All about Ashley and her communication journey
Ashley is a 30-year-old Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (supervised by Mark Rehm, LPC-S). She recently attended ATIA 2023 as a distinguished lecturer.
She uses Fast Talker within Grid software to communicate on her Grid Pad 12 with eye gaze. Grid has enabled Ashley to reach her education goals, pursue career aspirations, and make speeches sharing her AAC journey.
Keep reading to find out more about how Ashley uses AAC.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Ashley, I am 30 years old and I live in Texas. I have cerebral palsy and use eye gaze to communicate.
I have two dogs named Jax and Jinx. Jax is a terrier and Jinx is a rat terrier. I love motivational speaking and providing hope to others. I also love to read and write. As an AAC user, I communicate through writing. Therefore, other than mental health, writing is another one of my interests that provides me the gift of helping others.
How do you communicate?
I use the Grid Pad 12. It is an amazing device that has helped me tremendously. My favorite part is the long battery life. I also like the size – it doesn’t take over my entire appearance.
I also eye gaze via my Grid Pad, and I have been using Grid for six years. I primarily use my device when in public because I am able to use other communication methods around my family at home.
How did your journey with assistive technology begin?
Due to my type of cerebral palsy, I am unable to speak. I can speak a little bit, but it is incoherent to those who are not consistently around me. Plus, it takes a lot of energy to speak, so I rely on a communication device.
When I was three years old, I was in a special education self-contained classroom because I didn’t have a way to communicate. No one realized my cognitive abilities, even though there was some speculation. One day I laughed at a joke that an adult said, and I was the only student who did. This lead my teacher to believe that I was at a higher cognitive level than the other students, I just needed a way to communicate. Ultimately, I started using AAC and soon after I transferred to general education, where I excelled in each grade level.
‘Speech generating devices make it possible for AAC users to show how smart they really are.’
Outside of education, I have given numerous speeches surrounding my journey, to give hope to others. I also have helped parents who have children in the beginning stages of their AAC journey.
What have you accomplished in your career?
As a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, I provide therapy to clients while under supervision until I obtain my clinical hours, in order to become eligible for full licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor.
I graduated with my master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Angelo State University in 2021, as the first nonverbal student in the program. In the future, I would like to work with the disability community, parents of children with a disability, people who have medical trauma, and young adults.
‘Grid is amazing. I love that it has a wide variety of options.’
What do you think about Grid software?
It’s great for people with varying communication needs and abilities. I use Fast Talker for communication and computer control.
Specifically, I like that I am able to use my eyes for the internet and access everything I need to without any hindrance.
Why did you choose Grid?
I was trialing eye gaze to determine if it would be a good fit for me and Grid was the software that was used throughout the evaluation. I primarily use Grid to communicate and to access the internet, which has been largely beneficial for me.
One of my favorite features of Grid is that the prediction system remembers what I have said in the past, so if I am talking about a topic that I have discussed before, the prediction will bring up words related to the topic, which helps with my communication speed. I use computer control to access the web.
How has your speech generating device impacted your life?
‘Eye gaze has been a true blessing to me.’
Prior to receiving a Smartbox device with eye gaze access, I used one hand/finger to type. Once I was acclimatized to eye gaze and could use it effectively, my communication speed drastically increased and I also didn’t feel fatigued when typing a message.
Now that I use computer control with Fast Talker, I don’t have limited control over how I use a computer. In fact, I created a research poster entirely with my eyes for a presentation at a psychology conference.
Ashley is upgrading her eye gaze camera to a Lumin-i. We can’t wait to catch up with her later this year to find out how she is getting on with it!
Do you have a story to share?
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