Monday, January 26, 2009

Using AAC to Make a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich (For the First Time!)

"I have a big project for us today." an SLP I have been training to use a Dynavox said, as I entered his work area Friday. We have been working with a Down's boy who has not responded to much in the way of communication strategies or anything on a computer so far. We have been hoping that a Dynavox Vmax might be the answer, but we have been trialing the software version on a computer first and trying activities to see whether it would be an option.
"I want us to use the software on the computer to have him make a sandwich. We have a volunteer boy, a friend, that will come in to receive directions. I have the bread, a butter knife, plate, peanut butter and jelly. I need you to help me make up a page with all the buttons ready for him to use to tell us what we need and how to make it. Do you think we can do that?"
I was all for it. There was motivation with the food (what middle school boy doesn't want food 24/7? There was purpose - make the sandwich - and a friend to tell how to make it.

In the past, we had shown this student the computer and the boards and customized buttons but he would click on them a little and then get bored.
"OK," I said, "let's do it!"
We set up a 6 button page and put the symbols knife, plate, bread, peanut butter, and jelly on it. We tested it and the voice was fine - everything seemed ready. Our student's friend came in to help and the SLP had them clean off the table and then prepared the student, we'll call him Juan for easier reference, so Juan could see the button of the home kitchen, lunch and then the sandwich choice.
"Here are some things you need to make a sandwich Juan. Would you like to make one today?"
"Se," said Juan (he has a small vocabulary he uses.)
While they looked at the screen, Juan was asked to say which thing we needed first. He looked at the buttons and pointed to the plate. (We had never seen him interact quite like this before.)
"Say plate Juan," said the SLP. Juan turned to try and say plate to his friend but he couldn't say it.
"Use the mouse and click on the plate - say it with the computer." said the SLP.
Juan clicked on the plate button..."Plate," it said. He smiled. We cheered.

This went on through each item. Juan's friend would get each thing and bring it to the table and we would ask Juan, "Did he bring the right thing?"
"Se," Juan would say and smile - you could see his wheels turning inside. Someone was following what he said when he gave directions with the buttons.
Once everything was ready, we had Juan use the buttons again to tell his friend what to do: Get out what? The bread. What do you spread things with? The knife. What do you spread? Spread the peanut butter, spread the jam, put the bread together - we didn't have a button for this but Juan folded his hands together to show putting it together!
As they worked through the process, now and then Juan would get excited and say, "Go Tyler, go!" Then they cut it in half.
"Now you get to enjoy your sandwich. You worked hard for that sandwich," said the SLP.
They both sat and munched. You could see a sense of pride and new awareness in Juan's demeanor as he ate. He looked and acted very grown up. This was his sandwich and he had been able to use his own system of communication to guide someone to make it.
It was one small step - just a simple sandwich - but yet it was a giant step for this young man - the door is open and he has the world ahead of him - just you wait and see!

All the best to you!



Patrick Black said...

This is such an inspiring story, thank you so much for sharing Lon!!

Trish said...

The same word came to my mind - inspiring! It's so awesome when everything comes together like that. :)

Lon said...

I am so excited about the corner this young man turned - and thanks for your affirmations too!
Our regional Dynavox field consultant in Oregon has been incredibly supportive with the semester ware for computers and training/support. I have been able to get buy-in from our speech department to implement this, and our districts are moving beyond the price tag fear and looking at what students need - I am blessed to be in such a supportive region. All of this together is allowing things like this to happen.