is not like an organized file cabinet. Instead, their brain is like a desk with all the files scattered all over the top of the desk in no certain order at all. I know if I walked into an office with a desk like that I wouldn't even know where to begin to find what I needed. This is how a person with autism lives every single day.

In order to help a person with autism to "organize their messy desk", one on one is needed. This is why a person with autism can often produce spoken language in a one on one setting. However, life happens and aside from therapy, sometimes one on one just can't happen. This is where a person with autism struggles, even high functioning kids like Andrew. Their disability gets in the way of them being able to communicate because their brain is like a messy desk.

For example, I know Trenton can say, " I want juice." Often it has to be manded and prompted but he can say it. Sometimes we have to wait while he processes the mand for a few seconds but it can be produced from his mouth. Yet, life isn't always like that. Often in this fast paced world there isn't time for mands or prompts. There isn't time to wait while the brain processes and finds the file that it needs. This is where individuals with autism have struggles with the ability to speak. Sometimes the environment isn't set up for them to speak. If I take Trenton out of the quiet, one on one ABA setting and take him to a place where there is noise and lots of sensory input, he may not even be able to produce the word "juice" if he needs a drink. His brain went from a filing cabinet to a messy desk because of the noise, sensory input, anxiety, and the people around him.

So, what do you do? Trenton is finally at a great level of being able to understand spoken language. I am so proud of him and the progress he has made in the last five years of therapy! I have done almost everything possible to help him in this area. I have spent hundreds of dollars on communication apps and have spent countless hours training myself to try to train him. I've learned sign language to try to teach him. You name it, I've done it!

With all of that said, late last summer his speech therapist got me set up with a great AAC device specialist out of Indianapolis. It has been a long process but I am in the works of getting Trenton an AAC device (Augmentative and Alternative Communication device). Trenton and I have been working hard with his therapist at Indianapolis making weekly trips there. His speech therapist has been using it with him here in Terre Haute. We still have a long process to go before Trenton receives his personal device. (They don't make it easy to get a device that is for sure! The cost is outrageous...not sure why they make it so difficult because it is not like it is a cheap item that someone off the street would want to buy.)

Anyway, we found a device that seemed to work good for him. I pray that he will be able to use this one day. Right now, Trenton is no where close to pulling out the AAC device and telling me all of his needs. We are a very long way from that...maybe even years from that. Some individuals with autism simply aren't able to ever communicate on one. However, I do believe that Trenton will be able to one day. I have FAITH and HOPE!!! So, since he is at a good point in his life where he can understand some things, then why not go ahead and get him used to having it around!!

The use of speech-generating devices have the most evidence for positive communication support that leads to spontaneous language per some of the recent research over the past ten years with autism.  The deficits that Trenton and many other children with autism have with their speech and language contribute to their challenging behavior. As Trenton gets older, I see this more and more. His challenging behavior is because he can't communicate and deep inside him is that beautiful soul that knows exactly what he wants but his body just won't let him communicate it.

So much on this that I could speak of but for now just know that this is in the works and has been since late last summer. This  will NEVER replace his ABA goal of producing spoken language. I will NEVER give up on him being able to speak! NEVER!!! As of right now, I have to provide everything possible for him to have the best, productive life possible and he is finally showing signs that this may be one good route to take!

A special thanks to my parents for helping me and making these long trips to Indianapolis possible!

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