June 3, 2021
Andre attends St.Amant School and he is a delightful student who works really hard. His teacher Mei Shu says: “Andre has strong motivation and ability to learn. He loves all kinds of activities in the classroom: morning routine, word searches, being the cashier in the shopping games and math! He works very hard on his academic skills.”
Andre is able to speak but his verbal ability is not always reliable and this can cause him some frustration and anxiety. His sentences are often limited to 1-2 words in length, or are a repetition of what has been said to him, but it is clear that he understands far more than he can say. He often knows what he wants and what he wants to say, but he can’t always initiate the conversation or activate his verbal language.
With the support of his teachers and St.Amant Speech Language Pathologist Lindsay, he is learning to use a variety of tools in order to increase his ability to communicate.
One such system is pretty low tech. It involves a paper based board with core vocabulary symbols (words like more, finished, like, not etc.) that can be combined to create different messages. “Because it is all printed material, we have to try to think of everything he might want to communicate and have it ready for him beforehand.” says Lindsay. This has limitations and creates some challenges. It is also cumbersome and hard to carry around.
Andre has been having great success with in the classroom with an iPad loaded with specialized communication apps. These apps provide him with a more robust set of vocabulary that he can use in any context. He’s been learning to navigate the apps to find the messages that say what he wants to say (instead of what staff “thinks” he wants to say) and he can also use the keyboard to create his own words and sentences.
Both Andre’s understanding and speaking skills improve when he has a visual cue like a photo. The device also says the word out loud and this has helped him understand and express himself more clearly as he repeats what he has heard.
Weekly speech therapy sessions and practice at school have led to some real communication gains, but having his own device would mean consistent access and much faster progress. Joyce, the school principal, says “Andre is absolutely delightful and he has come so far. Any opportunity to increase his ability to communicate and learn is much appreciated.”
If Andre had his own device, it would also mean that his family could learn to use the device with him, and improve their ability to support his communication learning.
Andre’s mom Rosemarie says she’s looking forward to having a device to use at home. It will help Andre express himself, decrease his frustration, increase his independence and encourage him to share his thoughts and feelings with his family.
Unfortunately, these specialized apps are very expensive and your help is needed. YOU can help Andre find his voice! Donate today and your gift will be matched so it will help twice as much!