I get this question more than you can imagine. We have been trying to get an AAC for Jadyne for over two years now. No, it shouldn’t take this long, and for most families, it does not. Thus, if after reading this post, you feel it could help your child, I urge you to look into beginning the process. Typically, the timeframe for receiving your child’s device is only 24 weeks.
AAC stands for augmentative and alternative communication. Simply put, they are electronic boards that vary in size and functionality that help a child with a severe communication disorder communicate with their world. Remember, not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say. AACs make it possible for someone without the ability to speak to get the words out in a way the rest of us can understand.
Academically, Jadyne simply can NOT even begin to perform at any level close to what she should. In Language Arts, she can’t answer critical thinking questions like “What do you think Cinderella’s sisters should have done?” She very well may know the answer, but she doesn’t have the speech function to get out the words. So she fails. In Science, she can’t answer whether a ml or a gram goes to a graduated cylinder. In art, she can’t draw a painting of a place because she can’t understand that’s what she’s supposed to do based on a lack of speech. The only subject she excels is in math. Math is concrete. A circle is always a circle; blue is always blue. These kinds of things make sense to her. Speech, for now, isn’t necessary in math.
Socially, Jadyne can’t answer kids when they ask her questions. She’s quite fortunate to have a few friends that don’t seem to even notice Jadyne can’t talk at their level. They talk for her. They engage in imaginary play with her. She enjoys the interaction. Unfortunately, not all children are so kind. Some children get very frustrated with her. They think she doesn’t like them because she doesn’t talk to them. She just can’t.
At home, tantrums abound. Can you imagine not being able to communicate your wants and needs? If you’ve ever witnessed a stroke patient’s frustration knowing what they want but not being able to express it, you’ll have an idea of how she’s lived every day of her life. After almost eight years now, though, Jadyne and I have our own ways of communicating. I understand her approximations (not real words, but similar to words). She engages with me through gestures and eye contact and minimal sign language. That interaction is a rarity, though, and doesn’t exist outside her comfort zone.
- AACs are only for kids that are completely non-verbal. Ah, NOPE! AACs are for anyone with a speech disorder.
- AACs would be used as a crutch for kids that have any verbal ability; they’d lose speech. Ah, NOPE! In fact, the children engage with the devices. They repeat the words they hear on the devices, actually building their vocabulary!
- AACs are too expensive; I could never afford one. NOPE! There are a couple ways to get a device without ever spending a penny. I’ll explain that further down.
- AACs will fix all my child’s speech problems. Again, NOPE! AACs will greatly assist, but if your child has a severe speech disorder, your child will always struggle in this area. AACs are meant to reduce the stress incurred from their inability to communicate effectively. They work great, but they don’t solve all problems. A Total Communication System is necessary throughout life.
“Total communication [TC] is the combined use of signs/gestures/pictures with speech to facilitate communication development. Its purpose is to provide a language system so [the] child may communicate with others and learn that needs can be met through communication”(Kumin, 1994).
- Contact a specialist in AAC devices and request an intake evaluation. This is a great link to find someone in your area. http://www.slplocator.com/FindAnSLP.aspx
- Take that evaluation to your school and request they provide the trials for your child. If they give you a hard time about this, contact me. I went through it myself. They HAVE to comply with that evaluation. Your child will try various devices over a 24 week period to determine which is best.
- Once the device is decided upon, there are two options. One, you can request the school purchase the device, but if you go that route, the school owns it, and most likely, your child will never get to bring it home, although some schools allow it. Two, you can go through your insurance company to get a device purchased for your child, and that’s the best route. In order to do this, you will need a prescription from your child’s PCP. If you want more information, again, contact me. (There is a "Contact Us" link at the top navigation bar that will give you all my contact info.) I will be more than happy to assist you in the process.
Find a local Dynavox Sales Consultant http://www.dynavoxtech.com/products/sales/default.aspx
They can help walk you through the process, provide all necessary forms, and offer lots of support.