The Center for AAC and Autism

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Getting to Eat Cheetos

For Isaiah, whose autism was late onset, "everything was right where it should be up until about 18 months," said Rose, describing how at that age he was using words and had a vocabulary that was normal to above average, maybe around 120 words. Then it abruptly stopped. "When autism took over his life, the first thing we noticed was the loss of verbal communication," she said.

The family tried different things like using the picture cards of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and teaching Isaiah sign language. "He learned them fine," Rose said, "but would not use them." Early on, he would resort to "pull and drag," taking her directly to the things he wanted -- but leaving her guessing on specifics. And there was no way to say things like "I want Taco Bell" when the closest one is miles away.

Isaiah's mom encourages device use in natural activities that are meaningful to Isaiah. Isaiah uses several modes of communication to express himself

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It was with that thought that she found the Vantage, with programmable buttons that allow him to specify not only what he wants -his first spoken words with it were "eat Cheetoes" - but even where he wants to go, whether it be to Chuck E. Cheese Pizza ("Our biggest battle," said Rose) or to bed. Or he can ad lib. "If he wants to go outside but he doesn't have a key for 'outside,' he'll find the closest thing, like a bird, and say 'go bird' because in our lives the only place for birds is outside," said Rose.