Let's Communicate

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Closing out 2009 with a smile ... : )

I thought I would write a piece to summarize 2009 for the Communication Services Department of WAPADH. Each of us here at WAPADH work to empower all individuals to maximize the quality of their lives through membership, interdependence, and self-advocacy. The communication services department has had a busy year living up to just this. The department currently consists of Katie Bernal and two wonderful Independent Contractors, Cristina O’Reilly and Nancy Brady. In addition we support three Communication Partners who work in home and school based programs with two high school students. Our services continue to include assessments, therapy, consultations, supervision, and trainings.

The year has been very busy. In January Dr. Christi Kasa-Hendrickson, of University of Colorado and I were brought out by the Inclusion Connection in Iowa to train in our second Mentor Project. This training series happened on a monthly basis for four months with participants coming from Iowa and Illinois. The group continues to meet on a regular basis. 14 individuals, as well as their family members, and professionals developed new means of communicating.

In February I joined Christi to present and then train at the annual Peak Conference in Denver Colorado. Locally a group of 5 school age students who use AAC to actively participate in their education presented a short session for TACA in Orange County, CA. The students were nothing short of spectacular and will present again in July of 2010 at the West Coast FC Symposium.

In the spring an article in the Autism File (April 2009): Using Augmentative Communication with Individuals with Autism is more than just giving them a device was published. Then in May I partnered with Mei Mei Liu and Hunter Swersky to present at Chapman University in a strategy workshop for educators. We were able to share with new and seasoned professionals and families how efficient communication can impact an education.

This summer WAPADH sponsored their first Skill Building series in three separate locations. Participants signed up for six weeks of training. The trainings were held in Santa Fe Springs, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. We thank the Vinyard Church of Costa Mesa, and Vista Del Mar of Los Angeles, and Janne Peters for their additional support. The training was a big success and we look forward to providing more in the future. In July Brady and I were able to attend and participate in the FC Institute Summer Conference in Syracuse, New York. This year was very exciting with many new faces.

Come August training season began. Both Katie and I spent many hours supporting teams to prepare for the start of the new school year. We were able to train teams in San Jose, Tulare, and Baltimore. As well as teams in the Los Angeles, Inland Empire, San Diego, and Orange County areas of Southern California. School based trainings have continued throughout the school year as needed. In October we sponsored a one-day training for community members, with a follow up session for those who wanted additional support in getting started. WAPADH continues to partner with WACSEP and other groups to support and advocate for efficient communication for those who have difficulty using their speech.

In the fall we continued our momentum with our first meeting for the West Coast FC Symposium of 2010. The plans are coming together so watch for the SAVE THE DATE flyer coming soon. The Symposium will be July 22-24, 2010 in Whittier, CA..

In October WAPADH launched our new website and are working diligently to use the website to connect with people and share more information. Each of the three departments has lists of Frequently Asked Questions and a blog to keep the information flowing.

As 2009 comes to a close we are looking forward to 2010. There are so many exciting ideas in the hopper. We look forward to using technology to connect with more of you, and developing ways to connect more of you with each other. We promise to continue the trainings and then the monthly workshops. It is our commitment to empower all individuals to maximize the quality of their lives through membership, interdependence, and self-advocacy that keeps us going and excited about what we do, and more importantly what we see individuals, families, and professionals achieve.

We want to thank all of the wonderful parents and support persons, as well as school districts whom support and respect communication for all for their positive and productive team work.

We wish you all the best in 2010.

Darlene, Katie and all at WAPADH

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New apps

I just added a few more apps.

Watch me learn
Answers: yes no
Flashcards: Deluxe

Friday, December 18, 2009

What's wrapped up for you this year?

I am receiving so many messages that many of you will be receiving and iTouch under your trees or for Hanukah so I thought I would put some generic ideas down. These are just a few of my observations and/or ideas. It would be great if you all would share your ideas and impressions as well after the New Year.

First of all there is the speaker. The iTouch has a built in speaker that is decent. If you find you need additional volume you can purchase an external speaker. The iMaingo has a strap and a great speaker. The casing may or may not affect the touch for you. It can be purchased on Amazon and/or found at many local stores like Target or TJ Maxx. They should be $25-30.00 There are also small speakers you can attach to you iTouch that can be found at Big Lots or local gadget stores. People tell me you can find them for $5.00. I am not sure how good the quality will be but look around. If you happen to be using an iPhone the speaker on the phone should be enough.

The iTouch/iPod comes with the ability to use a key board on the Notes feature, and you can use the photos you store on it for conversational starters, details, or past recall of fun events. If you have difficulty with recall use the calendar on the device to keep track of what you have done and whom you did this with. For extra use you can purchase and then sync apps through the iTunes store.

I am trying to keep a list of apps I have seen or like on this blog so check here periodically and share the ones you like as well. Apps can be free, or range from $.99 to $200.00. Most are around $5.00 - $30.00. You can find them listed in categories such as entertainment, education, and organization. The great thing is they are activated with a selection so you are offered a visual display to make choices. Perfect for us.

Let’s talk about some that we have been using. There are some that allow for larger key boards (bigkeyemai). The speak it, and the Proloquo2go have a keyboard with voice output. There are also educational apps that assist you in showing that you know math facts (flashcards, basicmath,algebra101) and/or have basic literacy skills (ABCwords, xmasspell, hangman, adlib, wordmagic). There are also apps that use a multiple choice format to study and learn facts such as word definitions, state capitals, science facts, and other vocabulary exercises. Search through the educational sections periodically as new apps are listed daily.

For functional use there are apps for organizing you such as shopper which gives you a means to create a grocery list, there are also tip calculator and budgeting apps. Some apps are created so that you can create your own communication board like MyTalk, or flashcards like Flashcard. These take some prep but also allow you to customize to your wants and needs. Finally there is more and more coming out for communication. Some can be used for speech practice (Brocasvoice 300 sightwords), and some are useful as communication devices (Locabulary, iConverse, Looktolearn, Proloquo2go), and some are fun for socializing (doodlechat, facebook). You can go crazy buying apps so be a little picky and do a little reading before you make those purchases.

The best thing about the iTouch/iPhone is that you can purchase it online or at your local stores. This is because it is universal and everyone has a use for it. However the bad thing about the iTouch/iPhone is that it is universal and everyone has a use for it. So take some time to think about where you are taking it, who is in charge of it, and how you can make sure it isn’t left somewhere or out and not attended to, or stolen. You app purchases will remain in your iTune accounts so you wouldn’t have to repurchase them, but you still don’t want to have to replace your iTouch/iPhone.

I do hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, whichever you celebrate. And enjoy your new technology!!! Wishing you all the best in the New Year 2010.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Finding Communication… Finding your Voice

There are those who are described as non-verbal, and those who are described as non communicative. As I have mentioned before communication is a two way street. It takes a sender and a receiver. Now for those who are not viewed as “communicative” or who live in or have lived in environments where communication has been less than efficient for them the idea of communicating may be foreign. So where would we start?

One suggestion is to download the “Communication Dictionary” on www.wapadh.org. On this form you can begin to document how the environment or objects serve as vocabulary. For example, the act of bringing you the keys may mean “let’s go for a drive”. If so write that down, and then how you respond. There may be different ways your respond, write each of them down. For some individuals this is their form of communication and should be recognized, acknowledged and responded to. This information is sometimes overlooked as real communication, and at minimum can be shared with everyone on the team. When communication is difficult it is important for each of us to understand the “personal” communicative acts.

Using the environment and objects as vocabulary can be efficient but limits you to the here and now. The next step would be to begin pairing the objects with photos or line drawings, and then move onto to written words. Vocabulary using any of the symbols needs to be for more than making requests.

Identifying vocabulary is just one part of the process. Teaching to make requests with the vocabulary is common and good practice. However, to build communication you will want to move right into answering questions using the vocabulary. For example, when teaching the vocabulary word of “video” you can first teach to request a video but there is a next step “What do you watch on the TV?” This teaches not only the function of the word but it teaches the function of listening to a question and providing an answer. This is communication.

Finally, whichever symbol you are preparing for the person you support you want to model using the symbol as you talk as well. So when talking point to the symbols. Make it natural, and engaging. If you find there is a need to practice, which is likely, then do so, but be sure and let that be known, “Let’s practice talking with your pictures”.

Communication is a basic part of being human, we can foster communication or we can squash communication. Engage and build a communicative environment!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Let's Talk

Communication is the exchange of information. Today I want to remind us all to be partners in communication. As a partner the exchanges are shared. Often when speaking with individuals with limited speech and language skills we fall into the trap of conducting an interview. There is a qualitative difference between an interview and a conversation.

An interview starts off and continues with a series of questions. For example, “What did you do last night?”. Followed by “What did you watch on tv?”. Followed by “What else did you do?”, etc. Exchanges like these teach and promote the idea that the speaking person asks a question and the AAC user provides an answer. Really conversations include stories, details, comments, and questions. So how can we support and promote real conversational skills?

First of all decrease the number of questions you ask. A nice prompt for yourself is to remember to start the interaction with “Tell me about…” instead of asking a question. Reflect on what the AAC user says and then pause. Don’t be afraid of the silence. (As a prompt you might remind the AAC user that he can take a turn now.) Stay away from “yes/no questions”. These are a dead end for conversation. Share stories about yourself. Of course do this as appropriate to the context and the relationship you have with the AAC user. And finally, talk about something that is interesting. Sometimes last night wasn’t so interesting. Current events, shared experiences, and humor can make the conversation a little more interesting.

When the AAC user is using a preprogrammed or designed communication board or display this means that those of us who do the programming will need to provide different opportunities. The vocabulary made available will need to go beyond basic wants and needs, and feelings. As the designer of the vocabulary you can be sure to include the opportunity for the AAC user to ask questions, make comments, negate, and use social jargon. By being a more proactive communication partner we can support richer conversations with the AAC users we support.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


WAPADH has now launched its new website, www.wapadh.org. We are excited about the opportunities to share and disseminate information. On the new website each of us will post resources we create and would like to share. For me, in the area of communication I keep the following PDFs:
  • Communication Dictionary
  • Language Ladder (adapted from Dr. Rosemary Crossley)
  • Communication Support Chart
Finally, we will keep a Calendar of Events. It is here that you can stay up to date on events at WAPADH such as the Community Communication Workshop offered once a month, and upcoming related Conferences.

Communication is important to each of us and internet communication is allowing us to network, learn, and access a common ground for communication. At www.wapadh.org we will post podcasts and interviews with uploaded videos. Through Facebook and Twitter we can offer small "sound bites" of ideas and connect with larger groups of people.

Please let your friends know about the website and the different ways we can all connect. ... And join in with your ideas and experiences.

This is going to be great....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Training new support persons

Sometimes it is best for those of us who speak to explain what we think is happening and then let the communicator do the rest. If you support and watch, much of the time the communicator can do more of the training than you will do. Go ahead and remind the communicators that they are a very active member of the training. They can show the support person where to hold provide the support, how to position their body in relation to their needs, etc.

This doesn't mean you leave the training up to the individual with the communication impairment but don't underestimate the lead they can take in the training.