Tossed in the Deep End: Now What?!

Tossed in the Deep End: Now What?!

Jeff Chaffee
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-725-1.ch016
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The purpose of this chapter is to minimize the shock and stigma of adding device users to a caseload in a school, medical, or rehabilitation setting. To this end, the author gives four strategic rules for adapting the device to the therapy setting as well as four additional strategies for improving carryover into activities of daily living, the classroom, and other settings with caregivers and loved ones. To illustrate each of these strategies, the case of Corey, an adult AAC device user, is presented. His case highlights the need for clinicians and support staff to work together towards the common goal of improving communication through the use of the computerized speech output device.
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The Four Rules For Treatment

Corey’s situation was somewhat unique. There would be approximately 1 month before he was to start coming for speech therapy—time enough for even the most terrified and technologically-backward therapist to “learn” the basics of a device and its particular ins-and-outs. In this pre-therapy time, I got to know the E-Talk well, taking it home with me, referring to online and paper manuals, and quickly bending it to my will (instead of the opposite). This taught me THERAPY RULE #1: “PREPARE!”

While “Prepare!” might seem a simple and almost pedantic first rule of thumb, there is no single better piece of advice I can give a therapist approaching “that ‘talking computer’ kid” or “the device client.” The month of preparation time I got is a rarity (some might even say a luxury), and it is certainly nothing I can tell all therapists to insist on. The practical reality is that you will receive your device-user’s case file or referral information on Monday. By their first session, it’s up to you to be a professional with the device. Preparing your sessions will take on different aspects at all points in your client’s journey with their device.

In situations where you do not have the device first, it is the therapist’s responsibility to contact the user’s family or caregiver(s). Ask them which device they are using, how many pictures are on a page, and if there have been issues with use of the touch screen, joysticks, button selection, etc. While this will not allow you to make a button saying “Good Morning, Mr. Jeff” before that first session, it does allow for preparation of your therapy space. It may also show you other areas of device usage that you may need to learn the basics of prior to that session (e.g. programming basics, linking pages, selecting icons, importing photos/pictures, etc.). With this information about the device in hand, I turn immediately to the maker’s websites. Be the device a Prentke-Romich Vantage, an E-Talk 8400 like Corey’s, a Dynavox VMax, or any other system, contacting the maker of the device via email or phone call should answer most introductory questions about the basics of use.

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