The Judy Ann Buffmire Rehabilitation Service Center
Bertrand's speech therapist through the Pingree Center for Autism set up a meeting at the Utah Center for Assistive Technology (UCAT) with a technology specialist there, his wonderful teacher from Pingree and his new speech therapist from his new special ed preschool. This meeting helped us lay the ground work for his assistive technology evaluation with the regional Utah Augmentative Alternative Assistive Communication and Technology (UAAACT) Team. UAAACT is a project of the Utah State Office of Education and the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation / Utah Center for Assistive Technology dedicated to improving the communication skills of students with disabilities across the state of Utah.
Matthew and I went into the meeting looking to get ideas on how to make the most out of Bertrand's iPad. We expected to get the names of appropriate apps and test drive them--which we did. But, some of the most useful information from the meeting came in the form of brain storming ways to gauge the effects of Bertrand's motor issues/movement disorder versus the effects of his cognitive abilities. And, how to capitalize on some of Bertrand's motor strengths such as spinning objects with his hands and his ability to stare pointedly at items. Bottomline, before even delving into the iPad, there are a lot of old school analog techniques which are very concrete that may set Bertrand up for immediate success.
For example, using actual objects to choose from, as opposed to using drawings or even photos of the objects in an iPad app, would be a great way to start systemetizing his communication. We do this already when having him choose between books or toys but, as one of the speech therapists pointed out, an even better test is the choice between a bottle/food and something uninteresting, like a gardening glove. This way we know the choice is actually his and not ours.
So both Daddy and Mama came away with homework from this meeting. (Daddy can have fun writing up his plans in an independent post when he isn't so swamped with work.) I am going to start off with buying a bunch of plain-colored, plastic placemats and putting a line of electrical tape down the center of each. Bertrand's will have one of these new "choosing mats" for his wheelchair, highchair, both schools, and one on every floor of our house. We'll start using the mats to present tests, choices, dichotomies... first using objects and then maybe photos, and get to know what Bertrand thinks. Give him a voice--some power. That alone could make for a much happier young man!