Early this fall we recognized that as Joey’s communication was increasing, his types of communication were increasing as well. We began taking data on how often he made demands, made social overtures, shared observations about his world.
Joey’s AAC device was sent for repairs before winter break, and unfortunately he is still without his AAC words. While this is frustrating for many reasons, it gives us a chance to see what Joey’s communication is like without the device.
In October, before his device began to malfunction, Joey showed an average of 29.62 words on his AAC device in a ten minute period, and an average of 2.3 verbal utterances with the purpose to communicate during the same ten minute window. In an hour long session Joey used an average of 3.6 multi-word phrases. In October the majority of Joey’s communication was to make social observations, explore words on his device, and to make demands. He also frequently used his device to participate in social exchanges and to respond to questions.
Without the device his verbal utterances have increased, and he may use a verbal utterance to communicate 5.3 times during a ten minute period. Although this is a small increase in verbal utterances, it is a significant decrease in his ability to participate and communicate.
When Joey is relying on verbal and gestural cues to communicate, most of his communication attempts are to respond to a question, or make a demand. His typical pattern of drawing my attention to something he likes on a page, sharing his thinking, or participating in a social exchange has almost disappeared. There are times he attempts to engage me socially, as well as to show me something particular, but these have decreased when he does not have his robust vocabulary to support him.
I have observed that Joey is more likely to participate verbally during a story if I pause during a repeated line and allow him to fill in the blank. I’ve changed my interactions and questioning a bit to give Joey the opportunity to participate in different ways, which has also increased his verbal utterances during this ten minute period.
Reviewing this data shows me that Joey is a dynamic, engaged child who is determined to participate and communicate any way he can. However, when given access to his AAC device he is able to share his thinking and participate in more appropriate social interactions. Without his device he is limited to expressing just the initial sounds of words, familiar words like “up”, and using gestures to interact with his world.
As I was writing this post I received a text that Joey’s AAC device is back!