Holiday Schedule

It’s the half way mark for school holidays here in Victoria, and it can be a difficult time for kids who rely on the structure and routines of school to understand what is happening in their day.

To help kids understand what’s going to happen each day, you could use a visual schedule. I’ve made some pictures using the Boardmaker software to go with some of the activities we often do with kids during the holidays. Print them out, laminate them and pop some Blu-tak on the back, and stick them up on a wall at home. Then use them to talk with your child about what you’ll be doing during the day. You can also use them at the end of the day to chat about what you did earlier!

Schedule ImagesSchedule

Visual Schedule

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Communicating Without A Shared Language

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Beijing, China and had the unique opportunity to experience communication in the absence of a shared language. Despite the obvious language barrier, I met lots of great people who were keen to chat about my smallest travelling companion (my two year old son). Through the use of pointing, gestures, natural signs and some guesswork, I muddled through with people and was able to interact quite successfully!

Here are some of the things that travelling reinforced for me:

  • Travelling with a toddler is a great conversation starter!
  • You can make an educated guess about the kinds of things people want to know about you when you are visiting another country (e.g. “Where are you from? How long are you visiting?”)
  • Having some visual aids like a map or photos makes communication so much easier. We quickly learnt to favour restaurants with photo-based menus, where we could point out what we wanted to eat and had a reasonable understanding of what we had ordered
  • People seem to really appreciate your effort in attempting to say “please” and “thank you” in another language. My toddler also learnt how to say “Xie xie” for “thank you” and uttering this guaranteed lots of attention!

Session Planning

A lot of work goes into creating a client-focussed session plan at The Communication Toolbox. Session planning typically includes:

  • Consulting with you to ensure that your goals are targeted in sessions
  • Creating resources that assist you to achieve your communication goals
  • Designing activities that create opportunities for you to practise specific communication skills
  • Reviewing the speech pathology literature to ensure that the communication strategies we implement are evidence-based and informed by the latest research

Using an iPad: Options for Blocking Access to Apps & the Home Button

Lately, I’ve been working with students who are learning to communicate using different Apps on iPads and while we’ve had some great successes,  we’ve encountered one particular difficulty: the lure of the “Home” button! Too often, students press the “Home” button and close the App they were using and are unable to navigate back. An adult is then required to relaunch the App to return the student to the program. When iPads are used in an educational setting, it can be really time-consuming for the teacher to go around and make sure all the kids are using the right App (and not checking out their pictures in iPhoto or surfing the internet!)

Although there are several Apps available that claim to lock you out of specific Apps on your iPad through the use of a password, I’ve read lots of negative reviews provided by disgruntled customers who report that these Apps only request a password for a couple of Apps or don’t do what they claim at all. Another issue with password-protected Apps is that once a password is required (i.e. when the person using the iPad attempts to open another App), the person requires someone to type in the password and then relaunch the required App.

One option for preventing access to a number of tempting Apps on the iPad is to set some restrictions via the iPad’s “Settings” menu. Open “Settings”, select “General” and then go to “Restrictions”. From there you can restrict access to “Safari” (the Internet), YouTube and a number of other Apps. This only works for a few Apps though and doesn’t allow you to block access to all the Apps you have downloaded, like specific games.

The best option I’ve found is to physically prevent access to the “Home” button through the use of a product called the Bubcap. “Bubcaps” are little adhesive covers of varying levels of rigidity that stick over the “Home” button and make it difficult for children to press. Adults can still access the “Home” button with a firm press and retain a little more control over the use of the iPad. I like this idea because once a “Bubcap” has been attached, the person can then use the iPad independently.

Taking the Time to Communicate: Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Before establishing The Communication Toolbox, I spent four years working with the Aids and Equipment Program, Electronic Communication Devices Scheme. In this role I provided Electronic Communication Devices, software and communication apps for people who had difficulty communicating verbally. I also provided the client’s team with some initial training in how to use the device. This training covered the important basics of setting up the device and how to charge it etc but I always wished for more time to spend on my true passion: supporting people to use their device in the long term. This has been the impetus for creating The Communication Toolbox, a private speech pathology practice that assists people with complex communication needs to evaluate and implement Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) options.
 Learning to communicate is a journey that takes time, especially for those learning to communicate without speech. Using AAC may include the use of gestures, pictures and communication boards, as well as more complex systems like Electronic Communication Devices or apps such as Proloquo2Go.
 For those who use communication systems that contain stored pictures, words or phrases, sessions at The Communication Toolbox might include:
  • Creating a map of folders in your communication system that contain all the words you like to use, as well as room for what you might like to say in the future
  • Identifying core vocabulary items that relate to the activities you enjoy, so that you can access the words you need at the appropriate time
  • Storing vocabulary items within your communication system so they can be accessed quickly without requiring too much navigation through folders
  • Programming vocabulary logically so that you can find what you want to say
For most people, the process of learning to communicate via AAC is long-term endeavour and requires motivation, practise and access to communication partners who are skilled in communicating through the chosen AAC method. Ample time should be spent modelling the use of the AAC system before any expectations of using the system should be placed upon the person. It takes time to:
  • Establish trust
  • Develop receptive language skills (e.g. learn new vocabulary and how the words fit into sentences)
  • Develop confidence to communicate (especially if one has not had the opportunity to experience communicative success before)
  • Learn how to use the communication system
  • Learn how and where words are stored in the communication system
I read a fantastic comment the other day on Proloquo2Go’s Facebook page (posted by Jennifer):
“Too often we stop trying AAC if the person doesn’t start using it right away! Typically developing children get 12 months of people talking to them before they’re expected to speak!”
How true! This comment illustrates the importance of perseverance when learning to use AAC.
To access the full conversation thread, please visit http://www.facebook.com/proloquo2go/posts/10150563626711053, posted on March 2, 2012 at 11:57AM.