I was excited to get back to see Joey after our week apart for his family’s beach trip. We sat down to work and after we got situated I asked him “How was your trip?”
“Ride beach” he replied, telling me where he’d been and what he’d done.
Two words seems so little, but it made my heart soar.
Over the last two weeks I’ve touched on the science behind Joey’s Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device that uses the Language Acquisition through Motor Planning approach (LINKs). We talked about various aspects of the theory and learning process, but not a lot about Joey.
So how is Joey doing with his communication?
Since spring 2017 we have been tracking Joey’s communication attempts during my sessions. At first we started off tracking all the different methods Joey used to communicate. Back then, if Joey wanted something he would lock eyes with you, smile or cry, and then look in the direction of the item he wanted. If you finished a book and Joey wanted you to read it again, he’d cry. If you brought out an item Joey wanted to play with, he’d smile. He’d developed a very effective way to communicate, but just not one that gave him much of an opportunity to do more than express his wants and needs, and even then, it wasn’t very fulfilling.
As Joey’s understanding of communication and his use of the AAC increased, his need to rely on a binary laugh/cry method to express himself decreased. Now Joey is able to express himself with a mixture of verbal utterances, finger pointing, and using his AAC device. While he still uses his eye gaze to clarify his meaning, he is able to be much more detailed in his speech. Even better, he uses his device to make jokes, participate in a shared activity like singing or reading a book, or in social exchanges. He answers questions about himself and about books or his environment.
As his communication methods changed, we changed what our data was measuring as well. Now, during our hour-long sessions together we measure Joey’s use of language in ten minute increments, and take two to three language samples during each hour long session when I am working with Joey. We are looking to see what words he says, how many words he says, how he says them (verbally or with his AAC device), and whether or not he requires a prompt to talk to use his device, or if he does it automatically. Sometimes when he drops a toy he will first look at the toy, look at me, point his finger, and make a sad crying noise. If I point to his device (which is a prompt) he may tell me “not slow get cow” which I understand means not only should I get the cow, but that I should be fast about it. While he’d get credit for those four words in the data, I would record that he was prompted to use the device.
The table below shows the average amount of words Joey has used in a ten minute period, both overall and independently (without me prompting him to answer me using his device)..
Time Frame Words via AAC Independent use of AAC
September to December 13.18 10.853
January to March 13.3 12.95
April to June 16.86 14.833
July 21.43 20.833
Increase in Joey’s use of phrases:
Beginning in February we began recording Joey’s use of phrases during my one hour long sessions with him. In February he was using phrases sporadically. He continued to increase, reaching an average of 2.4 phrases a session by June. In June he also began using 5 word phrases.
Month Average Number of Phrases Used in 1 Hour Session Average Number of Two Word Phrases Used in One Hour Average Number of Three Word Phrases Used in One Hour Average Number of Four Word Phrases Used in One Hour Average Number of Five Word Phrases Used in One Hour
Number of Phrases 2 Word Phrases 3 Word Phrases 4 Word Phrases 5+Phrases
February 0.5 0 0.5 0 0
March 1.86 1.57 0.29 0 0
April/May 2 1.25 0.63 0.13 0
June 2.43 1.71 0.43 0.14 0.14
July 2 0.75 1 0.25 0
The number of times Joey uses his AAC device is increasing, as well as the amount of times he uses it independently. His use of phrases is increasing, along with the total length of his phrases.