Not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say.
~ Rosemary Crossley
Communication is so important. Everyone has something to say. I didn’t want to go my whole life wondering what my son wanted to say. I didn’t want him to go his whole life not being about to say what he wanted.
My son has cerebral palsy. He uses a wheelchair. He needs help with everything because he doesn’t use his hands. He also can’t talk with his voice. Instead, he uses a Speech Generated Device (SGD) to talk.
He accesses the device with his eyes. There is a camera on the device. When he looks at the screen, the camera reads his eyes. When he looks at an icon long enough, it will select that icon and speak for him. It is amazing!
We explored a lot of options before we found the perfect device and language system. He uses a device by Prentke Romich Company (PRC) called an Accent 1400 with eye gaze. The device hooks onto his wheelchair, so he has it with him all the time.
Picking the right SGD is hard. There are so many things to think about. You need to think about access—how will your child activate it? Will they use their fingers? Will they need to use a switch? Will they need to use their eyes, etc?
You also need to think about portability. Is it light enough for them to carry? Will it work with their wheelchair? You also need to look at the language system. A robust communication will focus on core vocabulary. Core vocabulary is made up of the words we use most frequently.
Your speech therapist can help you pick the right SGD. I also suggest trialing a few different options before you make your final decision. If your child is in school, you can request an Assistive Technology Evaluation. This evaluation will give you recommendations on the types of systems that might work best for your child.
Learning how to use the device is hard. It is important that you understand the device so that you can model how to use it with your child.
I recently attended a seminar in Pittsburgh about "Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)." It was the most powerful educational session I have gone to about communication. I learned so much about language, how to teach language, and how to use a device with success. Here is a link to the seminar series. They have a seminar every month- check out the schedule.
If you are just starting your AAC journey, or even if you’ve been doing it for awhile, I highly recommend this seminar. It will help you and your child so much. And, it’s free!