Alison arrived at Bridge College with her PECS communication book in hand. She has now progressed to using Grid Player on an iPad. Rachel Stevens, Speech and Language Therapist, from Bridge College tells her story.
Alison is a young lady who has many interests
She loves going to the theatre with her family and enjoys a good sing-a-long to the music of Abba and Michael Jackson, with rhythm and beat being very important. Superhero and Disney films are also a hit!
Whilst Alison has a diagnosis of Severe Learning Disability and Autism, she has a good level of understanding but her expression is limited to vocalisations and facial expression. Sometimes, Alison also finds social interaction difficult and often chooses to close her eyes and fold her arms rather than interact with others.
When Alison started at Bridge College (Sept 2010) she had PECS book (picture exchange communication), having previously used this well at school, but seemed to have outgrown it. As a result, Bridge College gave Alison a GoTalk9 communication aid. This Mid Tech device meant that, through pictures, Alison could use this to ask for food and drink and greet her peers. Teaching Alison about the device and encouraging her to use it required plenty of prompting and encouragement but once she became motivated she used the device very well and, importantly, independently.
The progression was then for Alison to try a tablet owned by the college. Based on a grid system, Alison could begin leaning communication through use of the touch screen. She was excited by and enjoyed looking at the symbols on the page and learning the grid navigation to locate and learn different words. After her family visited the college to see Alison in action on the tablet, they were so encouraged by her new skill that they purchased and iPad and Grid Player software for Alison with home visits from a Speech and Language Therapist to support Alison’s family in setting up their equipment at home.
The iPad has now become part of every day life
Alison is using the iPad to join in with sessions and interact with staff and peers. Whilst she will always need some encouragement to interact with others, Alison can now share her thoughts and opinions in a way that was not previously possible, such as in situations with unfamiliar people. This, in turn, helps her to work on her social skills too, encouraging her to share her favorite books and videos with members of staff at the college. Being particularly motivated by books such as Dr Seuss, staff have been able to work on developing skills such as joint attention, eye contact and turn taking.
The device has meant that Alison now has a means to express herself when she chooses to and has learnt to use her voice to not just meet her needs but to share and enjoy activities with others. Staff at the college who work closely with her have reported an increase in confidence and self esteem with Alison vocalising more, attempting the words she hears on her device and using a wider range of non verbal communication such as facial expression and gesture. These developments support her continuing education and skill development.
Family and staff who will be working with her in the future will be invited to a training session on using The Grid 2 before Alison leaves Bridge (supported by a representative from Smartbox). It is hoped that this training will provide these individuals with the skills to support Alison to continue to use The Grid 2 and her iPad to communicate. Providing ongoing support for use of the iPad will help to ensure that her social skills and self esteem continue to increase after she leaves Bridge College.
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