As Jess got on the van this morning to go to her work program, we noticed there was a substitute driver. Rob has driven her several times over the course of the year. However this morning, he asked what was she carrying with her? He was referring to her AAC device. Like most people, he has not seen someone speak through a computer.
Knowing he has several more people to pick up, I took only a moment to tell him that this was her talker, it was her voice and then showed him how Speak for Yourself works. The driver then said two things. “It must be expensive”. I quickly explained that Jess’s first AAC device cost nearly $7,000 and this is under $800 (mini iPad, iAdapter case, and SFY app). Yes, it’s still a lot of money, but it’s only a fraction of what it had been, besides, hearing her words…priceless.
The other thing he said was “she uses her talker during the whole drive”. Oh my goodness, hearing this made my day! Jess rides the van for an hour because she is the first to be picked up. This is a lot of time to practice her words.
Up until now, the driver thought she was playing with a computer. Because the van is loud, he couldn’t hear what she was saying. He wasn’t aware that all this time, she was building her word bank and memorizing through motor planning where the words are. This type of engagement is necessary in order for her to become fluent with her talker. This is a perfect example as to why we should never find someone’s AAC device in a backpack.
There are times she talks less. I give her space and respect these moments. This is what the speaking world does, we retreat to own thoughts to process a recent experience or to reflect upon our day. Jess needs this same opportunity. Though there are times I wish she would talk more, I really don’t want her to be a motor mouth either. Some people talk so much, they don’t take a breath and you can’t get a word in edgewise. At least I don’t have to worry about this lack of social grace.
Unfortunately, I think Jess talks more to herself than others while at her program. I know this because there is a history feature that tells me what she said and when. Seeing hours of non-use is very disturbing. When I review her day, I find it helpful to know where she had been. If there is an increase in usage, then I know what situations to repeat to encourage her to speak more.
This morning, I was reminded that we teach one person at a time. If that one person shares what they learned about AAC, then our world becomes bigger. I’m thinking about having a challenge similar to the movie Pay it Forward. I wonder how far we can spread the word about AAC? How fascinating it would be to follow the trail and see how far it goes.
Just before the van door closed, the last thing I heard Jess say was “are we there yet”. Okay Miss Impatient, don’t let me slow you down. When she comes home, I need to ask her if I should program in the phrase “don’t let the door hit you on your way out”. By the look on her face, I know this is what she was thinking.