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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Talking Footprints

Some may think Christian can't communicate or that he communicates very little. Actually, Christian is very good at communicating when he's mad, upset, pissed, hurt, aggrivated, content, comfortable, uncomfortable, and happy as far as Christian shows happiness. He has different cries and sounds that have different degrees of irritability. Make no mistake, if he's mad, you'll know about it.

We have taken the next step and decided to experiment with talkers. A talker is a device that we can program that "talks" for the child.

When considering a talker, I had doubts. Like, would he respond? What if he didn't respond? Does that mean he has nothing to say? What if he has a lot to say but his body won't allow him to communicate?

So I went into this talker business just to try it out and give him the opportunity. I didn't even know where to start. Our OT brought us a few switch activated toys and a talker with two buttons and placeholders for pictures on those buttons so we could help him see each button and make choices between the two buttons.

I didn't put much weight into all of it, after all, we were just trying things out. I didn't stand by watching his every move. I really didn't even know what to do with it and didn't mess with it for the first two weeks we had it. This may not seem very optimistic but you learn to be gaurded when dealing with these kinds of devices. I've learned over and over that what may work for one kid, might not be for Christian. And that's okay. So we were just playing around with the idea of a talker.

Little did I know, Christian would catch on quickly and show us that maybe he does have something to say.

I won't go into the switch activated toys quite yet. I'm saving that for another post. I decided to try out the talker. The talker has two big square buttons, one on the left and one on the right. Each button is voice recordable. At first I recorded the right side with the Happy Birthday song because Christian seems to really like that song. On the left side I recorded, "No, Lola!"

Christian seemed to catch on, whether by accident or on purpose, and kept hitting the Happy Birthday song. So I took his lead and forged on to the next step. I recorded "Ma-ma" on the right button and taped a picture of me and on the left button I recorded, "Dad-dy," and taped a picture of Manny. Then, hand over hand, I helped Christian push each button over and over on each side so he could see what each button did. My goal was to leave little footprints on his brain that would lead to cause and effect and him learning to use the talker to communicate. But only if he was up for it.

We played around with this option and then I kind of walked away for something and heard it.


He did it on his own. Whether by accident or on purpose...he did it. Footprints.

Then he did it for his OT. He hit the Ma-ma button on the right when I walked away to do laundrey.

So what's a Mama to do?! Well, every time he hits the Ma-ma button, I run back to him so he sees that when he hits that button, Mama comes runnin'.

Now, I have a ton of annoying video I want to share. I'm very proud of these videos. But I should let you know that it is all very subtle. Some of his movement might even look accidental. You have to listen very carefully (not to me, I'm loud and annoying), you have to watch very carefully (sorry, it's dark in my house), and you have to ignore the mess that is my house. Mmmkay?

Let's begin.

This video is when Christian kept hitting the Daddy button. It's an example of how we are trying to teach him what each button does.

Here is more video teaching him what the buttons do. In each video watch him use his right and his left crossing over to each button, not just hitting the closest button to each corresponding hand.

These videos are longer. Hang in there. These are the videos I've caught where when I leave, he seeks out the Mama button.

After a while I thought it might be a little mean to leave the Daddy button active if Daddy was at work and couldn't come to him if he called. So I changed it to "Toys." Then I put some toys on his tray. This ended up being my favorite reaction and video.

This one happened almost instantaneously. I showed him what the button did. I showed him his toys. I put them down in front of him. And by the time I could pick up the camera, he had already knocked over his toys once and hit the toys button.

So there you have it. It's a start. I have to say that once I saw Christian purposely using the buttons, I felt bad taking them away from him like it was taking away his voice or something.

Even if every single move was an accident (although, knowing Christian, I believe most of that was intentional), the talker is a very good tool to teach cause and effect. And it seems to motivate Christian to reach and move his arms, which has been a challenge in the seated position in the past. The alternative would be that he just sits there and does nothing, which he has also done in the past. But not with the talker. So we'll see where this goes.

We're leaving footprints, baby.

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