Category Archives: Maricor Pagsanjan

Speech Therapist: Communication as a support system

As professionals in speech therapy we know and understand how communication can be someone’s livelihood.   Communicating well with a communication device has the ability to give a person who has significant physical disabilities a chance to make a living and a life for themselves.    I am living proof someone with significant physical and speech disabilities can make a life for themselves and have people to actually rely on them for their expertise.   At the last IEP I attended I was the point person for every question about the client as I know a lot about the issues that the particular client is currently experiencing.   We want our clients to grow up to make a difference in society and that starts with helping the individual develop adequate communication skills.

I have several of mentees and the ones who are thriving are the ones who have adequate support at home as well as at school.   Children across the board need a strong support system at home to be able to grow and blossom at school and therapy.   The mentee who is having a challenging time moving her communication goals also has older and ill parents caring for her.   My mentees who are thriving in therapy have families who are able to support them adequately and the families also have extra help to support the child.   As professionals, we can offer the struggling families resources for in home help but the family has to want to get help.   Communication will help the individual to create their own support system later in life if we are given the opportunity to work with them.

Communication allows adults to build the kind of support system that they want when they are adults.   Adequate communication is going to allow the person to live in their own home instead of a group home.   If your client is high functioning communication will allow the person to earn a bachelor degree.   I have a college who is a full quad and he is lecturing at our college.   Communication opens doors   to be opened for those with significant physical disabilities which is the reason for most of us to get into this field.

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy AAC: Medical World

The medical world is behind on AAC(Augmentative Alternative Communication) technology and medical schools, should start teaching the students about AAC. As a AAC patient, who does educate people on AAC for a living, I am usually more understanding about this ignorance but the average patient should not have to educate doctors or nurses, etc. when they are not feeling well. The students in medical school should start having a course on AAC as a requirement for graduation so that patients should not have to spend the first ten minutes of a doctors appointment, having to explain, how they communicate.
As professionals we usually lecture to students in speech therapy classes, which is great but we are missing half of the medical care system. I would like all of us to start thinking about going into other fields and lecturing about speech devices. My clients are in the hospital all the time receiving routine treatments and they should not have to educate people before/after receiving medical care. As someone who gives a lot of lectures on my technique of mentoring I realize that I am typically lecturing to an audience who already get the technology and we need to go into different disciplines.
As professionals we are not just working with our clients but as least for myself and my colleagues we are also lecturing to the new generation of professionals in our field. I would like to challenge new speech-language pathologists, to lecture to medical students. Our goal should be to have the medical world up to date on AAC, so the patients, can just get treated.

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: Symbol sequence

I communicate with a symbol sequence system, as I am able to communicate in a “natural” speed and I like to work with my preschool mentees with the, single symbol sequence system, as they start to understand that it is a good and quicker method of communicating. I find that the mentors are more open and pliable to generally teach the mentees how much quicker and efficient communicating with quick phrases is compared to typing everything out. Communication devices are equipped with one hit symbol sequence which is ideal for a preschool client to start communicating with. As a client grow the symbol sequence can be changed and tailored to their needs until they graduate to a 128 symbol sequence device. The Method is not a new method as I have gone through these steps as a child and it is the same program that I am communicating with today. As speech-language pathologists and mentors we want the clients to talk at a typical speed or as closest to it as they possibly can and they will be able to stay at the “normal” speed of communicating with society and they will be able to keep up with their school work if they are able to write papers with the symbol sequence system.

Being a mentor with significant physical disabilities who has pain I am a user of a unity program as it helps the back pain because I am not typing everything out letter by letter. We can help the clients from developing pain and to keep up with their school work if they can get accustomed to communicating with their quick phrases system. I like the clients communicating with the Unity system because it enables them to make sentences themselves which is a limitless system and it is like communicating with their mouths. For Unity users we are able to look at the pictures and know how to put them together for words or beginning of sentences. This allows the clients to communicate with the speed that society is used to or at least close to it. At least for myself I encourage the clients to make use of their program as they are able to take care of school work quicker when they are using a program with quick phrases or symbol sequence system. I have the system grow with the mentees as if they are growing up communicating with the normal ability of communicating. We want the clients to communicate at the level that they would have been communicating with their natural voice. I know of a young woman who is refusing to use the quick phrases and it is taking her longer than expected for her to complete school as she is taking long to complete school work.

As professionals in speech therapy it is our job and responsibility to assist and push for our clients to communicate at a semi normal speed. If they want to spell a device can be found that will allow them to spell at a quicker rate. Importance of working with the client on giving them what they want is crucial as they would not use the device if they don’t like the device. The individual will not use the device if they don’t like the device which is the opposite of what you want to happen, you want to customize the device so that the client will want to communicate with the device. We have the knowledge and education to help the clients to use the device to better their lives and using quick phrases helps the client to have a full life.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: Tailoring Communication Devices

Communication devices are most useful when tailored to the child’s specific needs. A toddler is naturally going to use the body part they have most control over and feels natural, but they must first be giving the opportunity to work with different equipment to find what fits best. The speech language pathologist and occupational therapists will observe each limb and aid in determining which body part is most beneficial to the child.
Communication comes in all forms. A child with significantly limiting disabilities may be more inclined to use their eye for manipulating the mouse on a communication device. On the other hand, there are still a plethora of options for communication as technology is certainly advancing. As I have mentioned, I’m a severely physically disabled adult who uses a device with a sensitive tracker to follow an infer red light on my head. I have the ability to be a part of our society because of this sensitive technology. I strongly encourage parents to take advantage of the rapidly expanding technology, as it is one of the strongest tools to connect your child to the rest of society.
What I love most about what I do is truly helping to bring out the inner beauty of the child by influencing them to communicate with the world. A voice is a very powerful tool to have; especially when the child has aspirations to create a life for themselves. If your child was in a different body, they would still possess an “end goal” for themselves.

Remember your children, are children first. The disabilities are a part of them; not who they are. Deep down inside your child is there, they just need a little assistance to express their thoughts. A disabled individual with drive in life is going to find a way to access whatever they need. Our job as adults is to make the specific goal within their reach by providing them with a strong voice.
Until next time, enjoy your children!

Speech Therapy: Communicating with Fun and Purpose

Communication for Fun Purposes

As I went about my day, I realized that I would not have the ability to get my weekly manicure without the ability to communicate accurately. I want speech-language pathologists and mentors to remind our clients that communicating is both for work purposes and for recreational purposes. Our lives revolves us communicating with the outside world, and if we want the clients to be able to integrate into society, they need to communicate accurately and effortlessly. I want my clients to go into the community and practice communicating with the clerks or service providers, because they can see that communicating is not only for school, but it will give them the power to get what they want. I work with teenagers, and I take them out to cafes or book stores to help them to see what communication can do for them. As we have the knowledge that communicating is how we conduct our everyday business, we have to teach our clients that they will have the independence of conducting their lives with communication.

I feel that our clients tend to perceive that communication is only for academic purposes, which is not that motivating, so I take them out into the community and show them what communicating can do for them. Our clients usually have a stronger drive to work on their communication skills if they can see the cause and effect of communicating with their devices. I have the person tell me what they would like to do with me, and we go do it, with myself modeling how to order or tell the person what I need done and the mentee mimics the action. After I tell him or her what they did correctly and what we need to work on next session, they can see that they will become independent if they continue to work on the goal. By doing therapy in this format, the client sees that I am not just telling them that communicating will give them independence because they are seeing it for themselves, and they are also getting a real errand accomplished by themselves. I also find that my being young helps them to envision themselves doing this.

When you think about it, half of our daily communication is dedicated for recreational purposes, whether we are ordering food or pampering ourselves. Our clients should be able to see that the power of communication will bring him or her the same independence as any other individual. The individual with significant physical and speech disabilities needs to get a taste of this independence. I do this type of therapy to spark the hunger to want to communicate in the community in hopes that they will grow up with the desire to communicate in the community. I live in Berkeley, where the community is accustomed to working with people who have disabilities, but you can do this wherever you live. Don’t worry about holding up the line, as they will open another line to serve other people who are waiting to be served, just worry about teaching the client the power of communicating.

Until Next Time,
Enjoy Your Children.

Speech Therapy : Know the unknown.

Don’t Assume Anything!
In our field of Speech Therapy and Mentoring, I have learned not to assume anything about clients. Looks and age can be deceiving so I like to ask my clients a lot of questions. I have to remind myself that before I can teach a mentee communication skills, I am going to need to understand what method of communication they use. Most of the time, my locked-in clients have developed a simple, low-tech system which they can teach me and once I understand it, I am able to get to work. My first few sessions consist of detective work because I’m figuring out how to communicate with them while figuring out the cognitive age level he or she is at.
Generally I am given children who are high-brain functioning but with low functioning bodies so this allows me to ask them simple, general questions to figure out the best way for them to communicate. Others simply answer yes and no questions. Most clients will use gestures to let me know how they want to use their talkers and it is my job to teach the client to ‘speak’ successfully. Success is when the communication device becomes invisible and only the person’s ‘voice’ is effortlessly heard. As a mentor, I go into a new case with a presumption that I am going to be dealing with a client who is cognitively “normal” so I’d bring along age appropriate materials to figure out what will stimulate my mentee’s desire to communicate with me.
Assuming a patient’s abilities by their appearance can also be professionally dangerous. Assuming someone is crying due to an infantile cognitive-level might just actually be due to pain and need of medical attention. As a speech-language pathologist who is seeing a client for the first time, you can read their psyche assessment to get an idea of ‘where they are’ but conduct your own assessment to understand what you are indeed working with. When working with a child with vision disabilities, I would provide the mentee with a lot of auditory choices to figure out their cognitive level. The children we work with generally ‘show us’ what we’ll be working with within the first few sessions. As a speech-language pathologist and a mentor, we can learn a lot about our clients if we take the time to actually listen to them. Our preliminary sessions with our clients are usually us playing detective work to figure out who the person is inside this severely physically disabled body. When we get a pretty clear idea of who our client is, we can then play with different communication devices until we find the right fit. I have severely physically disabled clients that truly only have control over their eyes, but this does not mean the individual cannot understand or have normal intellectual abilities. As a speech-language pathologist, your biggest accomplishment will be seeing a client living out their dreams.
Challenge yourself and figure out how you can get someone with no muscle control to communicate and when you do, they will show the world their true self.

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech therapy as Art

As my followers know, I do art to make side money, but really I use art as another mode of communication. Art for anyone is used for communicating things that cannot be conveyed though words, so we as artists find another mode of communicating our thoughts. I like to use art with my younger mentees as they are able to express themselves freely by creating art, and I am also able to discover where the child is on a cognitive level. As professionals, we can sometimes get to know our clients on a deeper level if we can incorporate what they enjoy doing into our sessions.

As speech-language pathologists and mentors, if we think outside of the box we are able get more progress from the clients. You don’t have to use art, you can use anything you are into doing in your personal life. As long as you are authentic, the clients are going to open up. Once I have the client opening up I am able to get them to talk with the communication device, which tells us what level he or she is at cognitively. The child will want to converse with you because they will be into the activity you are doing with them, which also teaches the individual that communication can help them engage in what they enjoy doing.

I work with the speech-language pathologist and the client to create a nice and playful environment to help the clients to feel at ease. At least
for the mentees I work with, playing with them helps me to get them to communicate more effectively than if I give them exercises for practicing their communication device. If you can get creative with your approach in treating people, you will get more progress in a shorter time with the client and it will also be enjoyable for you also. If we can remember to treat the clients as people first and bring what you like doing into the sessions you will be able to go farther with your clients.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapist: Why become an speech therapist?

Why Do This Job?
In college I knew I wanted to get into the field of Speech Language pathology because giving someone the ability to communicate is giving them a chance at having a semi-normal life. As speech-language pathologists and mentors, we have the unique job of giving our clients voices to be able to take care of themselves. I believe that if someone with significant physical disabilities has the ability to communicate independently, they will also have the ability to take better care of themselves. Language is crucial for children with complex physical disabilities as communicating is how they can direct aides to do their care.

I am a believer in communication as a means for someone who is locked-in to be able to live away from home and have a successful life. I got into this field because I wanted to help children with my similar disabilities communicate and live out their goals. Most of the time, I receive young adults who need to see someone in their same physical condition, living the life they have the desire to live. I work mostly with my mentees on communicating independently, as I believe communicating without help will successfully guarantee independent living but also to live out their aspirations. Communicating on their own gives them the ultimate power over their lives and gives their parents a chance to have a “normal” relationship with the child.

A child with this newly discovered voice is able to see possibilities of living their life without the family and be able to be like anyone else when they grow up. All my clients have moved on and come ‘into themselves’ because they are now able to communicate independently. I do this job because I love seeing children living out their dreams and goals. Clients who have the ability to grow up to be independent communicators are more likely to go to college and to live on their own. The child who communicates independently at an early age has a greater chance of going into general education and earn a high school diploma.
Our job allows us to give children with significant physical and speech disabilities a chance for a “typical” life by being able to talk and demonstrate knowledge. Communication via devices allow our clients to demonstrate knowledge like any other person. Seeing children blossom into themselves, discovering that they have a voice of their own, is worth millions. At least for myself – this is why I do this job. At the end of the day, if I have a small break-through with a child, it’s all worth the time and effort working with them.
Until Next time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: Low-Tech Communication

Low-Tech Communication
People without their natural voice and other disabilities use a communication device to manage their lives. Communication at times is all one has full control over due to the severity of their disabilities. As a mentor with severe physical and speech disabilities, I know the importance of a working communication device. Recently, my communication device broke due to it falling from the mount. It happens occasionally and usually the talker comes out fine. It broke this time which meant I was without a voice for a week until I remembered I had a colleague who is a local representative of the talker device company. I was able to use my eyes to tell the aide to call this person! As speech-language pathologists and mentors, we must give our locked-in clients low-tech communication skills for times when they have nothing else to communicate with.
As professionals, we are sometimes so focused on the client obtaining communication devices that we forget about low-tech devices and communication. I want to put this into prospective; yes, communicating with communication devices is more efficient and limitless but machines do break from time to time. We need back up communication for our clients to be able to direct care givers on the steps to take to get the device fixed or who to call for a loaner. A locked-in individual who is high functioning may be able to walk a person through steps to try to fix the situation. During the weekend, I was able to obtain the communication device from my friend while waiting for a loaner from across the state. Giving the clients low-tech communication skills allows the person to talk new or even experienced care givers through the necessary steps to either send the device back for repairs or to get a loaner from someone.
Communication is crucial for people to have access at all times so we must work on low-tech communication! That way, the person will not have a gap in their ability to talk. It can be as simple as eye movements while someone goes through the alphabet. The important thing is that the individual is able to talk with people in the interim of getting the communication device repaired. By me being able to tell someone what to do to rectify the situation, my aide was able to call my friend and I could still work while my communication device was being repaired. Thank goodness!!
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: Communication and Literacy

Communication and Literacy

Children who are literate have many options as far as the type of communication device they use and how they can structure the device. I have a colleague who is focused on how to help children become literate as she knows they will have more options for communication devices and just in life, in general. As a mentor, my biggest concern is that most of my clients stop progressing beyond the fifth grade as they feel fully competent with communication on a fifth grade reading level. I want to change this belief and get everyone to continue to progress with literacy skills, as they become proficient using a communication device.
My mentees that can read have a plethora of options for type of communication device and the layout of said device. Literacy for people with disabilities is a path to independence and a good chance to earning higher education. When you are a speech-language pathologist, you’ll want to try to obtain a high level of literacy for your clients. Full literacy will give the opportunity of direct select communication devices with spelling, allowing the client to say whatever they need to and demonstrate knowledge. Most of my client are literate, allowing them to say anything and seek higher education.
If literacy is important for a typical developing child, it is twice as important for a locked-in child. A locked-in child is going to be able to do much more with their life if they are literate. Communication is limitless for a person with significant physical disabilities if they are literate. Once we know our clients has “normal” intellectual abilities and good eye sight, our goal should be to get them highly literate.

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children