Augmentative & Alternate Communication

 

 

First off, I’d like to share a fantastic website! Check this blog out! There is a TON of information on it to browse through!! I’ve gotten many ideas from this resource!

I also like these websites:

Here is a good page to learn what AAC is and what types of systems you can use.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto is an amazing place! They have speech and language pathologist, Communicative Disorders Assistants and Occupational Therapists that can support your child/student at home and at school.

Currently, my student is using a Tobii EyeGaze and SurfacePro eye gaze system for communication and academics. It has been a slow process but she is making gains all of the time!

There are many devices out there for your child to trial but make sure you document EVERYTHING!! Every comment or word they say so that you can show the AAC team what has happened while they are away. You need this documentation to prove that the device is the right one for your child.

I have researched a ton of information on AAC and it would be way too much to take in all at once so I’m just going to add some resources here for you to check out on your own time. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to email me.

Aside from the resources above there is a lot out there on the web.

One particular woman, Dr. Musselwhite has several videos out on YouTube. Check her out here. One important thing I learned from her was to allow my student’s peers to use her device too! Most professionals over the years have taught me that the AAC device belongs to that student only. It is their voice and no one else should use it. But Dr. Musselwhite shares that your child may be more interested and will learn more quickly if their friends are using it too! There is a whole process on peers teaching their friend how to use the device as well. I LOVE this idea!

PrAACticalAAC is another great resource. If you click here it will bring you to not only their blog but a link on that page will also bring you to Dr. Musselwhite’s blog which has AAC girls and more information on Communication Circles.

I’ll be sure to post more information another day, but this is a good start!

Enjoy!

 

 

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Advocating

Advocating can be a challenge! It is a fine line between advocating for your child and being the crazed mom who everyone tries to avoid. I’ve been on both sides of the table as a mom and as an EA. I also understand how frustrating it can be as a mom when you feel like your child’s needs aren’t being met or as an EA when you feel like you are doing everything in your power to help your student succeed and yet it just isn’t good enough. I never ever like to assume things or judge a parent for how they are parenting their children. But I do need to mention that if you are going through the grieving process or if several different teachers and professionals have told you that they feel your child should see a paediatrician, please, please,  please trust that they know what they are talking about and only want what is best for your child. As an educator, we don’t speak to parents about an issue unless we feel very sure and strongly that it will help the student.

That being said, as a parent, we need to make sure that our child’s needs are being met. When we aren’t in the school day in and day out, we have no idea what is going on and we need to trust that the professionals know what they are doing. Communication is key! Here are some suggestions to help you be in the know:

1. Communicate!! Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to discuss any concerns with the EA, teacher, principal, group home worker etc. Having consistency between home and school will benefit your child greatly.

2. Have a communication book or agenda that goes back and forth. But make sure to read and write in it! If your             child is non-verbal, provide the school with a visual schedule that the EA can go over with your child at the end of the day. They can circle or stamp the activities they have done that day.

Better yet, ask the EA if they already have a visual schedule/daily agenda made that they could send home. Many schools have the Boardmaker software that they use in the school already. This also will allow for consistency with the photos between home and school. Click here for more information on Boardmaker.

3. Request a meeting. Before school starts, a month or two after school starts, and again in the spring. And any other time you feel you need to meet in person to discuss issues/concerns that can’t be written in the daily agenda.

Having a meeting before school starts each year allows you to go over any changes the summer may have brought. Strategies that work and strategies that don’t. A lot of growth can happen in just a couple of months. Meeting a month or two into the school year will give you a good idea of how things are going and where they are headed. It is so much easier to deal with situations that arise right from the get go instead of waiting months where the symptoms or behaviour become a habit. Being proactive is much better than being reactive. Make a plan together and follow through with it!

4. Check out this website that has specific issues needing intervention. Lindsay Moir was an incredible advocate who sadly passed away and is greatly missed by his family, friends and special needs community. Scroll down to the bottom and click  ‘View ask Lindsay Archive’

5. Bring in an 8×10 photo of your child to your meeting. Tape it to the chair beside you. Any time they start talking numbers (because let’s face it, it usually comes down to money) just point to the picture.  Remind them that your child isn’t just a number. It may have been Lindsay who suggested this at one of his workshops I attended. It was pretty powerful. (I would only use this strategy if the school board and I had been trying to see eye to eye for some time).

6. BE KIND. Always be kind and thankful. No one purposefully tries to sabotage your child’s learning. No one purposefully tries to be difficult to work with. We are all doing our best. Working as a team is how your child will succeed.

There is so much more information, but this is a start. It is hard to suggest something to you when each one of you will have a different concern. If you have a specific issue that you need help with, send me an email and I’ll see what I can do.

In the meantime, here are some links to help you know some of your rights!

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario has a Parent’s Guide to the IPRC & IEP process

IEP (Indivual Education Plan) Resource Guide by the Ontario Government

ABC Ontario has an IEP guide for gifted students

Disability and Human Rights Brochure is located here

 

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Holiday Hangover!

Wowzers!! Our GG has a major meltdown after every holiday or special occasion. We call it the “Holiday Hangover”. It never fails. Each and every time. After Christmas and her birthday are the biggest ones. Screaming, crying, laughing to screaming again. Scratching herself and bending joints. After 13 years, this is the FIRST time ever that she hasn’t had a meltdown! Now it’s only January 1st today, but we usually have it on the 26th of December. Fingers crossed we’ve passed the timeline! 🙂

Every year I wish there was something we could do to prevent it. But for us, the reality is, we gotta let her have it! She has to get it all out in order to feel normal again. I think with all of the excitement, sensory overload, sugar rush and disappointment that it has all come to an end (especially her best friend & elf, Sparkle, heading back to the North Pole for the year) is just too much for her to handle.

So for now, we let her have at it for a while in her room, then we hold her if she will let us safely to provide some deep pressure. I’ve put her between the mattress and box spring when she requires more pressure than a hug can give. It can last an hour or more. It’s hard to watch and hard to listen to but it has to come out. It is literally like a volcano has exploded. We don’t discuss it for at least two to three hours later. We then talk about some strategies she can try next time and discuss her feelings if she is able to express them. If not, we move on with our day.

If you have other children in the house check out my post on Sibling Sanity. There are some ideas on what your other children can do while the house is filled with cries and screams!

If you have any tips to help us out, please share!!

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Surviving the Holidays

Christmas is GG’s favourite time of the year! She would talk about it all year round if we let her! But it can also be extremely stressful. She is filled with excitement and wonder and worries and questions! OMG the questions and comments about Christmas are never ending!

She worries about being on the nice list, she worries her elf will have lost her magic, she worries about how she will control herself around all of the food and she is stressed because we are so out of her regular routine, we don’t know what we are doing from day to day.

Here are some things we do to enjoy the holidays…

Schedule for the Day/Facing the Unknown: We try to keep as much consistency as possible. We keep to her scheduled eating (breakfast at 9:00, snack at 10:30, lunch at noon, snack at 2:30, dinner – when it’s ready). But over the holidays when we are visiting friends and family we let her eat 3 small treats or 1 large one if there is a display of food. We are fortunate that she will follow these rules even if she doesn’t like them.

We will write down a schedule for the week on a piece of paper and/or a whiteboard in her room. If we don’t know what we are doing we still make up a schedule but it just says “Stay at home”.   Some children (and adults) will benefit from a stay at home schedule that includes ideas of different activities they can do while at home. Such as 9:00 Painting, 10:00 iPad, 11:00 outside play, etc.

Change of Plans: If you have already told your child you will be doing one thing but then plans change unexpectantly, you can make up some little cards to help. The trick is to have these cards and bags handy. Store some in the glove box, your purse, by the door, etc.

Here is an example:

Change It Up!

Take Your Pick:

-Chew a piece of gum

-Choose a toy from the bag

-Take 5 deep breaths

-Suck on a candy

Hand your child the card when telling them about the change of plans. (Always introduce and teach a new strategy – such as this card – before needing to use it. Role playing works great)!

Getting a toy, piece of gum or candy distracted GG enough to get over the change in plans. She never chose the deep breaths! Lol The bag is just a small bag with a drawstring from the $ store filled with some characters, stickers, lego pieces etc. (also from the $ store). You can use pictures taken from google images instead of words if your child doesn’t read (or is too upset about the change to read).

Allow Downtime: We also allow more down time than usual. Spending time with other children is very difficult for her. As much as we try and encourage her to play when other children are visiting, we don’t bug her too much during this time of year if there are large crowds. For us, the holidays are not a time to teach play skills because it is too overwhelming for her to retain anything.

Every child is different and I’m sure each one of you has a challenge that occurs year after year. So instead of making this post too long, write a comment or send me an email with some of your difficulties and I’ll try to get back to you with some specific strategies. (The best I can without visiting and seeing you and your child in person). You can reach me at  wellbalancedlife@rogers.com

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