The most difficult part of having a non-verbal (or pre-verbal) child on the spectrum is finding a way to communicate. People take communication for granted. Imagine if you were hungry or scared and you couldn’t ask for help. That is what Emmett experiences all day every day. We have been working on sign language and it’s starting to take. Emmett will ask for “more, please” without being reminded most of the time.. On occasion he will say “Thank You” as well. It took many months for him to learn these basic signs. While it’s progress there is still a HUGE gap in communication we have to bridge.
So here is what I am doing to help fix this (aside for all the professional interventions and therapies). I went to Sprint and had a Galaxy Tab put on my business account (Sprint will work with me on paying it off over time). Next thing I did was locate a free program called “vocal slides” on the Android Market. This program allows me to go around the house and take pictures of all the things Emmett could want, need or interact with. Then I can record audio over each picture and can take as many pictures as I need to. I can also sort by category ect. Long story short, when Emmett wants or needs something and we cannot figure out what that need or want is we pull out the Galaxy Tab. Emmett can then flip through the pictures of the things until he finds what he is looking for. Then he touches it and then he hears me say the word. For example, let’s say he is hungry and wants an apple. He will swipe the screen from side to side until he sees a picture of an apple. When he finds it he taps the screen and he hears Daddy say “apple”. Then Emmett will say “apple” or his best attempt at it just as he heard it on the recording.
There are much more elaborate programs out there but they are also very expensive. This one is free and it does the job it was intended to do. I am going to look into Voice4U as well. I was also asked a few months ago to help with a program called Behavior and Skill Tracker Pro. I have been very distracted with everything else going on around me that I hadn’t been able to reply to that offer. I contacted them last night and I should be up and running sometime today. I’ll be sure to report back on the experience. This program is also available for the iOS (iPod touch, iPhone and iPad). I choose the Android version because the Galaxy Tab is more affordable, I develop on Android and I HATE Steve Jobs. So this worked out pretty well. I am going to go through and try to get everything set up today and hopefully we can keep making progress.
We have been using this on my Android phone but I had to sell my Epic on ebay and the one I have left has to go back to Sprint. Besides the screen was smaller and harder for Emmett to use. The Galaxy Tab has a 7 in screen and is much easier for him to use. I am also collecting pictures of the people in Emmett’s life and recording them introducing themselves to him. So for example, he can touch the picture of Elliott and he will hear Elliott introduce himself as his brother, “Elliott Richard”. This way he can become more familiar with people he doesn’t see as often.
Eventually I will move to emotions and feelings but right now I’m just trying to work out the basics so we have a way to talk. I also have videos of American Sign Language. This way he can see the object, hear the word and also learn the sign. I am hoping to get the better software as time goes on but for right now I am excited that I could get the Galaxy Tab (and pay for it with tax return down the road) and have the software I do have currently so I can continue working with Emmett to bridge our communication gap.