The Center for AAC and Autism

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Learning to Express

"That Isaiah has learned to initiate those requests himself rather than simply being asked what he wants is a huge step," said Sarah. "And that ability to be specific -- to properly convey intent -- has relieved a tremendous amount of frustration for him," she added.

"He used to be really bad about just giving up, chucking the chair and removing himself from a situation to avoid it," she said. "Now, if we're at the table, he can say 'go swing' if that's what he wants to do, and that allows us to have a discourse about it, and I can say that we're going to do that later. Instead of removing himself from the situation at hand, he's telling me 'I don't want to be doing this, I want to go swing,' and we're able to have a conversation about it." And that, Sarah said, works better than a preprogrammed series of sentences or phrases that fit into a specific plan.

Isaiah

Because Isaiah was able to say what he wanted -- what he intended -- he took to using the Vantage very quickly. "Within one or two session he was spontaneously going to it and making requests," said Sarah, who described how Isaiah quickly made the leap of connecting things like "go swing" to get to the swings and "more swing" to swing longer, into "go more" to swing faster. "Anything we would do, I would always make it a point for him to see the multiple meanings behind the icons."

"That the icons representing core language do not change from screen to screen to screen is a help and also aids in motor planning," said Sarah, who has seen children on speaking devices set back by drastic changes to the icon locations they are accustomed to. She likens it to "removing their tongue."