Thursday, July 22, 2010

Della "Speaks" Her First Word And She Says She Would Like A Cracker Please

We were able to get our hands on an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device called "VMax" which is made by Dynavox.


Essentially it is a touch screen computer with software that helps the user to communicate by constructing phrases or sentences that can be "spoken" by the machine's voice. For children that can't read, words and ideas are represented by symbols and pictures. We started using a modified version of Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) when she was 20 months old. PECS are little cards that use symbols and line drawings that children can use to communicate.
The hard part about this was Della's inability to grasp the meanings behind line drawings. She didn't understand that the drawing represented a concept. So we started with photographs and went from there. Needless to say, it has been a looooooooong process as she is 3 and a half now.

I have been dying to let Della try one of these AAC devices and we were able to sit down with one for about 10 minutes yesterday. Della spent the first 5 playing with it. We started with 6 buttons on the screen two of which were blank. I was worried that it would be too many options since she has a hard time with more than 2 PECS cards. We showed her the button with a line drawing of a graham cracker and that when she pushed the button the device said "cracker." Della knows exactly what that means and she signed "want." After pushing the button with her hand-over-hand and giving her a cracker each time we watched to see if she could do it on her own. The feminine slightly robotic voice I heard was music to my ears. "Cracker." "Cracker." "Cracker." It was so awesome. Just to be sure that she wasn't just pushing the same area of the screen out of habit we rearranged the buttons. "Cracker." "Cracker." "Cracker." Della was talking! It was so awesome. I know I already said that, but seriously, it was.

So...how do we get one of our own. Well, they don't come cheap, that's for sure. The base model costs about $8,000 and is another $300 for the software. Hmmmm...that's a lot of money. The company has a lot of funding options from grants, school districts, insurance companies, and private donations. But it takes a long time to go through the process. A really long time. Now that I had a taste of Della's "talking", I could see endless possibilities to curb Della's increasing and escalating tantrums. Her frustration level would all but disappear if she could communicate with us. She could tell us if she is sick or hungry or tired. She could let us know that a certain place was too noisy or cold or scary. That she wanted a yellow balloon and not a green one. That she loves us.

We couldn't wait.

So we checked up on some suggestions from friends and found a solution, if only temporary. Della is about to be cooler than the rest of our family because she will be the proud owner of an iPad.


The iPad offers a really neat application called
Proloquo2Go. The finished product should look like this...

So we have the base model coming in the mail. Apparently most Apple stores don't keep the that model in stock. They acted like we walked into a car dealership and asked for a model with no radio or air conditioning. Yeah, they make them, but they don't keep them on hand because who wouldn't want all the bells and whistles?

So we'll keep you posted on Della's "talk box". Meanwhile, here is a sample of two children using an AAC to speak.




Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Texas 730 (That's 2 Years)

Today marks 2 years since we moved to Texas. Last year we posted some things that we had learned about our new home after living here a year. Who knew that there was so much more for us to learn! Here are some new "facts" that we wanted to share...


You can, in fact grow tomatoes here...

And yes, they are delicious.


It is really hot...
OK-we already knew this, but on certain days we are reminded of this fact a little more than others. P.S. Della has officially lived more of her life here in Texas than she did in California. This means that she is more Texan than we are.


Texas has it's own unique breed of ticks (of course) called the Lone Star Tick (double of course)...
Archer models one that he caught in the above picture.


The Duff sisters...

You're welcome world.


The 4th of July is waaaay more fun here...


BYOB applies to fancy restaurants...
One of our favorite restaurants La Parmigana. Their Northern Italian dishes are amazingly good. Anyway, you can walk in and wait for a table but the owners prefer that you make reservations and in my mind this practice = fancy. Recently, while we we enjoying a classic seafood calzone and the three cheese ravioli, we were a little surprised to see that the party next to us had brought their own cans and bottles of beer in a cooler (pictured above under the man on the right's feet). Not only did they bring their own cans, they also brought those foam insulators for cans (beer cozies?) in many fashionable designs such as "cammo" and "NASCAR". I wish had gotten the memo, maybe I wouldn't have felt so out of place!


Silver Alert (do you like my special effects?)
Yes, it is really called a "Silver Alert" when an elderly person goes missing. All the Amber Alert signs light up across the state with information about the missing person in hopes that they will be found. A friend pointed out to me "It seems like Texas is always losing old people!" I have started to notice that this is kind of true. We hardly ever see signs alerting us to a child abduction (thank goodness), but we have seen Silver Alerts posted on signs more often than not.


GUNS!
OK-so I made this sign on the computer, but I really did see a sign with this exact wording on it while driving. At first I didn't get it. What are you going to do with a gun, shoot the hurricane? Then I realized that the author of this sign was referring to looters. Nice. I can finally rest know that our extensive CD collection that spans the 90's and my obscene amount of scrap booking paper is safe from natural disaster-created thieves! Phew! There is a corner by my house that seems to attract a lot of people selling their wares on the side of the road; fruit, pecans, honey, birdhouses, fleece blankets with tigers on them, etc. A few months ago we noticed a new roadside vendor. He sat in the blazing hot sun behind a card table with a large handwritten sign that he had duct taped to the front of it. The sign said "AMMO!" Is that even allowed?


Wes Anderson is a native Houstonian...
Mr. Anderson filmed "Rushmore" at a few different Houston schools. The fictional Rushmore Academy's mascot is the owl, which is also the mascot for Rice University here in Houston. I always thought that was an odd choice for a mascot. Just sayin'.



VBS!
For those of you not in the know, VBS stands for Vacation Bible School and it seems like just about everyone attends at least one session during the summer. I am not poking fun at VBS, I am glad that I live in a place where there are so many church-going people. Below is an ad from Hobby Lobby advertising that all VBS crafts are 50% off...