Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Making Right and Wrong Choices Should Be Part of Life with Communication Devices

I have an update on our friend Taylor who received the communication device, the "Tango" at Christmastime. If you missed those blog posts because you are new to this blog, they are MUST READ. You will love them. Look in the November and December 2007 archive for the postings on Taylor and his voice. You'll be glad you did.

He has had his Tango for 2 months now and is getting very good at sharing with it. He is using it for spelling and interacting in class.

The other day he got to "cutting up" with some of his classmates and was warned that he needed to focus and settle down or he would have his Tango put in a time out for awhile. Don't you LOVE it? Here is a boy who was looking for a way to express himself 4 months ago, and now has an issue with not being quiet!

It wasn't long before his teacher heard the "Sponge Bob Square Pants" song coming out of his device and all the kids cracked up. Taylor missed recess and his Tango was left on the teachers desk for a "time out".

The Blink Twice company that makes the Tango, shares on their website that communication should be dynamic. That means that kids should have ALL the choices with a device for expression that any kid would have and want to say - even "I hate you!" - if that is what they need to express. Giving a child a communication device shouldn't mean limiting topics to only proper and polite uses and expressions. We put an "I'm mad" Boardmaker picture on a communication device. We might even add things for why a child is mad like, "He hit me", "I don't like that", etc. But maybe we need to stretch a little further.

How do we teach a child with limited expressive language experience that it is not OK to say someone is stupid or something is stupid if we never put that option on a device to select? We wonder why some of these kids are so frustrated. We know it is obvious that it is because they can't express themselves, but even after we develop choices and boards we limit them to "safe" expressions.

I am not advocating foul language and bullying expression, but I am in agreement with the Blink Twice Company. We need to give kids with limited communication the opportunity to make right and wrong choices so they they can learn the difference through their own experiences.

I don't know about you, but that was the way I had to learn things and I know that is the new dynamic Taylor is learning with his new voice. Isn't it great he can?

All the best to you!



ATMac said...

The Kindle seems to be equipped to let you choose the font size (correct me if I'm wrong here - haven't looked at it much) in which case it could be helpful for those who need large print to read but prefer text to audio formats.

For example, I need things at about 48pt at a minimum to read comfortably but reading is still much easier than listening for things like reference books, recipes, or anything else that isn't in a narrative form. They don't make large print books up to 48pt, but even if they did they'd be way too big to cart around comfortably. There's probably a set of users with vision impairments out there in this demographic who aren't already carrying laptops around for some reason and would use the Kindle... possibly including those who are less comfortable with "high tech" stuff and would see the Kindle as less intimidating than a full laptop?

Personally I'm tied to my Mac Pro for all the non-vision-related reasons so I'll continue getting my 48+pt type here on my 20" cinema display ... which I'm sure is much nicer to read on anyway.

Ricky Buchanan
ATMac - http://atmac.org/ - Assistive Technology for Mac OS X Users

ATMac said...

Argh. How on earth did it post such an old comment again? I meant to ask about the seriousness of taking away a kid's method of communication as a punishment for mis-using it - it seems akin to duct-taping somebody's mouth shut or something. Why not send Taylor and his Tango to sit out in the corridor or whatever else they do to kids who won't stop talking?

I can see that there are some different issues to kids who won't shut up regularly - somebody who newly has the ability to communicate is bound to have a torrent of stuff they want to say all at once right now and test the limits of their abilities ... but removing the AAC device seems awfully severe.

What other punishments would you usually like tried first, for example?