Saturday, February 10, 2018

An AAC WWYD, for the professionals

A story for professionals:
Client/Student: 4 year, 5 month old girl. Pleasant, but self-directed. Limited attention span.
Language profile: Expressive vocabulary is extremely limited. Less than 5 clear words, with additional CV vocalizations that parents can reliably interpret. Receptive language is unknown, due to aforementioned self-directness and limited attention span.
AAC notes: Parents have rejected the AAC evaluation conducted by the district. They claim that the recommended device (a 32-cell speech generating device with up to 12 levels) is “too simplistic” and will not provide enough language. They have bought an iPad app and are attempting to implement it without professional guidance. All programming and implementation is led by Mom.
AAC access: Client has significant fine motor impairment. Parent-selected AAC app has 120 buttons per screen. Mom is confident that, with modifications (including a keyguard and/or homemade glove), access is feasible.
Session Notes: Client’s engagement during sessions is variable. Imitation skills are poor. Receptive language is difficult to assess, due to intermittent participation in planned activities. Parent, who is nearby during many sessions, reports that client understands many of the concepts targeted by clinician.
**Of note: Client refuses to acknowledge or access AAC device during sessions. Client infrequently attends to clinician’s modeling during sessions. Parent reports that client is able to use device independently, without prompting, for a variety of communicative functions (requesting, directing, commenting, and answering questions). Client has not demonstrated any of these skills in the presence of the clinician.
Clinician has been seeing client in the home, twice a week, for several months. No interaction with AAC device has been observed.

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What would you think?

What would you recommend in your report?

What would you say to the other SLPs in your office/network/online group?

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Maya was 4;5 when she started working with our home SLP (H). She didn’t touch the talker for months (MONTHS) in her presence. She only intermittently attended to modeling by the new SLP---often she seemed to not even acknowledge the device was there. I was the mom. This is not a fabrication, or an exaggeration----this is an accurate representation of the facts.
Fortunately, H listened to my reports. She provided advice and was a great AAC/language planning guide/partner, even though she never saw Maya use the device directly (she did see some videos). She believed, or at least acted like she did, and never made me feel like I had to “prove” anything.
I see, sometimes, professionals online who seem to feel like parents (or teachers, or paraprofessionals, or SLPs, or anyone) who believe in the capabilities of AAC users (when they themselves are not able to see these capabilities) are delusional. I see SLPs who claim ownership of AAC and are offended when parents (or other professionals) select and implement AAC systems without a full evaluation (or who reject a professional evaluation and “go rogue”). I see teachers who think it’s pointless to keep a device nearby, since they’ve never seen the kid use the device (or sometimes even look at it) anyway.

It’s gutting to hear these conversations (or to see them online).

Those kids are my kid.

Those parents are me.

I want to make sure you know what our AAC story looked like 6 years ago.

It’s easy to believe in her (and me) now, online.

It was harder back in 2012, twice a week, in person.

I’ll try to keep reminding you.



(image is a picture of Maya, age 9.5, smiling while in motion, looking away from the camera)

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