This past week Emma was cranky. A bit off and quite whiny. Since she can't talk it's not a fun state of affairs when this happens because listening to constant whining is not my idea of fun. I'm anxious for the time when she is better at using her talker - it can't come soon enough.
Last week her SLP and I decided that Emma was making good progress with the words on her talker and it was time to add more. We added more core words and fringe vocabulary. Basically, what that means is that when Emma chooses one of the main core works on her screen, the row at the top offers her a variety of fringe words. She can now say "in" as her core word and the her top row (aka the activity row) gives her the option of saying "wheelchair" "stander" "walker" "crawler" "swing" etc. We also changed up the activity row for the "want" core words so now she can say "Erica" "iPad" "Mommy" "Daddy" "Julia" "friends" and a few more. Erica is her personal care assistant at school and friends is just generic to encompass either her friends at school, her friends at home, etc.
Last night I also added in "feel" to the core words. Her options under feel are "good" "bad" "happy" "excited" "mad" "hurt" etc. I am hoping working with these words will help Emma tell us when she isn't feeling good and where she doesn't feel good. She knows her body parts so if she tells me she "feel" "hurt" then we can go to to body parts page and she can tell me what hurts. This is one of the most exciting things about Emma's talker - that she will be able to let us know what is wrong with her instead of us trying to constantly guess from her whines. It will be life changing - at least for me even if she doesn't think it is for her ;-)
None of this matters, though, if she doesn't use Evie. We are finding ways to increase her access to it while at home and are also mounting it on her wheelchair whenever she is in it. We are modeling the device for her to teach her how to use it. For example, when people say hi to her we show her where "hi" is on Evie and we push it. Our goal is to have her look and say "hi" to others independently. We also show her "go" "bathroom" or "need" "toilet" when it's time to go to the potty. We do this over and over again throughout the day on our various activities, changing the buttons we push based on what we are doing.
Our efforts must be paying off. Emma has independently commented in her classroom at school. For example, during art she has for scissors, markers, glue, etc. without prompting. She has also used a few other words in her classroom. This is big stuff. Especially for my little girl who would prefer to go through life as an avid observer rather than work at communication.
Today, though, I got really excited when she said "hi" to her PT when she came out to get her for her session. I think this is the first time she independently and self-initiated a conversation! Then when we went back to the room Ms. Cindy had out and Emma's favorite swing and she got really excited. She said "in" "swing" and Ms. Cindy promptly put her into the swing. When her session was over she said "eat" "drink" and I told her she would get her lunch once we drove to her school. She smiled and then said "need" "toilet". So we went to the bathroom with the little bitty toilet in it (it's Emma favorite toilet ever!) just before we left.
I think all our focus on Emma's communication is starting to pay off. I pray these aren't isolated communications from her but rather are the start of lots of chatting with my girl! I hope one day to catch some of this on video so I can share it but Emma's a tricky one when it comes to cameras. She loves to get her photo taken and stops everything she is doing when she gets even the hint that a camera or video is around. I'll have to try some covert video operations to capture her progression with Evie.
I'm so thankful that God is helping make things click for Emma and she is starting to use Evie more. Here's to getting us on a path where whining and us guessing what it could be about are a thing of the past.