Speech therapists make the world go around. I had the best conversation with Ravi’s speech therapist and her friend who is professor of speech and language at UM Duluth. We were talking about using alternative communication devices for students who are primarily nonverbal. She was very interested in Boo Bear because his language skills are growing by leaps and bounds as he nears his 19th birthday. When Boo was little I was told if he did not speak by the time he was five, he never would. Fortunately, I never bought into this theory. Boo will communicate on his own timeline, just like he does everything else. I was thrilled to hear Deanna talk about her observations of Boo in the classroom. He is using his Nova Chat to speak in six or seven word sentences. He will comment on what others say or what he is thinking about. There is so much going on in that brain! Jolene, the professor offered a wonderful analogy about finding the right communication device for nonverbals learners. She and Deanna firmly believe that everyone can learn to communicate. The analogy goes like this. If you went into a shoe store and tried on a pair of shoes that did not fit, you would not throw them away and say you would never wear shoes again. You would simply put them back and find a different pair of shoes in different style or size. The same is true of communication devices. There is not one size fits all. Luckily, there are tons of different devices on the market that one can test trial. You just keep trying until you find something which clicks with your learner. So many of Boo’s teachers thought he would not be able to use a device at all. The options they offered were very simple, only offering one of two options per page. Turns out the reason these did not work for Boo was they were too easy. His current device has multiple pages with twenty options on each page. The Nova Chat has a very rich vocabulary that Boo immediately tapped into and began to use. For years he has had all these words bottled up inside of him and no way to get them out. This must have been so frustrating for him. I have noticed a huge decrease in frustrated behaviors at home and Deanna says at school Boo is very relaxed, happy, and focused.
Originally, my interview with Jolene and Deanna was only going to last about half an hour. The ideas got flowing and we chatted for nearly an hour and a half. I talked about my frustration with the annual Autism conference which does not have any options for young adults on the spectrum. Everything is focused on early childhood intervention. This is not to say that this is a bad thing, but autistics still have multiple needs after they age out of the system. Deanna suggested that we submit an abstract for a joint presentation. She would speak as a speech language pathologist and I would speak as a mom. Jolene followed up on this by saying she was teaching a graduate class in the fall and would I be willing to be a guest speaker? I was very enthusiastic about both ideas. I love my blog and my followers, but this would be an even better way to get the word out about Boo Bear and his peers.
So, it was an amazing morning. I came away from it with an even deeper love and level of respect for speech pathologist. They really do make the world go around. And, remember, if the shoe does not fit, try on another pair! Peace out, y’all, and be good humans.