Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ask me a question

We've been working on communication with Emma for a very long time.  And to me, it seems even longer ;-)

Emma had been doing great with a Yes/No response on the iPad, but the iPad just isn't always available for a question.  And then we moved and we have lots of kids in the neighborhood that include Emma and they ask her questions and it's awkward for her to have me get in the way with an iPad for her to respond.  It totally ruins the moment and then Emma ignores the iPad and me because there are kids around.  So I decided to try a method that works well for another family that I know.  It's low tech, super easy, and everyone including the kids can use it without any help.

Let me tell you what we are doing.  Basically, whoever wants to talk to Emma can ask her a question and then you hold out your right hand with your palm open facing her and your left hand fisted facing her and ask her yes (shaking right hand) or no (shaking left hand).  Emma thinks about her response and then reaches out for the appropriate hand.  It didn't take much time to get her to be very accurate with this method.  And since we've been using this a few weeks now she knows which is Yes and No so we don't have to shake it anymore.  I'm hoping that eventually you won't even have to say Yes and No when giving her the hand signal but that could come in time.  For now I'm super excited that we have a method that Emma seems to want to use and that anyone can use with Emma.  It's amazing how many people talk to Emma and now I don't have to answer for her all the time - good for her and for me!

The key to this method is consistency.  Keeping the Yes and No always on the proper side.  Emma's speech therapist at school talked with me about maybe replacing the Yes No with a card on her tray because apparently some people working with Emma have a hard time remembering which hand is which.  I nixed her tray idea pretty quickly because Emma is very rarely in equipment with a tray at home, we want to use the same method regardless of where she is (school vs. home), and it's not easily implemented with kids.  The reality is that Emma should be interacting with everyone and it's especially important that her peers know a way to involve her in a discussion.  I also said that her aid should know Emma's Yes and No and be able to remind anyone that needs a reminder.  Her SLP agreed with me.

But our discussion had me thinking and so I offered to create a card to hang on her wheelchair and other equipment so everyone would easily know her Yes and No.  The card I made is at the top of this blog post.  It's a 5" x 4" laminated card, so large enough to see easily but not in your face large.  It complements the other card hanging on her wheelchair that introduces Emma to people.  It's amazing how many people read her introduction card and then come up to her and talk to her.  Thanks to Tara over at Endless Jubilee for the introduction card idea!

Emma's introduction card.  Might be time to update this with a more recent photo - my girl is growing up!

4 Comments from readers:

AZ Chapman said...

this seems like a good idea my name is AZ and i am a collage student with mild cp i hope u come to visit my blog

ennydots said...

Hi K, my super clever, non-verbal very severe son (eg no reaching or switching without getting totally stuck) uses the two hand concept for communication really well by eye gaze. We've taken it a step further and keep it totally flexible for any two choice question. We ask a question and then wave one hand for one answer then the other hand for the other answer. He very clearly looks at the one for his answer. Sure a speech therapist will tell me that life can't be reduced to two options, but at least he's making choices, being involved and communicating. And when nothing else we've tried is working we love this. The kids at school have picked it up do quickly. At the park one day a girl was asking what activity he wanted to do and her mum asked me 'what's she doing?' she had no idea how clever or caring her daughter was and her daughter didn't think she was doing anything special! Keep up the great work - unlocking these kids is hard work but so worth it!

The Bynums said...

Love it! Love the introduction card too! I have been wondering how to help people understand Tessa better, and this could be a fun start...putting this card somewhere on her power chair. Such great information Kristina, thanks!!

Tricia said...

What a simple, yet fantastic, way to help her communicate. She must just love interacting with the other children.