Many of you already know Darlene, either from this Forum or through workshops or as a therapist. Darlene is a speech and language therapist whose prctice focuses on nonverbal people with ASD. She has pioneered a unique intervention method which combines pointing and speaking. Darlene has a very helpful newsletter which I have included here below (it can also be found on her website: www.darlenehanson.com).-Portia
Message From Darlene
There has been a lot happening in the past few months. Core Communication Partners has now become part of WAPADH, Whittier Area Parent Association for the Developmentally Handicapped. WAPADH is a non-profit agency supporting individuals in the Whittier and Santa Fe Springs area of California. Katie Bernal and I are now staffing their Communication Services department. We are a Non Public Agency, and provide assessment, therapy, coaching and training to individuals and their teams throughout California. We are very excited about this new partnership.
Dr. Christi Hendrickson and I, along with 17 participants, just completed our first Mentorship Project in California. We had participants from the Davis , San Jose , and Los Angeles/Orange County area. Those who participated have increased their skills in advocacy and coaching for teams who use Facilitated Communication and AAC. Christi and I are now preparing to begin the second project in Iowa in January of 2009.
In this issue I want to discuss some of the nuts and bolts we can use to enhance communication and build a team that works toward functional and "independent" communication.
Webcam consultations are available for those of you just needing some pointers. Contact us at: www.darlenehanson.com.
What is Functional Communication?
Some of us are into scrapbooking. If you are or are not, you can use this concept to create journals that can be used to tell your stories, work on expressive language skills, and develop social skills. By taking pictures or saving brochures you can create a folder or scrapbook of visuals to describe. Use these visuals as something to talk about.
To address functional communication you will want to look at a variety of means of communication. You may be able to create expressive language through written language however that may not be appropriate on a playground. You may be able to independently use your PECS book for basic wants and needs but this wouldn't allow you to generate a five-paragraph essay for your language arts class. When choosing equipment or writing goals think of all of the contexts of communication. Then build and design a program that creates communicative opportunities in all settings.
The Communication Dictionary
The communication dictionary is a great way to document, and remind us, of all the various means of communication a person uses. (I have a PDF of a communication dictionary on my website you can download.) Why do you want one? The Communication Dictionary provides an opportunity to document the individual acts of communication, what they mean when they happen, and how best for the communication partner to respond. They are most often completed in written form, however you could take a photo if that is more descriptive.
You want to document all acts of communication. Include vocalizations, words, phrases, gestures, symbols used, devices, systems, or any other creative way a person communicates. Be sure to include how the person does when asked to answer a "yes/no" question. This skill is often over emphasized and not reliable.
In the past few months a colleague and I have started creating power point or keynote presentations to describe the individuals communication. We insert video of the description into the presentation. This allows for us to describe how communication is happening in different situations. However you choose to create a dictionary is dependent on your needs and how you want to be able to share the information and train new communication partners. Our goal in suggesting this is to assist the person with the communication difference in describing who they are as a communicator and speed up the process of training new people. You can find a copy of a Communication Dictionary form on my website: www.darlenehanson.com, look under 'resources'.
A large part of functionality is the ability to initiate communication. When we ask people "How do you initiate?" there are all kinds of different answers. Communication can be non verbal and/or verbal. So initiation of communication can happen in both ways as well. Some people use their body language or vocalizations to indicate they have something to say. Some people initiate by readying their hand in a point. Others grab the arm of their support person. Others are able to go and retrieve their communication system/device and bring it to their communication partners.
If you are supporting a person to communicate and assisting them to work on "initiation" it is helpful to enter into a discussion with your person on their views and how they think they are currently initiating. From there you can work to fade the prompts and encourage initiation. Just the other day I was working with my friend Emma on her initiation. We kept her Lightwriter on the table somewhat in position to communicate. Emma would take my hand and place it where she needed it to communicate. For her she placed my hand on her back. She was then able to move her device into position and started her communication. This isn't her ultimate goal but it is progress and she is directing the process.
It is also important to leave time and pauses in the timing of communication. If we hurry the process so that as soon as the speaking person stops talking the AAC users starts communicating we may be missing an opportunity for growth. When you finish speaking stay attentive to your AAC user/communication partner and wait to see if there is a way the individual will initiate their turn. (Of course you have to be reasonable on this and have a sense of how long to wait for this to occur.)
Initiation of your turn and communication is an important social skill. We can support the individuals who use AAC to develop this skill or we can continue to "help" them to communicate. If you haven't thought about "initiation" lately make this a New Years Goal!