Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Go, Dog. Go! A Great Book for Practicing Core Words

When it comes to AACcore words are where it's at. What do I mean by core words? Here are some examples: want, get, he, she, it, this, that, here, there, thing, people, mine, and me. Up until now you probably haven't given this concept much thought, but core words are words that we use all the time when speaking. Here is a better definition (click on the link for more info):

Core vocabulary is a small set of simple words, in any language, that are used frequently and across contexts (Cross, Baker, Klotz & Badman, 1997).

Ideally, when someone uses an AAC device to speak, their device will have as many core words as possible on the main page so that those words are easily accessible. This will allow them to communicate quickly and efficiently by combining core words into phrases.

If a device user is in the early stages of language development and they are starting to put two or three words together, their core word phrases might include, want eat, need drink or like that (similar to what you would hear from a toddler who is starting to talk). These aren't full sentences but the message that is being communicated is evident.

Carter has been combining two and three words on his talker for some time now. He is starting to add more words to his phrases and he continues to surprise us with the things he comes out with. The other day he was watching The Lion King and I heard him comment, "The weather is stormy." Indeed, there was a storm happening in the movie. Then the scene changed, the sun was rising and Simba (the lion cub) was jumping on his dad (Mufasa) trying to wake him up. Carter didn't miss a beat. He spoke up and said, "Good morning, lion."

I always knew that Carter understood a lot more than he was able to demonstrate. With his talker, he's finally able to start showing us just how much he 'gets'. His utterances are getting longer and more involved. In fact, he is now using location words like on, in, under, up, down, etc.

One of his favourite books is a book by P.D. Eastman. It's called Go, Dog. Go! For Carter any book that has dogs in it is a hit, but this book is doubly awesome because it has dogs and it's full of all kinds of great vocabulary that he can practice on his 'talker' when we read together.

I love the book too. It's funny and creative and it's a great way to introduce and practice several language concepts like colours, location words, and some verbs as well (go, work, play, like).

Jack and Taylor are now at a stage in reading where they are able to read the book with Carter. I love seeing my kids huddled together on the couch sharing books. When it's a book they all enjoy and it helps with Carter's language development, all the better.

 Go, Dog. Go! gets five stars from this family -- a great book for language development and for fun family reading time.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Dear Parent(s)

of the special needs child who is just like my son,

Where exactly are you? I've spent years trying to find you and I haven't been successful.

Your kid is 'developmentally delayed', non-verbal, has Childhood Apraxia of Speech and dysarthria, oral motor issues that include drooling, messy eating, and the inability to clear food from his/her mouth consistently. Fine motor skills are delayed. Hands are weak (not so great with those fastidious little tasks that we all take for granted like buttoning buttons, zipping zippers, colouring/printing, etc.). There are sensory issues, mostly with loud noises (mega phones, loud speakers, etc.), but also with proprioception and balance. All this is rounded out with an intellectual disability. Your kid was born with Pierre Robin Sequence which caused a cleft palate so the root of the problem is likely a genetic syndrome (one that has yet to be discovered or named).

Are you reading this saying...ya, that's my kid?


Nah...I probably would have found you by now because believe me, I've looked -- searched long and hard. I mean, is it not human nature to want to find someone experiencing the same thing that you are so you don't feel so alone? That's how I feel and that's why I've been looking all over for you.

Don't get me wrong, during my search for you I've been able to find support from some great parents whose kids have had similar issues to my son. But the parent whose kid is exactly like him? I haven't found you yet.

Some of the parents I have connected with have had kids with major speech issues like Carter. But inevitably at some point the differences between their kids and mine became apparent. Their kids made progress in speech therapy. Their kids had spurts of speech development. My kid did not.

About two years ago, if you had been around, I would have asked if you'd been given the same advice I had -- to get your kid the best augmentative communication device (a.k.a. talker) that you could. We could have cried on one anothers' shoulders and fretted about what this meant for our childrens' futures.

Carter has an AAC device now. He got it a year and a half ago. The process was not without headaches. But the biggest headaches have been around trying to get him the support he needs to learn his device and to learn the constructs of language.

We could share stories about the challenges we've experienced because of our kids' communication issues, about the injustice of waiting lists and the lack of adequate support for AAC users. I could tell you that now that we have Carter's device I feel like we're in some foreign land speaking a language that no one else has heard before. And maybe you'd tell me that you feel the same way.

We could have those conversations...if I could find you.

I'm not giving up. I still have hope that you're out there somewhere.

And when we finally do meet, we'll share, we'll gripe, we'll laugh, we'll cry...we'll try and make sense of the struggles and triumphs we've shared with our special kids.

Until then I'll continue making connections in the AAC community in hopes that one of those connections will be with you.

Yours in anticipation,

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Bentley's Biz: A Word from the Birthday Boy

Yep. It's my birthday today -- or so they tell me (scratch scratch, yaaaawn).

The big number 3. If you're one of those humans who likes to do the dog years thing then I'm actually 21.

It's not like I'm suddenly legal to drive, or drink or whatever else you humans get so excited about 'coming of age' for. But, the kids are pretty riled up like puppies chasing their tails. Birthdays do that to them.

I've been living with Carter and his family for what seems like a dog's age, but I think it's only been about a year and a half. It's been nothing but a paws-itive experience so far.

Yep, it's a good life living here with my buddy, Carter. His mom gets a bit frustrated sometimes because he's not what you'd call the tidiest eater. No frustration here...bring on the yogurt, the pudding, and whatever else I can lick off my boy's face after his meal. I'm good with cereal, rice and all the other crummy things that fall on the floor too. As long as I lie down away from the table at meal times, I'm always given the go ahead to clean up the floor after a meal. Arf!

I miss my foster 'mom' and my puppy buds that I grew up and trained with, but I'm good with where I ended up. I knew the day would come when my training would be done and I'd be sent into the real world to work.

I think I've been most helpful to my boy, Carter in places where those people in the white coats poke and prod him. Doctors - ya, that's what they're called. Carter doesn't like them very much. I don't blame him. I feel the same about the vet.

Carter gets so upset when doctors are around that sometimes his mom will tell the doctor to examine me first. Then Carter relaxes a bit. I'm good with it. Whatever I can do to help. I think he likes having me along to hug when he's anxious and unsure about what's going to happen.

When Carter's brother and sister go off to birthday parties and play dates I keep him company. He doesn't seem to get invited to things like his brother and sister do. I know it's not quite the same but I'm happy to hang out with him whenever he needs a pal.

Bentley...a.k.a. Big B
Carter is such a great kid. He doesn't talk but that's fine with me. His actions tell me everything I need to know -- that he loves me like crazy. I love him too. So on my third birthday I don't need much because my tail is a waggin' just thinking about how lucky I am to have found Carter. (Well, okay...a good belly rub would be nice but nothing else, really).