Brin is a caring and curious Grade 7 student who loves to participate in classroom conversations, share her ideas during lessons, talk about her personal experiences, and ask questions. She clearly wants to have a voice and be understood by her teacher, educational assistants and classmates. Prior to receiving her speech generating device, she would patiently try to verbalize her thoughts and feelings, share about a fun experience she had on the weekend, or simply say what she wanted or needed at any given moment.
However, Brin’s cerebral palsy has impaired her speech intelligibility and her speech is very difficult to understand. Her team would try their best, through question and answer, to figure out what Brin was saying. Often the team would wait to ask mom or dad what special experience she had on the weekend or what upcoming event is she trying to share. Her patience was incredible, but it was frustrating for everyone to have this limitation.
In January of 2013, Brin received an Augmentative and alternative communication device, the Dynavox Maestro with Word Power 60. She was thrilled with this speech generating device and must have said “thank you people” at least a dozen times that very first day. She was so excited and motivated to start exploring the extensive vocabulary, and quickly learned to navigate from page to page. The team also added some of her favourite catch phrases, such as “Don’t worry, be happy!” At the very next team meeting with her parents, Brin was asked to use her device to say something to her mom. Without hesitation, Brin spoke four very powerful words…”I love you, mom.”
Now, Brin is using her Maestro to communicate so much more. She can participate in group lessons and answer questions, ask for help, request things she needs, write journal entries about her personal experiences, express her feelings throughout the day, and more. For example, Brin used her device to write a thank you card for a local business after they tuned up her modified bike. She also recently used her talker to compose and print a very special birthday card, complete with loving, happy wishes, as well as some teasing words for dad.
Over time, her team has been systematically fading prompts and supports, and Brin is becoming increasingly independent and initiates use of her Maestro regularly. She loves that she can independently send her written work to the office printer through a wireless connection. This means an added bonus of a quick visit with the school secretary when she goes to pick up her work.
Brin is also a role model for two Grade 1 students in the school, both of whom have autism and complex communication needs. These younger boys each just received their own SET-BC equipment. Through watching and listening to Brin use her device, these students already have a great sense of what their technology is all about. When asked about how she feels about her Maestro this is what Brin had to say (she wrote it on her device) “I feel happy feel proud using my Maestro. People understand me. I like it. I can say I want help please. I can say I love you mom. I love my Maestro.” Way to go, Brin!