Thursday, July 16, 2015

Six Functional Opportunities Using Speech Generating Devices

Over the last year, I have had the good fortune to participate in school team meetings for a couple, young clients receiving speech generating devices.  It has warmed my heart watching these amazing children feel empowered and proud of their newfound ability to communicate a large variety of requests.  Since I was not familiar with the device used by both children, I was invited to participate in basic and advanced training classes.  While the basic class covered customizing settings and simple navigation of the device, the advanced looked more closely at keeping communication functional for all individuals.  Since I gained so much valuable information in the advanced session, I decided to write this post highlighting the top six ways we can model functional communication skills using speech generating devices.

1.  Requesting:  this was the first communicative intent that both of my clients found all on their own through simple exploration.  Requesting food and play choices helped each accept the new device and experience the power of words through positive reinforcement.  If you have already worked on making simple sentences using PECS prior to introducing speech generating devices, then go ahead and model a variety such as "I want more cookies please" or "I need a drink."

2.  Turn taking:  asking for a turn using word combinations like, "my turn" is a great way to add some variety to making requests so you don't get backed into that corner where all the device is used for is food.  You can prompt "my turn" during 1:1 play time or at circle/calendar time at school.

3.  Commenting:  forget about labeling items using "I see an apple" since it isn't natural for us to walk into a room and start making these statements.  Rather, teach sentences such as "I like this apple" or "This apple is good."  This was such an important lesson for me because I was getting too hung up on checking off communicative intents and thinking we needed to see mastery of labeling before moving on to commenting.

4.  Protest:  model saying "no", "mine" and "all done" and praise independent usage of making needs known!  If a child uses these routinely to escape work activities, then you should solidify responses and then explain to the child as you would to his or her peers that it is time to work first or offer another choice within the activity.

5.  Greetings:  prompt greetings in the hallway walking between classes, during circle times, at home, or in private clinical sessions.

6.  Respond to questions:  teach how to answer various "wh" questions using words, phrases, then simple sentences.  You can model answering simple "wh" questions by creating responses like, " It is a ____" or "I see a _____"  I have become most familiar with the Nova, which allows you to program information about something that happened during the school day and/or over evenings and weekends at home.  Now, when asked, "What did you do in school or at home?", clients can learn to navigate to the page with this information to respond to these questions!  One of my clients worked with her school SLP to learn how to answer "All About Me" questions when she was the star of the week.  I especially like working on responding to questions with my novice speech generating device users because it helps expand conversational turns.  We begin by asking a question, and then the child responds.  We can then follow with another topic maintenance question to keep the exchange going a little longer.  For example, you might first ask, "What is this?"  After a response is given, you could follow with, "Where do you see it?", "What color is that?" or "Do you have one at home?"

What have you done to promote expansion and use of speech generating devices with your clients?  I'm always looking for more suggestions!


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