Utter Autism

May 25, 2008

Getting Grandma

Last week Grandma flew in and I took Adrian with me to get her at the airport.  While we drove I explained where we were going and why.  He was very happy about it and used his device to say, “I want to go – Grandma”   Upon arriving at the airport he waited patiently with me.  When Grandma arrived, he pointed towards the gates.  He used his device to tell us ‘Airplane – take off.’  Apparently he was hoping to take a trip himself.  🙂

April 6, 2008

Nifty News

A while back I programmed a button on Adrian’s home page to express something that had happened at home I thought Adrian might want to tell his teachers.   It worked so well that it’s turned into a permanent  ‘News’ button. 

The school uses it to allow Adrian to pass along information about things he did at school.  He was able to tell us when he went roller skating, when they colored eggs and about his favorite part of a book they read.

Here at home we programmed it so Adrian could tell folks at school about walking on the treadmill, talk about his loose tooth and say what he did over the weekend.

Much of what we’ve programmed the button to express have been things that would have been difficult for Adrian to talk about otherwise.  This button makes it easy for us to add thoughts that aren’t part of his usual vocabulary. He seems to appreciate the ability to share these various news bits with everyone.


March 18, 2008

Keeping the juice flowing….

Now that we’ve got our Dynavox V back from being serviced, we’ve been figuring out the best way to keep it powered throughout the day. 

The first change we made was a rather simple one.  We turned off the option to have the screen blackout after a few minutes of not being used.  This drove Adrian nuts and he would compulsively touch the screen just to have it come back up – so not a real power saver after all. 

Instead we’ve been using the ambient light sensor.  The program stays up all the time, which makes Adrian very happy and the device saves some juice by automatically adjusting the brightness of the screen to match the light in the room. 

At school we’ve found that the external battery is the best solution for giving the device that extra boost to get through the day.  The external battery itself is thin, lightweight and very easy to use.  You plug the device into it just as if it were the power cord itself….. only it’s still portable!  Adrian’s not tied to the walls, there’s no power cords to trip anyone up and if he needs to get up and go, he can.  The team at school is very happy with it.

And, finally, my insurance policy – the car charger.  Even with the external battery working so well for us, I’ve still pulled our car charger out a few times.   I’m getting so much better about remembering to bring the Dynavox V with us when we go out but on occasion I still forget to check the power or pack up the external battery.  I can’t tell you what a thrill it is when this silly little charger saves me from myself.  With as much time as we spend in the car, having this insurance policy right there next to my seat is simply priceless.

Power failures used to be a regular occurrence for us, but no more.  These accessories keep the juice flowing… and Adrian talking 🙂

March 5, 2008

Feeling Very Happy

Feelings were one of the first things we put in Adrian’s original PECS book.  He only ever used it when he was prompted to do so. 

We added it to his first device and now it’s on our Dynavox V as well.  For a long time he’d only use this if he was prompted.  But more recently I’ve seen him initiating conversations by telling us how he feels.  He used it at school one day to tell the staff he was feeling ‘a little sad’.  Then earlier this week we arrived at school and he immediately told me he was feeling ‘very happy’.  

For me it’s huge that he sees value in expressing to us how he’s feeling… and that he’s got the means to say it too!

February 22, 2008

Dentist Day

So today was our re-scheduled dentist appointment after last attempt’s disaster.

With a fully charged Dynovox V, everything proceeded according to plan.  As expected, Adrian was a bit confused about where we were going.  I was able to show him the dentist office visual scene showing the chair and equipment we’d see.  When he started to throw a little fit, I was able to get him to talk to me about what he wanted after we finished at the dentist.  He calmed right down.

We walked into the dentist office on the same page.  First we’d do the dentist thing and then we’d get some french fries.  It was a good deal for both of us.  Adrian was happy and compliant.  They got some x-rays, checked his teeth and managed to do a mini cleaning and fluoride treatment.  While we waited he used his Dynavox to talk to me about where he wanted to go next. 

It was a great visit and I’m sure next time will be even better.  We know he doesn’t care for certain flavors now so next time we’ll try some others till we find the right one.  Knowing the routine should make the directions easier to understand and follow.

After our visit we went to the grocery store to get french fries, as promised.  We put Adrian’s Dynavox in the front of the shopping cart and he pushed it through the store himself.  Besides french fries he asked for some fruit punch, cereal, cupcakes, fruit snacks, chicken nuggets, ice pops and candy.  We got some things and left others behind.  He was an angel throughout.

February 17, 2008

Back in Business!

I’ve got to hand it to DynaVox.  Less than two weeks after we sent out our DynaVox V for repairs, it’s back! 

Adrian laughed when he saw it come out of the box.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

I failed to back up my files often enough so there’s a few pages I’ll have to redo but for the most part everything is as it should be.  The timing is perfect.  This week’s school break should give me a bit of time to fix it up before we send it back to school.

I’m grateful to DynaVox for putting us back in business so quickly!

February 4, 2008

Backup Plan

Machines are funny things.  Computers in particular sometimes seem to have a life of their own.  As such, it pays to have a back up plan for when a communication device goes out of service temporarily.  How do I know?  Well, we’ve found out the hard way.

While Adrian’s device is out for a tune up, we’ll be using multiple strategies to hold him over till it gets back.  First, I’ve created a communication book from screen shots taken from my backup copy of the pages from his device.  Adrian doesn’t find this way of communicating nearly as satisfying but it will hopefully help us avoid the worst of the tantrums. 

Second, the school has a device they can loan him while he’s there.  We’re lucky to have this option available to supplement what ever PECS they’ll use to get him by.

Third, we’ve got the old Speaking Dynamically Pro/Boardmaker software and boards loaded on the computer here at home.  It’s not portable and the computer isn’t as easily accessible, but we’ll at least have a place to take him when we see his frustration level rising.

Having backgrounds in computers, my husband and I understand better than most that these things happen.  It’s a good time to see how the backup strategies we’ve got work out, plan for device down-times in the future and really appreciate fully what a big role the device plays in the quality  of our life. 

January 27, 2008

Shopping Glee

Stores are often hit or miss with Adrian.  You never know if he’s going to be calm or crazy.  In the past we’d try to cover as many bases as possible to tip the scales in our favor.  We’d make sure he was well fed, not too hot, had his wheelchair, music player, headphones, etc.   Now we’ve added his Dynavox to the list of things we should have before going in a store.

I recently attempted an afterschool stop at the grocery store to pick up a few items.  I wasn’t sure how he’d react since he’s usually ready to get home and relax after spending the day out at school.  Our grocery store has a manual wheelchair with a basket on the front.  I decided that would give us a good place to put his Dynavox as well as give him that confined spacial sense he seems to appreciate in stores where there is a lot of stimulus. 

He was great.  As we went through the aisles, he pointed out products he wanted.  I encouraged him to use his Dynavox to request specific items and we picked up a few of the things he wanted here and there.  He seemed to really enjoy being a participant in our grocery shopping rather than just a passenger.

When we finally made it to the last aisle, I asked Adrian if we’d forgotten anything.  He shocked me by going back into his device and telling me we’d forgotten to pick up bananas.  I guess I need to bring my shopping buddy with me more often!

January 25, 2008

Who’s Speechless Now?

Last week I got a call from Adrian’s school. They said that Dynavox had heard about our difficulties with the battery life of our Dynavox V and that they wanted to help us figure out a way to make the situation better.

This morning I went in to meet with members of the speech department and a consultant from Upstate Communication Resource, our regional Dynavox representative. She brought with her several products from Dynavox which they thought would help ensure Adrian’s device would have sufficient power throughout the day.

I must admit I’m still not over the shock of how the Dynavox company has sought to improve our situation. I’m grateful to Dynavox and Upstate Communication Resource for their help.  Their efforts to keep Adrian’s voice going strong have left me speechless.

January 14, 2008

Adrian Unplugged

The Dynavox V battery can just barely make it through most school days.  By the time we get there to pick him up, it’s finished. I began sending the plug in every day and asked the staff to find time to charge it a bit while in school so that we can have it available on the commute home. 

It’s been hit or miss.  I understand that the school day is busy and it takes time and effort to retrieve the plug from the bag and find a convenient time to plug it in.  But more than once we’ve had to abort after school errands or had a rough ride home because Adrian’s voice has run out of juice.  Adrian makes it clear he finds this frustrating by putting my hand on the machine, shaking it or yelling about it.  Who can blame him? 

Today we attempted an after school visit to the dentist.  But before we’d even arrived, the power ran out on his Dynavox.  He let me know it was off by yelling and shaking it.  Needless to say, the dental appointment never happened.  Adrian’s frustration level quickly escalated and I was helpless to stop it.  I sat in the car outside the office holding the dead device thinking, “All we need is some power!  I could fix all this if I just had some power!” 

Not so long ago we didn’t have the device.  Adrian had no voice.  Now to be without it, for even a short time is simply torture for both of us.  Amazing how quickly things change.

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