Max has used several AAC devices in his short life. His first device, a Fl4sh gave him up to four choices at a time. He quickly outgrew that, and we went with a Tango! next. It was a really innovative device...for a kid who doesn't need much customization, and who could use their fingers. The next device we got was a Dynavox V. That's what he has today, and it does the job, some of the time, well enough for his teachers to understand that he understands what they are trying to teach him.
It's limiting in vocabulary, and nearly everything has to be entered in for him to have a voice. Which really is just us telling him what he can say.
His speech therapist has been trying out different devices with him for a couple of weeks. He has been trying a beta program on the iPad, to make it switch accessible, meaning he can move through his selections with buttons he controls with his elbows. The program is so cool, but it is limited to the iPad's capabilities. Max has to have a "cue voice", or small speakers by his ears so he hears the choices before he makes that selection and announces it with his "voice". The iPad doesn't have the capability to have multiple speaker options.
He tried an eye gaze device, which was nifty, but just didn't work with Max. Mostly, he just liked to get it back to seeing himself on the computer and wouldn't scan through the options to talk.
Which brings us to today.
Max tried out the latest device today with his speech therapist. She had one on a loan from the company for another one of her clients, and wanted to see if it would work for Max, to request one for him to use.
It's called the ECO2. (And yes, if you clicked on that link, that is the going rate for a child's voice these days.)
It is quite a bit bigger than his current talker, but that means more choices on the screen for him. We are looking to give him more options to use his own voice to put words together, and spell them if he wants. He's gotten to the point where he just won't use his current device, except to appease us with answers for his lessons, or in speech therapy. Otherwise, he just wants to talk with his voice to us. Which is a beautiful voice, but most of the time is very difficult to decipher what he's saying.
The ECO2 also scans in rows and columns, rather than each individual button. We've never really been able to get him to use row/column scanning on his Dynavox. But, when his therapist set him up this morning, she just let him go with it, and he picked up very quickly on how it worked.
His first command...
He told us he was warm. Then he wanted us to put the talker away. (It was new after-all, and he was supposed to be using his regular talker!) And then got into the alphabet and chose the letter "C", which gave him a prediction of words that start with "C", "Comedy" being one of them. When he added the period after "the" it ended his sentence, so he had to start over.
His therapist and I were talking about the new device. He wanted us to be quiet and to make sure we were listening to him.
I stepped out of the room to get his medicine, and he got into "family" and said...
(He had at that point made a diaper that needed changed.) And, yes, found the "please be quiet" selection again!
He found a place to tell us something he likes...
He cleared it before I could snap a picture, but he then said "read", so "I like my friends read". Then said he liked "funny things about animals" And added this...
(He and his class are working on some music for a musical on bugs!)
At this point I texted Steve to try to come up as soon as he finished his meeting. He said he would come up as soon as he could. That's when Max found this...
(need my dad)
He said "Daddy California" - which of course he was on the phone with work...in California.
By this time, Steve was upstairs watching Max go to town. He hadn't announced he was standing behind Max, when Max chose this.
For those of you who have been around Steve and Max, this is what they call each other. "Dad-Dad"...not Daddy, Dad-Dad. Steve started it a long while ago when he wanted Max to say Daddy, and started calling Max that to get it in his head, that it was their name for each other. He had to get into two different areas to find "Dad" twice.
Steve told him he was right there, and asked him what he needed.
Max scrolled through some more choices until he made all the ladies saw aawwww....
Dad-Dad liked it too.
I don't know how he came up with this, but he found it in there somewhere.
(After he said that, he said again, California...I think he's got beach brain today!)
Steve had to go down for another meeting, so he focused his attention on me....
He doesn't have it mastered by any means, but he's having a fun time sorting through all the new options and finding new ways to tell us things. He was hooked up with his talker for about three hours today. That's a long time for him to be focusing on putting words and sentences together.
At one point, he wanted out of his chair for a diaper change. He couldn't find the same option his Dynavox has of "I need something, I need my pants changed", so he came up with this over about 5 minutes. The "Come" you see strung in that message was when Max was telling George to "come".
That "Please wait for me to answer" is one he especially likes for me to hear when I try to guess what he's trying to say. It's his way of saying, chill out Mom...I'll get to it!
Before his therapist left today, she worked it out that Max could hold onto the ECO2 for the rest of the month to trial. She customized it a bit with his family's names, and added some of his regular needs. When she was putting in something about Abbey, she put in come play a game with me, and......
Now how about that? He waited until Abbey was home from school to use that one on her...which of course cracked her up. We'll have to add more hilarious things for him to bug his sister about.
I'm hoping he'll just get more used to this device over the next couple of weeks and we can start a transition that way. It's a better device for him so far, in that it's bigger screen, easier to navigate for him and us, and is a full computer that straight away goes to the internet - which he can control with his switches. The next part, of course, is funding...but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.