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Thursday, April 19, 2018

"Talker Machine?"

Janey does things her own way.  We've learned our lesson through the years, and trying to force her to do thing our way doesn't go over well.  This is proving true with our foray into TouchChat.

Last week, Janey's wonderful teacher synched TouchChat at school with our version at home, and also added to both buttons for our family and friends (and cats).  It's fantastic having a way finally to talk to Janey about specific people at school, and to let her talk about people at home while she's at school.  I've been playing around with TC constantly on my own, figuring out all its features.  And we've had it available for Janey to use at all times.

So, how is she taking to it?  It's a mixed bag.  I'll have to say it can be frustrating.  The most common thing Janey does with the program is pick the exact middle button, over and over, though screen after screen.  Doing this creates the sentence "I don't want to listen to CD"  Maybe this is a message Janey wants to get to us, but the thing is, she has basically never seen a CD, never listens to them, and when I showed her some and tried to figure out if she knew what they were or did, she showed no interest.  So like with a lot of things, I think pressing the middle buttons has become a routine, not really a way to communicate.  And that's fine.  If that is a way Janey enjoys using her "talker", and it makes her feel comfortable with it, I am happy.  But I do wish she'd be a little more interested in exploring other possibilities.

I've been doing a lot of reading about getting started with AAC, and modeling the use of the device is a big part of it.  So I am often using it to either say things I want to say to Janey, or to model what she might want to say with it.  For example, if she is irritated we don't immediately take her for a car ride when she wants to, I make it say "I am frustrated" or " I want to go to the store" or "I want to wear shoes" (another way she asks for rides).  This doesn't seem to encourage her to use TC to talk to us, but it does seem to be helping her organize her verbal talking, which is wonderful.  We've heard her use more complete sentences lately than usual.  The other day, she said "I want you to clean my foot" to me, extremely clearly.  The usual way she'd ask something like this is to point to herself and say "you want to clean feet?"  I was startled and thrilled.

The tricky thing with getting Janey into TC is that she is at the height right now of a teenager phase of not wanting me around often.  The most common thing we hear lately is "Want to go away?"  She wants to be alone when she watches her videos, or plays with her regular iPad watching YouTube on her bed, or basically any time we are around harshing her mellow and getting in her face.  So having me cheerily constantly around modeling TC is not really how she wants to spend her time.  I'm finding the time she's most open to it is when she wants something from us.  If you've had teens ever, you know that is about as typical as it gets.  When she wants a ride, or wants us to cook her something, or wants a certain video, she is much more motivated to at least watch us use the TC than other times.

Most nights, as I lie down with Janey to snuggle as she falls asleep, something I do most every thing, I've been having the TC open and playing around with her, saying silly things to each other like "I'm so over that!" and "Whatever!"---one of the great features of the program is it lets teenagers say teenage things like that.  Last night, though, I didn't bring it with me for our snuggle, as Janey has been resistant to it throughout the day and I didn't want to irritate her.  But after we were snuggled down, Janey said "Talker machine? Want to get talker machine?"  That was a wonderful thing to hear.  Whether Janey is using AAC in a conventional way or not, we are having fun with it, and I'll continue to model and play around and do what I can to give Janey a way to augment her verbal talking.

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