The Center for AAC and Autism

Back to Communication Success Stories » Unlocking the Words

Adrian's Story

According to Adrian’s mother, Stephanie, she and her husband, Carl, first noticed something was different about Adrian when he was about 15 months old. “He wasn’t interacting with people or looking them in the eye, and he still wasn’t speaking,” she says. “That’s when we started speech therapy and sign language.”

The thought of teaching Adrian sign language gave Stephanie and Carl hope. But unfortunately, Adrian never really picked up on it. This caused great challenges for Adrian to communicate his wants and needs.


When Adrian turned 2, Stephanie took him to a different pediatrician who suggested that he undergo an evaluation at the University of New Mexico. Following the evaluation – on April 8, 2010 – Adrian was diagnosed with autism.

“In addition to these issues, Adrian had a lot of eating problems,” Stephanie explains. “He was on pureed foods and had tongue surgery in 2009. He also has allergies to foods like wheat, eggs, dairy and peanuts. He’s been through a lot.”

Following his autism diagnosis, a therapist introduced Adrian to a few simple communication devices, which he took to preschool with him. “He did very well with them, and they really helped to cut down on his frustrations,” Stephanie says. “We were really impressed. But we quickly learned that he needed something more advanced. We needed something that would grow with him and help him build upon the things he already learned.” That’s when the family learned about a different communication device and the LAMP approach.

LAMP: Unlocking the Words

When first hearing about LAMP, Stephanie says she was impressed. But in order to ensure Adrian would have the best chance at success, Kerry Alexander (a licensed speech and language pathologist and the school’s assistive technology coordinator), Megan Garrigan (Adrian’s teacher), Shannon Troutman (the school’s speech and language pathologist), the school’s educational assistants and Adrian’s parents all attended LAMP trainings. The trainings helped the entire team understand the meaning behind the methodology and how it could best help Adrian.

“At the trainings, they told me some kids would start talking after they got the device, but I didn’t believe it,” Stephanie says. “But when Adrian first saw the device, he picked it up and started to mimic the words, which he had never done before. I’m so glad we got it on video. We realized right away we wanted to get this for him.”

Kerry says that once she learned about LAMP, she felt Adrian would be a great candidate. “He seemed to be an isolated child, but we knew he was smart,” she says. “There was no doubt in my mind that he would succeed.”

And since that first encounter, Adrian has continued to expand his vocabulary. He has gone from using a communication device to say a limited number of words to now using simple sentences. “He’ll say things like, ‘I want waffles’ or ‘I want to play with my train’ or ‘I want to go bowling,’” Stephanie says. “Sometimes it takes him a long time to get the sentence out, but oftentimes he’ll get a sentence out quickly.”

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw him form a sentence,” Kerry adds. “He said, ‘Can I have fruit snacks, please?’ It brought tears to my eyes.”

As the teacher, Megan says she has become even more motivated by seeing students like Adrian succeed with LAMP. “Things have really shifted in the classroom,” she says. “With Adrian, he has started to independently ask for more things. Once I wrapped my head around the capabilities of LAMP and how I could use it in the classroom, I began modifying activities to generate responses.”

Although LAMP has been successful for Adrian, it is important to note that the approach wasn’t an immediate solution. “The entire team has really worked with him,” Stephanie says. “It was important that Adrian not only use the device at school, but also out in the community and at home. We are always finding new ways to communicate with it.

“Other children are very curious of the device,” she adds. “They want to play with it and, for the most part, are very accepting.”

Stephanie believes the LAMP approach has been successful for Adrian because unlike other methodologies, the buttons on the device (such as “eat,” “run” or “train”) always stay in the same place, and she can add buttons at any time.

“LAMP allows users to memorize the motion so they always know where the buttons are. And as the parent, I don’t have to change levels,” Stephanie says. “Once he knows where a button is, it’s there, and he can always find it. That cuts down on his frustration immensely.”

Now that Adrian is better able to express things like what he would like to eat and places he would like to go, Stephanie says they hope to advance to a point where he can use LAMP to participate in discussions, comment and answer questions.

“LAMP really unlocks something in these children,” Stephanie says. “I have confidence that he will continue to build upon what he’s already learned.”

“The device has made a tremendous difference in Adrian’s family,” Kerry adds. “He communicates with his sister and his classmates. It also has helped him behaviorally. Although he still has challenges, Adrian seems so much happier. It’s an amazing thing to see.”