Thursday, February 27, 2014

Millie's 'talker'


It's about time I update you all on how Millie is doing with her talker.

In January I just could not wait to get it. I was counting the minutes until it arrived.

And then it got here and I opened it and I went to set it up ...

.. and I got totally overwhelmed and confused.

Because here's the thing. We live in northern Minnesota which we absolutely love and would have no other way. But living in the gorgeous northwoods, with its abundance of lakes and pines, great schools, wonderful people etc., it does have some drawbacks and one of them is that we don't have that immediate access to very specialized experts, like those who specifically have worked with 2-year-olds on assisted and augmented communication devices (AACs). We have gotten great support from our local contacts and Millie's therapists, don't get me wrong, but this new device, is brand new to all of us here.

So, for about a month, I kind of limped along with it.

Don't get me wrong, I got it set up and working. But I knew I hadn't set it up quite right and was offering Millie way too many options. So for the last month, I was focused just on the "reading" buttons, where she was slowly but pointedly taught that if she wanted me to read her books (her most favorite activity), she had to select the button every time that said for her, "Please read this to me."

We made great progress, she was connecting the idea of using the device to express what she wants and getting that delivered to her.

But, I'll be honest here, it certainly wasn't worth what we paid for device. Not then.

But now, things are thankfully changing.

Our "local" rep. came up Monday. She serves this whole region but is based in the Cities. She comes up every couple of months. I had plenty of time to sit down with her on Monday, express my frustrations and she very slowly, very helpfully not just fixed it, but more importantly, taught me how to fix it, how to set it all up.

The device utilizes "scenes" to offer a range of buttons. So, for example, under the "my family scene" (which has a photo of a family), Millie can select "dad," "mom," "sister," "dog," etc., etc.

This week I've spent a good several hours replacing so many of those standard pictures with pictures of us and changing what the device will say.

Millie now selects a button of herself: "Hi, I'm Millie. I'm 2 years old." Another button proclaims, "I live in Bemidji" (which, yes, to my surprise too was pronounced pretty darned close to correctly.) Now I just need a picture of Paul and Babe, but it's too darn cold to make it worth my while.

A picture of Lola, "This is my sister Lola. She's 5."

A picture of all of us together is, "This is my family."

Then you add in the additional options like "I love them" or "I'm angry with them" or "I want to color" and you can see, how eventually, she'll be able to say something such as "Lola, do you want to play legos with me?" or "Daddy, when it is it time to eat pizza?"

Add all that into the other changes we've made -- such as reducing the number of scenes we use at this time and the number of buttons available -- and I am so much more excited about this all again.

Under the reading scene for example I can take pictures of her preferred books. So it's not "Will you please read to me?" but "Will you please read me my Ariel book?"

Under food, it's not options for hamburgers and grilled steaks but now yogurt and goldfish crackers.

Slowly, finally, it's not just a device.

It's Millie's device.

And that makes me happy.
- Bethany :)

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