Tuesday, September 27, 2011

AAC Evaluation


It's clear to everyone involved with Kendall that the area of most frustration for her is her inability to communicate. She nods yes and no, and will sign all done, eat, and wave hello and goodbye. She also has an expression where she pulls her fists together, grits her teeth, and shakes her head from side to side quickly when you guess what she wants incorrectly. Its very cute and very sad at the same time.

At our initial ARD (known other places as an IEP meeting) I requested an Augmentative and Alternative Communication evaluation. They needed to observe Kendall in the classroom with her teachers and other students in order to get a clear idea of what she needs for communication. It was also important that we address the way in which she will access the device, and set it up correctly so she can have independence and ownership of it from the beginning.

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the school for the final phase of Kendall's AAC/AT evaluation. The evaluator is contracted by our school district and brought a wealth of experience, suggestions, and knowledge to the meeting.

For the first time, I finally feel like I have a good understanding of the process. We will go back to ARD in a few weeks to get everything from the final report added to her IEP.

For those of you interested, and to bullet point this for my own future reference, here are a few highlights of what I learned yesterday.

*Kendall obviously will need an AAC device
*More than likely, we will go with an eye gaze system
*The district will purchase the device, and Kendall is allowed to sign it out, and take it home.
*This device will be her voice. The use of it will be her idea. She will explore language the way typically developing kids do. We will not tell her to "touch the button" or "make it talk." But we will use open ended questions and encourage her to do it on her own, and in her own time.
*Her IEP will include an action plan for training, and implementation of the device for our family and teachers/therapists.
*We will demo as many devices as we decide in the upcoming months, but will have a low tech communication system/ipad in place as we decide which one is best.

I've known from the beginning that the ipad wouldn't be the end all be all for Kendall's communication. We use it for games and stories. She needs a device that is just for communication and can be easily mounted in different areas. She needs a device that is able to do a few more things to accommodate her dystonia and work effectively. The ipad was a great start for us. Mostly for me to gain an understanding of how programming works, and discover what Kendall is capable of in her motor planning.

The biggest aha moment I had at the meeting was that everything we are doing now, is preparing her for bigger and better things. First, she will start out with one word symbols. We will build on her "language" as we go. When she gets to the point where we are ready to add verbs and adjectives, we will. So, just as a typically developing child gains language and literacy through every-day experiences and social interaction, so will Kendall. In the future, building on these things will enable her to gain reading and writing skills expressively too.

I'm sort of excited for a fresh start. Between our outside therapist, and the school team, I'm certain we will pick the best device for Kendall and make a plan. I think the iPad opened the door for a lot of things for her. She has already mastered one word phrases, and we've included a lot of buttons that have sentences, etc...and I think she understands this. I'm excited for her to create her own, and express her own thoughts independently.

SO, this was a huge development in our world. I'm excited to see how this year pans out. The first six weeks of school is wrapping up...and I feel like we've already accomplished a ton!


Karen Owens said...

That's very exciting! Can't wait to have an AAC eval for Angela.

Reagan Leigh said...

That's awesome!!! It's so nice to have people helping you find what will work best for Kendall and her needs!

Jennifer said...

Sounds like your experience was very positive. I'm happy for you and Kendall!

TherExtras said...

Very encouraging!

Happy for you both!


Megan Emrich said...

That is very exciting Jocie, I'll anticipate hearing more about the progress ;)