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

Speech Therapy: Inclusive Communication versus Real World Schools

Inclusive Communication versus Real World Schools

My job recently celebrated its twenty-ninth anniversary of helping children gain the communication skills needed to graduate to participate fully at their district-based school! This idea works if the child is placed in an appropriate program where they will be doing the same kind of programming at their new school. My current client is not thriving well in her public school because she isn’t receiving the same intensive support as my job gave her. As her mentor who has worked with her at both schools, I believe that if we were able to adapt everything to the level of support previously received that she could be performing at the same success rate as prior to transition.
Communication is for life and not inclusively for school. Children need support with communication within all aspect of their lives because our goal is for our clients to have the communication skills to be able to be be a part of their community. Communication is the way locked-in individuals can fully participate in their communities and schools at their full capability.
As a mentor, my goal for every mentee is for them to be able to communicate without verbal prompts and without follow up questions. My goal is for children to communicate independently with their device – no prompts.
Severely disabled children must start communicating at an early age and they must continue communicating all through life. My philosophy is if I can get someone communicating very young, they will have a better chance of living a full and meaningful life. Communication is the essence of a full and productive life which is why we want the receiving team to give our graduates as close to the same amount of much needed support. My role as the mentor is to follow our clients to their new school districts and support them at the new school. My advice to new speech-language pathologists is to get clients communicating independently as soon as possible, as they will have a better chance of having a full and independent life.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: Brain Versus Mind

Brain Versus Mind

Someone can be severely brain damaged and they can be severely physically disabled due to an injury but they can have a normal, developing mind. As you know, the brain has specific parts dedicated to movement, thought processing, speech and more. I have referred to my mentees many times in my blog and they are normal children other than needing communication devices to communicate. The communication devices allow us to understand the person inside of the mind and that is how we can get to know the true person inside the severely disabled body.

Most of my mentees are normally developed and we would have not known that if they did not have voices to demonstrate their mental capabilities. The mind is a completely different system from the brain. Take myself for an example: My brain is so severely damaged that I am a quadriplegic and a locked-in individual but my mind is totally “normal”. I am able to be in the field of work that helps children communicate. As a speech-language pathologist you are going to have the power to give people a tool to let their true self be known.

Speech Therapist have the knowledge and the expertise to allow someone to let out their authentic self to the world. My favorite aspect of my job is being present when my mentee first reveals their authentic self with a communication device. There is a big smile and a sound of excitement. When we are able to see the client conversing and stop noticing the communication device — our job is complete! This is the moment that most of us went to school for so let’s take our time to enjoy the moment when the little pieces of the puzzle fall in place.

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: The Importance of a Voice

The Importance of a Voice

A person needs a voice to manage their life. With a voice, the person is able to have a productive life and the kind of life they want to live. A voice in which the individual has the ultimate control over, is going to allow the person to control their life. A child who has grown up with disabilities should be well acclimated to the talker and they should be able to completely direct a staff on their routines and needs throughout the day.
As speech-language pathologists and other professionals in the disabilities realm, our main concern should be on the progression of our clients’ communication skills. I become skeptical of the future of a client if I’m not observing progress after seven months of working with them. The sixth month marker tells me if the child is cognitively ‘on time’ or if they are ‘behind’ . By six months of working with the mentee, I am usually able to determine where their abilities are.
If you have a child who is significantly delayed, they may still be able to live independently if the person is able to communicate efficiently. If someone wants to make a life for themselves they must develop communication skills and have the determination to work on them, as well. The person must possess the desire of an independent life, otherwise our efforts of training them with communication skills will not be put to good use. The client must take the initiative to get a communication device which will open a plethora of opportunities for them. Speech-language pathologists and mentors have a challenging time getting a child to accomplish a goal if the mentee simply does not to make the effort.
I like to ask new mentees if they want the help I have been contracted to do with them. If the person says yes, I go over the usual confidential agreement between them and myself. I explain that I will break the confidentiality contract if they tell me that they are going to put themselves in danger.
If they say they don’t want my help, I’m not going to pursue the treatment plan.
My first few sessions with an adolescent are typically getting to know one another and creating the self determination goals and the Framing-A-Future document. Framing-A-Future or FAF is a document that the young individual creates at the junior high age and they will keep updating until their last year of high school. My colleagues and I will then make a plan for mentoring sessions out of these determination documents.
The plan from these two speech therapy programs must be client-directed with the assumption that he or she is literate. Literacy is a big component in the Self Determination program. I have my mentees write out their goals and they must communicate with me through e-mail on a regular basis. If a speech-language pathologist wants to make good use of their time with someone, they may want to create the F.A.F. document with the client, to understand where their head is in regards to their future. Everything I have mentioned in this blog is on the Bridge School website, www.bridgeschool.org, allowing people to see how we implement this program. As a mentor I am going to strongly encourage speech-language pathologists to create Self Determination documents so the two of you will have an understanding that this is a partnership between you. The mentee must understand that they are going to have a big part in this program and if they do not follow through with their part, the program may not succeed. If someone can get access to a communication device that they have full control over, they are going to have a life in which they had a big part in creating!

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: School Versus Actual Life

School Versus Actual Life

Most children receive a communication device while in school, to enable them to demonstrate knowledge. Upon transitioning school to ‘real life’, most students stop receiving assistance from a speech-language pathologist to help program their device. This is outrageous, as being an adult is when you would use your voice the most and need advance programming!
As a mentor I have seen my clients who use scanning to access their talkers stop communicating due to the lack of support. We must figure out how to get insurance companies to understand why funding speech therapy for adults is so important and not just for the six visits to setup the talker. Most families are too busy with performing the individual’s care to have time to deal with the technology. I have a mentee who has been without her device for more than a month because the family is busy dealing with other life issues. I want us, as professionals, to convince insurance companies to pay for on-going speech therapy because disabled adults without voices are in danger of being abused.
As professionals, I would like all of us to commit to following up with our clients after they are out of our service, to make sure they are still communicating. Disabled adults who can talk are substantially less likely to be abused as they can speak up about their abuser. Speech therapy needs to continue beyond school as severely disabled adults must have someway to protect themselves and continue to upgrade their language skills and potential vocational goals.

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Speech Therapy: Comunicating at a Toddler Level

As my followers are aware of I am a big believer of communicating with your locked in client at an early age to help the brain to develop language. At eighteen months a toddler will have a very simple language system going. I encourage families and speech therapist to give their toddlers a flip book which contains one word pictures, this will help the child to understand they have a voice and their job is to use this voice. If an individual starts their life knowing that if they speak, people will listen, it will set the standard that he or she will be expected to communicate.
I can tell when a mentee is not continuously being communicated with because they would come to me severely delayed in their language skills. I can tell what age they are, just by the way they are choosing to use their communication device and how much help I need give them to organize their thoughts. My client is showing a big delay in her language skills and I credit this, to her not being well communicated with at an early age. Children, disabled or not, need to understand the art of communication, to be able to voice their wants and needs.
As a speech therapist, you need to give toddlers communication devices that have simple, one hit sayings and as they grow, have the communication device evolve with them. The child will hopefully start to understand that along with having a voice they are no different from other child. This will help client to grow up understanding, that they are going to be excepted to make something out of themselves and that will be the norm from the start.
All children like and thrive on higher expectations and challenges, which is why I tend to push my clients. They will start to have a higher level of expectations for themselves. At my job, we have children who start at communicating at a preschool level and they work themselves up to a point, where they are ready to go back to their own school districts and they have gained communication skills to compete with other able body peers. The earlier the child starts to talk independently, the sooner they are returned to their districts so they can be with their peers. It is easier to get a child to understand what a powerful tool they have in their voice, verses trying to install that into them at an older age. So, my advice to speech therapist is that the earlier you are able to get a client to communicate the better chances they will have of developing at the average rate.

Until next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: Communication as a Means to Making a Living

Communication as a Means for Making a Living

As my followers are well aware, I make a living by working with youth on communication skills. In stating that, speech therapist are able to give their clients tools to make a living with, as well. A person with accurate communication skills is going to have a better chance of obtaining a job. A person with the ability to work is going to have the freedom of living independently. Full control of communication for a locked-in individual is the vital tool in making sure he or she can earn a decent living.
An Alternative Augmentive Communicator or talker is very powerful as the locked-in individual now has some way to demonstrate their knowledge. As long as the client has the determination to go somewhere in life, their talker will get them there. A child with a voice of their own is more likely to go into general education and they will have a greater chance of going to college. The first step to a successful life is to get the person communicating because nine times out of ten, the person has “normal” intellectual capabilities.
An A.A.C. is going to be the determination factor of a person’s quality of life. A voice is the tool to create a life for themselves. Communication is the key for your client to go on to higher education if they are able to or to create a career of speaking, educating and working with others. Communication also shows the world the person’s unique personality and their mannerisms. A child is going to reveal themselves to you if they have a voice to show the world who they are inside the broken body. Give your client a voice and watch them come into themselves and thrive.

Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children

Speech Therapy: Get Support Early

Get Support Early

Children who start working with attendants early in their life will have an easier transition when they reach adulthood and are ready to move out. The child needs to practice communicating with hired help, because they will have to deal with aides when starting to receive twenty-four hour care. As a speech-language pathologist it is going to be your job to work on efficient communication skills so the person is able to communicate their needs.
Communication skills are essential for an individual to live and be proactive in every aspect involving their care. As a mentor in the disability field, I empower children by teaching them their rights; and I had to take classes on disability laws and rights in order to receive a degree and do my job. Now I am assisting one of my mentees to get in home support for the first time.

Mentee’s have the potential to live independently if they possess communication skills by the time they reach high school. If I receive an older child who is behind with their communication skills by high school, I have a harder time bringing the mentee up to speed. Communication skills have to be the first skill developed before anything else will be able to happen for the child.

As a speech therapist you must educate yourself on independent living skills because families will look to you for answers. As speech therapist and mentors it is our job to give them the necessary skills to thrive in their life. Our job is only completed when our clients are doing what they have set out to. Yeah we have this awesome responsibility to our clients to get them talking but it takes special people to have longevity in our career.
Until next time, enjoy your children.

Speech Therapy: Communicating versus Observing

A person who has a functioning mind in a unconventional body can choose to either participate in life or watch life happening before them. As a mentor for the severely physically disabled, I like to ask the client what are their life goals and what do they see themselves doing when they reach adulthood. Most families of the locked-in clients assume that their child will be a life-long burden on them rather than seeing the child grow up and having a life of their own. As a speech therapist, you could be the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. You’ll be able to help these families find the right communication device for their loved one and that can help them realize a happy, fulfilled and independent lifestyle.

I know families who have children with severe developmental disabilities and had these families taken interests in their children’s future they would have more meaningful lives today instead of just moving these children through the special educational system and into day programs. If these ‘special individuals’ believed their lives were going to contribute something valuable to society, they would want to and have the right to make themselves heard. Teach them to stand up for their rights and to speak out for justice even if someone tries to silence them.

As I have discussed in many of my blogs, children with a voice are more likely to succeed than children without one. Someone can be just locked in and have only their eyes to communicate with but they can be intellectually normal or even be very intelligent. Communicating for people like myself is crucial in my ability to take care of myself and I do communicate my needs on a daily basis. As a speech therapist or a mentor, it will be your job to give your client an ability to make sure they are safe and well taken cared for. Communication is critical for any locked-in person!

Speech Therapist have the pleasure to give someone their independence.I love my job because I give children true independence and a voice.The speech therapist on the team is the point person who has the knowledge about how to give a child a voice of their own. The speech therapist IS the person to teach self-advocacy so an individual can take their lives into their own hands.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Children