Let me introduce to you Courtney’s “voice”. It’s official name is “NovaChat”. It’s a speech generated device. When a button is pushed, the specified word is said. By pushing these buttons, the user can say absolutely anything.
As I have talked about before, Courtney is non-verbal. She does not have the ability to use language in a communicative way. This past year, Courtney’s teachers and therapists have spent hours upon hours working on teaching her how to use this device. Watching these hours upon hours start to pay off honestly makes me shed tears of joy! It’s a slow process but Courtney can now tell us what food items she wants, when she wants her ipad, and a few other things. They have given her a voice!
Here’s a video of her asking for M&M’s (which by the way is new to her short list of likes).
Teaching a young child to talk is almost natural. You just talk to them, you read to them, you make silly sounds and get them to repeat. Teaching a child to use a device is not as natural because for most parents, they are learning this new language too. I was fortunate enough to already have an introduction to speech generated devices because of my line of work so I wasn’t learning a completely new language. But it really didn’t make it easier for me. As a teacher, I get frustrated when my students aren’t making progress with their speech generated device. I sometimes would wonder how much the parents were following through with it at home. I would get frustrated if I could tell they weren’t. That is one of the lessons I e learned now that I’m a parent of a special needs child. Here I am, very knowledgeable on Courtney’s device and I still found it difficult to follow through at home. When you’re making dinner, have a baby demanding your attention, husband just getting home and your daughter goes and open the fridge which is her way of saying she wants milk, i typically find myself taking the easy route and just grabbing her milk and handing it to her while saying “milk”. So here’s an example…for a typical child learning to talk, you would get the milk and say something like, “oh, you want milk”. If I want Courtney to learn her language, I need to grab her device and model how she would ask for milk. It may sound easy but again, when a bunch of other things are going on at the same time and you know just by her behavior what she wants, it’s so easy to just get her what she wants.
It took me seeing Courtney becoming independent in asking for a few of her favorite items for me to realize how important it is for me work harder at using the device throughout her day.
It’s been so cool to watch it suddenly click with Courtney. We show her how to request something motivating and she quickly picks up on it. It was so cool to see her learn how to use her device to tell us she wants to be hung upside down!
So to all the people who have put in so many hours to helping Courtney learn how to use her device, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are helping my daughter find her voice and that is simply priceless!