Staff: Jess has two options for the morning, which did I prefer?’
Me: ask her
Her choices were to help with meals on wheels, or go to the movies. Jess chose to do the service project.
Me: how did she tell you what she wanted to do?
Staff: She nodded her head
There was an opportune moment for Jess to speak using SFY, but it was missed. When people aren’t comfortable talking to someone who uses an AAC device, they prefer non-verbal gestures.
Our reality is there are few and far between supports for an adult that uses AAC. I’m sure things would be different and she wouldn’t need as much support if she had SFY when she was 5, 10 or even 15, but that was not the hand that she was dealt. We found SFY four months before she aged out of school. It’s remarkable that she manages as well as she does.
I’ve accepted the fact that we are not going to find anyone to model language on her device, so this is our focus at home. However, what I do expect is that her program at least tries to learn the rules for engagement. They need to do the following:
Initiate conversations. Begin with ice breakers, “I don’t know what you want” or, “ can you tell me with your words?”. Of course, just pointing to her device gets her to speak first.
Adjust your ears. Just like you tune your ear when hearing a foreign accent, you also have to tune your ear to hear someone speak through their computer*.
Time. To add another level of listening complexity, it takes Jess a few minutes to warm up to get her sentence structure correct. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing word jumble, but eventually she finds the correct structure. But for those that haven’t developed the ear, they will dismiss everything she says. Jess is not going to want to talk if you aren’t going to listen. Give her time to fine tune her instrument. Also, wait for her to finish, don’t guess what you think she is about to say.
When the conversation stalls. Add some encouraging words. If you missed what was said, acknowledge them by saying “I’m listening”. If she’s on a roll telling you something specific, my all time favorite response is “and then what happened?”. Everyone wants to tell their own story.
Jess really did want to deliver food for meals on wheels. She fancies herself a social butterfly. I think she made her decision based on who she was going to be with. When the crowd of people thinned out, I was told that she then started talking more.
Bottom line, what I must stress with the people that work with Jess. If you really want to help her, don’t be afraid to start the conversation, then let her speak for herself.
* soon more voices are going to be available for SFY, they will have more clarity and you can hear intonations. Jess will get her choice of voice!