The Center for AAC and Autism

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Why the Vantage

John Halloran, a speech pathology consultant with The Center for AAC and Autism, says unlike other devices, the Vantage is set up so the user puts individual words together to say what they want to communicate. With other systems, phrases, like "I want to go the bathroom," or "That's fun," are programmed. "It's more difficult to string phrases together than it is words," he explains.

Once users learn a word, they press button A for a category - like animals. Then they press button B for a specific animal - like "dog." Keys have images that symbolize words.

"This allows kids to develop an internal motor plan to 'speak,' which leads to eventual automaticity on the device, similar to playing the piano or typing. In some other systems, there is not a consistent motor plan. In art class, button A might say "red;" at lunch time button A might say "drink;" and at home it might say "daddy."

"This means the child would have to learn what all the pictures meant, look for them and know how to find the 'home page' if he wants to draw a picture of 'daddy' in art. It's slow, though to some people, it might look easier," John says.

Max's mother says the Vantage was the ideal match for Max. "Everyone has the same reaction at first: How in the world am I going to learn this? What's the logic? But once you start playing with it you understand why things are where they are," she says.

"The challenge, for me, is deciding where to program a word. Like sidewalk. Should it go next to buildings or by building parts or home parts? Next to streets and roads? But as you go along, you figure it out. I'll give the talker to Max and look to see where he goes - what's his first impulse. That's what works for us," she says.