Matthew is a 7-year-old student at Trellis School. I’ve been working with Matthew as his speech-language pathologist at the school for about 2 ½ years. When I started with Matthew, his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) had speech production goals that I targeted for the better part of a year. At that time, verbal imitation and speech production skills were not progressing.
Our educational team decided we wanted to implement another mode of primary, functional communication so we started with the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Matthew progressed with that system and within a year was independently communicating with the sentence strip.
The team, including his parents, agreed that it seemed Matthew was “longing” to be audibly heard. We also thought the dynamic and audible qualities that high tech AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) devices provide would really motivate Matthew to independently communicate. We worked with the AAC department of Matthew’s home county school system to evaluate, identify, and provide Matthew with the appropriate high tech AAC device.
I remember the first day the assistive technology consultant from Matthew’s school system introduced him to the Vantage Lite (the particular voice output device that Matthew uses). He grinned from ear to ear when the device spoke “popcorn” out loud to request a favorite snack for the first time. Of course his instructor and I had tears in our eyes as he continued to beam and request his snacks in that very first trial. Since he has started using the device, now approximately 9 months ago, Matthew can use “core” vocabulary words (e.g., “eat”, “drink”, “go”, “stop”, “play”, “like”, “turn”) and some “fringe” vocabulary words (e.g., “popcorn”, “pop-tart”, “music”) to communicate. The dynamic nature of the device helps us to add and subtract pictures as needed. At Trellis school, the device is available to Matthew at all times and he readily and independently carries it with him wherever he goes.
We’re excited to see where Matthew will take communication with his device this school year!
Sara Beth Shoff
Matthew is the happiest nonverbal child we know. He was officially diagnosed with autism at age two. Matthew was not one of those children who regressed… he never had words. He has been in therapy since he was 18 months old. Currently, he attends Trellis School.
At the height of his therapy he had about forty hours a week of speech therapy, occupational therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and behavior intervention. We learned early that if we gave Matthew a way to communicate his less desirable behaviors decreased. We started off with basic sign language, then Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and currently we have a Vantage Lite Assistive Technology Device.
Trellis invited parents in for training alongside teachers which was great for consistency. Matthew has far exceeded our expectations with the device. Once he realized that his parents could understand what he needs or wants if he says it on the device… he asks for everything. As a family of five his siblings encourage him to use the device to say “stop”, “no”, “computer on” ,“music” “go bathroom”, and “eat pop tart”.
Our hope always is to maximize Matthew’s potential. He is a blessing to our family and we need to do what we can to give him the tools to succeed and function in the community. The device gives Matthew a voice that he can use, not only to communicate with us, but also with people outside the family. People always assume that because Matthew is nonverbal that he doesn’t understand things but as his five year old sister says “Mommy, Matt can’t talk but he understands.”
Frissell & Marlo Lemon Proud parents of Joshua, Matthew and Victoria