Posts Tagged ‘aac’
Sensory Communication – Sensory Stories
Hello everyone, my name is Joanna Grace and I write sensory stories for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities. I’m currently running a project on Kickstarter to create a set of these stories that families could use – please check it out, we only have a few days left!
Sensory stories have many things to offer children, one of which is the opportunity to develop communication. I’ll explain, but first I should tell you what a sensory story is!
What Are Sensory Stories?
Sensory stories are constructed out of a combination of sensory experiences and text.
I aim to write stories in less than ten sentences. You might think you can’t get much of a story into so little text, but think of how much a poet can convey in a haiku, and think of the adage a ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ and you’ve a start on imagining what could be in a sensory story.
I seek out rich sensory experiences to put into my stories, these needn’t be expensive things, it’s just a matter of viewing the world creatively and spotting things that would make a good experience. This can get you a few funny looks as you sniff things in shops, or feel them, but it’s a lot of fun. I aim to put at least one experience from each of the five famous senses into a story (did you have seven senses?)
Why sensory stimulation?
Your brain needs sensory input in order to develop and lay down neural pathways. An able bodied child can access a wide range of sensory stimuli for themselves, a child with physical disabilities will need help to access a range of stimuli. Sensory stories are a fun way of providing this support.
Communication Support for Children with Additional Needs
Sensory stories can support communication in children with profound and multiple learning disabilities in a number of ways:
Researchers have found that some of the passivity they observe in individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities is not down to the disability itself but to a learned helplessness that
leaves the individual disengaged with the world. When you think about it, it is easy to see how, if you couldn’t easily access the world around you, you might begin to see it as not relevant to you and turn inwards seeking stimulation from within. In some cases this can also include self harm as a means of gaining stimulation. By introducing sensory experiences to individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities you can encourage them to become interested in objects and people. This is a great first step towards communication.
Story telling is a wonderful form of communication that our ancestors enjoyed and that future generations will enjoy. It’s a way we bond ourselves together and form our identities. By sharing a story in a sensory way you can include someone who accesses the world in a purely sensory way in the experience of story telling. Aspects of the process of telling the story also support individuals in learning skills involved in communication, for example the turn taking nature of sharing the story: that I say the words, and then you experience the stimuli, echoes the turn taking nature of conversation: it’s your turn to speak, my turn to listen, then my turn to speak, your time to listen.
People who care for individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities try hard to personalise that care in a way that the individual would choose for themselves were they able to express themselves. Choices are made on our best discernment of what they individual with profound and multiple learning disabilities would want. Through sharing a sensory story with someone and noting their reactions carefully over time you can learning things like: they prefer the smell of lemons to the smell of roses, they enjoy the bang of a drum more than the ringing of a bell. These small insights can be used to personalise their care in a way that will be meaningful to them, for example by purchasing citrus shower gel rather than a floral one, or by using a drum as an alarm clock rather than a buzzer. Though small these things are immensely valuable to a person’s quality of life.
Supporting Joanna’s Sensory Story Project
I want sensory stories to be available for families to share at home, that’s my motivation for the project. The project ends at 5:22am EDT on May 21st, please have a look before then. In exchange for backing the project you receive a reward of your choosing; there are many things on offer including sensory stories themselves. Come and join us.
To read more about Joanna’s Sensory Story Project and for further information on how to get involved in her Kickstarter project, click here to visit the Sensory Play Tray blog.
Sensory Stories are vital for reaching out to children with additional needs, especially those with communication issues who find it hard to express their understanding of the world around them through speech. Technology has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past decade, and now provides children with communication issues a new and immediate way to express their needs and wants through touch screen interaction, rather than relying on speech.
After you’ve checked out Joanna’s Kickstarter project, why not have a look through our informative posts that cover some fantastic apps to aid communication and our compendium of iPad apps that use augmentative and alternative communication to aid self-expression?
Communication Aids for Older People
As we age many of us succumb to conditions and the natural effects of ageing which means communication and the use of other faculties becomes difficult. From macular degeneration to dementia, many conditions can affect communication and finding communication aids and devices for the elderly is a sensible move when looking to ensure quality of life is maintained. Obviously depending on the particular issues faced by the individual elderly person in question the requirements from a communication device will differ. The communication devices that we look are particularly valuable to the older people and can make a huge different to daily life.
Due to conditions such as dementia causing a decline in cognitive abilities, modern technologies are usually avoided when considering communication aids for the elderly. There is nothing to say that some people may be capable of communicating via an electronic AAC device in most instances introducing this new technology would just provide more confusion, hence the devices mentioned below being quite simplistic in comparison to many on the market.
Simple and straightforward, Menuboard allows an elderly person who may have become non-verbal or has non-verbal periods to put across what they want to eat. Obviously eating is a basic human right and choosing your own meals is something integral to remaining independent. Alternatively, this board can be used in a care home environment to signify to groups of elderly people what’s arranged for meal times.
Aquapaint has been developed specifically for those living with dementia and is designed to promote conversation and communication through art therapy. Not only do they promote communication, water-based aqua paints are able to provide endless stimulation and the finished product can instil a sense of pride in individuals who are struggling to deal with the rapid onset of the disease.
We’d also suggest users trying out Aquapaints could consider a Trabasack lap tray as the perfect painting surface, especially when topped with a Trabasack non-slip mat, keeping the surface of the lap tray perfectly clean thanks to the non-slip mat’s protective covering. The Trabasack sits comfortably on your lap without exerting pressure and provides the perfect portable table.
This video shows Aquapaint in action:
Talking Mats are a further low-tech communication device, simply comprising pictures, words and the requirement of the individual to point out or nod towards their specific request or requirement. They can help with the expression of feelings as well as giving directions and are extremely simple, providing an anxiety-free communication method without the need to worry about modern technology.
These are just thee communication devices which could benefit the older people. There are many more on the market which may suit individuals and of course, each person has their own personal requirements, strengths and weaknesses so may suit a different type of device altogether.
Following on from part 4 in our series of blog posts covering the extensive and ever-growing range of AAC apps available for iPad, we have a collection of symbol-based applications that are designed to aid your child with their communication, without relying on verbal prompts.
Each of the apps chosen for our AAC Apps blog compendium were individually assessed and compiled by Jane Farral – a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.
Gabby Tabs was developed by the parents of a child whom is non-verbal autistic, to provide an app with an in-depth understanding of the methods required to allow a parent to communicate with their child with AAC needs. The emphasis of this iPad app is to provide carers with an immediately easy-to-use, “ready-to-go” interface, filled with pre-installed commonly used symbols and audio. The simple and brightly-coloured interface of this app will immediately appeal to younger children, and hopefully encourage them to communicate their wants and needs with ease.
The GoTalk Now app has been created by an educational company with over 25 years experience of creating tools specifically for AAC. The app allows you to create templates or “books” of information directly related to your child’s lifestyle and needs, using voice recording, text-to-speech, video and either Imagine Symbols or your own, user-uploaded images. Your completed books can also be shared online or stored online for use no matter what your location, as long as an internet connection is available.
The Grace – Picture Exchange app comes is a highly commended AAC app that won both the 2010 Irish Web Award and the United Nations World Summit Mobile Award. The app focuses on simple a picture exchange system to allow children and adults with autism to communicate with ease. The user can select images to create sentences, which are then used to encourage the child to attempt their own vocalisation. This intuitive app comes with a basic collection of images with the function for uploading your own, and also supports the iPad’s 3-axis “gyroscope” to allow even further interactivity.
The I Click I Talk iPad app features some unique technical add-ons that are generally unavailable on other AAC apps, most specifically the ability to monitor and analyse your child’s usage data and statistics. It can help the carer to monitor the frequency each image has been activated, or whether a child prefers photograph symbols over cartoon-style images. This is an excellent tool for helping to create a truly individual AAC aid for your child, allowing you to cater to their specific visual tastes and interests.
The iAssist Communicator app is aimed at children on the autistic spectrum whom are more cognitively challenged – therefore the app moves away from the use of abstract, cartoon-like symbols, and relies purely on photo-realistic images for communication. As with many of the AAC apps we have featured so far, iAssist was created by a parent, therefore usability and the ability to customise categories has been taken well into account. This app comes pre-installed with 240 photos and voice-recordings, and also with every purchase made of this dynamic app, 10% of the cost will be donated to non-profit autism organizations.
We hope that these intuitive AAC apps provide both yourself and your child with a fun and interesting communication experience, and to provide your child with an even more carefree learning experience, why not consider the new Trabasack Media Mount? The Trabasack Media Mount is a flexible, multi purpose mounting device, useful for supporting iPads and other tablet computers at just the right angle, leaving your child’s hands free for touch screen interaction.
The Trabasack Media Mount is made of soft hook and loop receptive material with a velcro strip along one side. This means that you can twist it to any shape and it will stick to itself, and can be secured to the Trabasack Curve Connect lap tray with ease.
In our recent posts covering some of the best AAC apps currently on offer for both iPad and iPhone, we have featured contemporary and easy-to-use AAC aids that we hope will provide both you and your child with a modern and fun way to communicate via touch screen technology.
In part 4 of our AAC iPad app guide we have yet more innovative titles as provided by Jane Farral – a speech pathologist and special educator with over 20 years of practical knowledge in the field of disability and assistive technology. Jane is highly experienced in the teaching of both adults and children with varying abilities, and holds a Masters in Special Education, where she concentrated on literacy acquisition in children and adults without speech.
The Expressionist iPhone app comes highly acclaimed by schools and therapists world-wide, for providing an intuitive and easy-to-use aid in helping children learn about self-expression and emotions. Each scene includes a cartoon character of a little boy, who’s easy to understand facial expressions and gestures inspire children to imitate and then utilise for expressing their own wants and needs. This straight-forward app includes a wealth of over 120 commonly used expressions, which are organised in to several different categories, including; greetings, feelings, senses, activities, questions and more.
Expressive is a Smarty Symbol based app for both iPad and iPhone that helps those with communication disorders (such as autism and apraxia) express their wants and needs via a powerful yet easy to grasp interface. This app has been specifically designed for ease of use, and little to no previous programming experience is necessary to get started with the app. The app includes over 600 pre-installed symbols and allows you to upload your own personal images and record audio, to provide a truly bespoke AAC aid, to fit your child’s personal needs.
Flashables is a flash card style app that utilises the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to help children to communicate via images rather than words. The symbols are designed so that the child chooses their desired object (food, toys or activity for example) and it is then up to the parent or caregiver to instantly provide the child with the expressed object, helping to reinforce the understanding of cause and effect for children whom struggle to communicate via verbal prompts.
The FreeSpeech app allows the user to easily create folders of items (such as wants/needs), which can then be chosen by the child to express themselves using the touch screen capabilities of the iPad. This app comes with a plethora of pre-installed images, but also allows you to upload your own personal photographs, and has the added of bonus of providing an online community for sharing and downloading image sets.
The Gabby iPad app is a fun and informal app that allows children and adults with learning difficulties to express themselves easily via images and audio. It includes an abundance of features of tailoring the app experience to fit your child’s specific needs, and also includes an admin setting to make sure little hands can’t modify or change important settings.
Thanks to leaps in technology, providing children with smart and intuitive AAC aids is easier than ever before, and Trabasack understand that usability is all-important in assuring your child has a relaxed and fun learning experience. That’s why Trabasack have created the new Media Mount – a mounting device that can be used with electronic equipment such as iPads, tablets and slates, to ensure they remain steady and upright whilst in use. The soft hook and loop receptive material, along with a Velcro strip attached to one side, means that it fits perfectly onto the Trabasack Connect tray surface and can also be manipulated easily into many different shapes to achieve the right angle and hold for the object you’re trying to support.
Five Great Communication Apps for your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch
Apple’s position as one of the most popular, important and powerful computing and telecommunications companies cannot be disputed. Their range of devices from the original iPod to the more recent iPad and iPhone series are fantastically equipped to handle a huge range of apps and many of these can be used to significantly improve day to day life.
Many people thought Apple had designed their apps purely for entertainment and fun but there are many more uses for many of their great apps, most significantly for us, communication. At Trabasack for Communication Aids we are always looking for the latest and the best technology available to aid communication and make it more accessible. Here we’ve compiled five of the best communication apps currently available through the Apple App Store!
1 – Yes/No – a very simple communication app which is fantastic for simply answering questions. Yes/No allows the user to voice their preference to most questions with a yes or no answer. This app is fantastic for those with learning difficulties who may find open questions difficult and therefore are more confident and comfortable with simple answers.
2 – iCommunicate. – Grembe Inc. – a communication app which allows for simple expression of feelings through symbols and sounds. You can customise it with specific photos of your environment, for example you could put together a storyboard or social story photos of the individual with the disability doing their usual daily tasks. Like an interactive PECs system.
3 – TouchChat AAC with WordPower – Silver Kite – an app designed for those who have difficulty using their own voice. There are a range of set messages and sentences stored within TouchChat but you can also add your own if the non-verbal individual has particular favourite phrases or sentences they’re used to and also you can add their name to TouchChat’s vocabulary.
4 – Assistive Chat – assistive apps – much like TouchChat, Assistive Chat supports those who have difficulty using their own speech. It’s a much more affordable option and has a range of customisable settings including the voice it speaks in, the size of the font on the screen and also word prediction so keystrokes can be kept to a minimum.
5 – Grace – Picture Exchange for Non-Verbal People – an award winning app designed for non-verbal individuals. Developed for those on the autistic spectrum, Grace is designed to allow users to choose pictures to express their needs independently and in time, where possible, vocalise their needs alongside using the picture.
These are just five of the great communications apps on the market and we believe each one of them can be really useful for furthering independence and general life experiences!
If you’re lucky enough to own one of these great Apple devices, don’t forget how useful your Trabasack can be. The Trabasack Mini in particular is designed to perfectly fit an iPad 2 and it’s a brilliant storage space for any Apple device. Equally, the Trabasack tray surface gives you the option of somewhere safe and secure to rest your Apple device when not in use!