Jennifer Clatterbuck, Age 35
Before we began working with you, my 10-year-old daughter, Emma, had no way to communicate. She often used her eyes and facial expressions to communicate her wants and needs, but unless you knew her well, her cues were often dismissed or missed.
"I felt like there was a disconnect in my relationship with my daughter. I knew she had many thoughts and opinions by her facial expressions, but was left guessing what they might be and what she would choose to say. I worried about her safety when she wasn't with me. What if someone hurt her and she couldn't tell me? How would she tell people if she was hungry, sad, not feeling well, or was happy?
"Everyone kept insisting on trying forms of communication that just did not work for her. She has a significant tremor, which makes fine motor actions not only frustrating, but nearly impossible. We tried PECS, an iPad, a Big Mac button. And we were all left discouraged.
"Emma's PCP was moving to a new city and had been asking us to visit with her device. Up to that point, she hadn't used it to have a meaningful conversation. She used the preset messages we had added to tell him thank you and goodbye, appropriately. She then chimed in during our discussion about her allergy medication when the doctor asked me if we should try a different one. She answered yes. She then said, "school, play, teacher, yes" because she knew she was missing school and wanted to go. As we were leaving, she wanted to stop and tell the nurse a joke (the nurse laughed a lot and had a great sense of humor). At that point, we realized just how much Emma had been missing out on, how much she wanted and needed to participate in every area of her life.
"Emma has been able to show her doctors, peers, teachers, and family just how much she understands. She has been able to participate in her own medical decisions. She has built friendships and has even advocated for a friend when she felt they needed it. "Every year, Emma and I organize and host a 5K to raise money for research into her disorder. A friend usually pushes Emma the 3.1 mile race route. This past year, for the first time, she repeatedly asked to go see mommy. It's the first time I have "heard" that word come from her. I have waited 11 years to hear her say "mommy".
"Emma is so witty and very funny. She is social and finds joy in making people laugh. She is fiercely protective of her friends and those she loves. She the bravest person I know. After 11 years of being at the mercy of those around her for literally all of her needs and wants, she did not lose hope and chose to accept a new way of communicating to take back power she has never really had for herself.
Gwen Egley, Age 7
"There are no words to describe how it feels to be able to talk to your child when it wasn't possible before," Gwen's mother, Ann, says. "Because of Gwen's autism, for years her communication was limited to simple sign language and a lot of guesswork on our part. Now Gwen has the ability to interact with us, teachers and caregivers in a way that works for her and we can all understand. At first, she used NovaChat® to make one-word utterances and a year later she's talking in five-word sentences. It's slow going – it doesn't happen overnight – but her progress is real."
The NovaChat 8 is a perfect fit because of the core vocabulary available on the device's main screen and how the words are organized.
"Her previous device didn't support the type of vocabulary organization she needed to be the most effective and efficient communicator," says Krista Davidson, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Iowa's Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic where Gwen attends speech therapy.
While Gwen still uses signs occasionally, and continues to work on developing oral speech, the NovaChat 8 remains her main method of talking with others. And the rest of the family uses it, too.
"Her little sister uses the NovaChat to talk with Gwen, and even her grandmother uses it to help," Ann says. "A lot of times with autism you feel like you are having a hard time reaching your child, but with this technology it opens up a new understanding. We're all speaking the same language now, and it's helped us become closer as a family."
Ann says that while Gwen has made amazing progress, the entire family is committed to help her advance even further. "Our goal is for her to bring the NovaChat to use to initiate conversation," she says. "We would love to know what is going on in her brain – why she does certain things and why she does them in a specific order. One day, we hope she'll be able to tell us those things. That's what I'm excited about.
Cole Jeffries, Age 17
Seventeen year-old Cole Jeffries is non-verbal, and began "talking" at the age of two by experimenting with AAC devices. "I remember taking Cole to the Cleveland Clinic's speech pathology department," says Cole's mother, Sharon. "At that time, we didn't know his cognitive and receptive language abilities."
Over the years, Cole has progressed from using lower-tech to more complex devices. He currently communicates using an iPad® with the TouchChat app from Saltillo.
The Jeffries family and those close to Cole warmly refer to his iPad as his "talker." With TouchChat, Cole asks Dad if they can go to his high school's Friday football game. He "talks" with his big sister Maddy, who recently graduated from The Ohio State University, about the Buckeye's football team. He "speaks" to the waitress in a restaurant after learning that she has a special needs sibling who could use communication assistance.
Cole also mentors elementary school students through modeling the use of his AAC device. The teachers say Cole is a great role model because the kids connect with him in a manner in which they can't always connect with an adult. And as a Saltillo Ambassador, Cole meets with graduate-level college students studying to work in speech pathology and early intervention. Through TouchChat, he shows them the power of AAC communication and technology.
"Interacting with others has always been very natural for him, and so has using the AAC devices," Sharon says. "He's absorbed it like a sponge and he even programs his own words and phrases into TouchChat to expand his language. He loves it and knows it's his voice. "
When asked what advice she has for other parents exploring AAC for their children, Sharon recommends starting early and focusing on possibilities rather than limitations. "Never fear the technology, even when they are little, because they can surprise you," she says. "As a parent it sometimes feels easier to continue talking for your child. I've been there myself. It's important to think about what their potential down the road might be if they can speak for themselves. Give them your time, love and resources and you will see their confidence and skills build!"
Congenital Muscular Dystrophy & Accent 1000 with two-switch scanningRead my Story
Xavier Pandrea, Age 15
Xavier Pandrea is a bright, funny and social 15-year old who has an amazingly positive view of life. Xavier has Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, and has difficulty with his fine motor skills and gross motor skills, is non-verbal and has limited vision.
"When people see Xavier, they want to interact with him but they aren't sure how," said Kristy. "They are fascinated by the device and surprised and pleased when he greets them. The device is a great conversation starter and enables him to communicate, not just his needs, but to also participate in the discussion."
He uses the Accent 100 with core scanner software which uses two switches to help Xavier search through a library of words and select the right ones to communicate his needs.
Imagine searching through a dictionary that is divided into eight groupings of words. A computerized voice reads through the list of words until you hear the one you want. You click on the word and then begin the search again to find the next word in sentence you wish to communicate.
Xavier's amazing mind has managed to memorize the word groups so that he can quickly move through different selections to string together, not only his needs, but also his opinions, his comments and even funny observations.
Kristy explained that in some cases the words that Xavier wants to use are not in the device and she has been fascinated to watch him find alternative words to communicate his needs.
"The device doesn't have the word blanket and so Xavier searched through the listing of words until he found the word 'wrap,' which he uses to let us know he wants a blanket," said Kristy. "In some cases, he purposefully chooses different words which have been a great way to learn more about his personality and his view of life."
Miles Espy, Age 7
Early on, Sarah and others depended mostly on her son Miles' physical expressions and reactions to understand his wants and needs.
Miles, who has cerebral palsy, is non-verbal but is learning how to use his NovaChat device to communicate more easily with everyone. Most importantly, he's making his own choices and actively participating in class.
At school Miles uses his NovaChat – a light, portable communication system built on an Android® system – to name colors, numbers, shapes and people. At therapy, he makes choices about toys and plays his favorite songs. And at home, he's able to tell his family what he'd like to do, where he'd like to go and if he'd like a snack.
Initially, Miles used NovaChat with switch scanning as his access method. But during a speech therapy session, Saltillo consultant Lisa Timm watched as Miles reached out to touch the device with his hands.
"With that movement, I asked if we could explore direct access with a keyguard, so Miles could actually touch the screen to make a selection without accidentally tapping the wrong buttons," says Lisa. "Sarah and Miles' speech therapist agreed to give it a try. In the end they both felt it was a good fit, and it seems Miles has made faster progress with this type of access."
Sarah says that NovaChat has definitely helped take the guesswork out of talking with Miles. "It's neat to see him stop, look, concentrate and successfully hit the button he's trying to hit, even with his motor impairments and vision difficulties," she says. "I am so proud of him when he works hard to accomplish something.
"With communication, there are so many options for people with varying challenges. Not all children will succeed with the same communication methods or device, but thankfully there are a lot of options to try to give our children their voice."
Macy Brant, Age 3
Throughout her pregnancy, everything was normal, said Sam, including birth and Macy's early months.
But when Macy was nine months old, Sam noticed that she wasn't sitting up like she should. By the time their little girl was 15-16 months old, frustrated by the lack of answers, the family went through genetic testing, and when Macy was 17 months old, they finally received the answer: Rett Syndrome.
In early 2017, Sam and Macy traveled to Topeka to have an AAC evaluation done. After trying out different device and eye gaze systems, Macy took to the Accent + NuEye right away.
"She just blew me away," said Sam, describing Macy's reaction to the device. "We have loved it ever since."
And so does Macy. "She can't stop talking with her device," said Sam.
Additionally, the device has helped Macy progress from 28 buttons on the screen to 36, and this fall she will be moving to the 45 – at only 3-1/2 years of age, marvels Sam. "I feel like Macy is really learning," she said.
Macy, notes her mom, loves to play games on her device. In fact, she's already mastered the available games and will be giving the Timocco-on-Accent games a try. And at school, Macy's teachers have incorporated her device into their teaching, whether it's creating a page with all her classmates' photos for easy identification, or using the device in music class to call out instruments she would like to play.
Despite her initial fears, with her Accent + NuEye Sam is more confident that Macy will be able to express herself…and be heard, whether at home, or at school. "The device gives her so much inclusion in the classroom and with the other kids," she said.
Quinn St. John, Age 20
Quinn, 20, has never talked, and as a small child wasn't interested in learning signs to communicate. But once he got older and started high school, however, he needed to learn ways to communicate with people outside of his inner circle.
After learning about NovaChat 8 through an AAC group working with the school, Quinn's therapist, Kalle, and his mom, Lynn, agreed that it might be a good fit for him.
Quinn has used NovaChat for about two years now. He "chats" with staff members at school while he does deliveries around the building and helps out with other school chores like laundry and washing dishes. One of his primary goals is working social conversation into his daily activities.
With this practice, Quinn's communication abilities are exploding. "Today he uses a more complex vocabulary than what he started out with," Kalle says. "He's able to answer questions we never thought he would have known, just because he didn't have the words to express himself before. It's been awesome to see this transformation."
Because Quinn can now share what he's thinking, it's also easier for him to participate in group work activities and have his learning assessed by his teachers.
At home, Lynn says that communication is much easier between Quinn, his parents and with his four adult siblings. "Quinn lets us know what he wants and we're able to easily understand him and answer right away. The greatest gift is that Quinn has something that is uniquely his own, and it challenges him to grow."
Quinn agrees. "I'm most proud of being able to express my feelings," Quinn says. "I want to keep playing with NovaChat to see what it can do."
Kyle Dinwiddie, Age 19
Kyle is a bright, funny young man with a passion for writing stories and has been a newspaper columnist for his local paper for a year and a half. Go anywhere in town with Kyle and you'll need to be prepared to stop and chat with his many fans that follow his bi-monthly column entitled "The Funny Side of Life."
Kyle is non-verbal, at least in the traditional sense of the word, but with the assistance of his Accent device, he has a lot to say.
"He started using a Vanguard device when he was about five years old," says Sheri.
"When Kyle was about 13 he attended the youth group at our church and wanted to be able to talk with his friends," recalls his mom, Sheri. "We got him a much smaller device, an Accent, which he was able to take with him and it opened up a whole new world of communication for Kyle."
Not only can Kyle carry on a conversation with the Accent, he can also make phone calls and text people. The device is much smaller and easier for him to handle and Sheri describes it as his "best friend."
"With the Accent I can go out and talk to people," Kyle said. "It has given me independence."
In fact, Kyle used his Accent this summer when he left home, without any family member, for the first time ever. He spent a week at summer camp and had the best time.
"We never could have allowed him to have that experience if it weren't for knowing that he'd be able to communicate effectively with the Accent," said Sheri. "It was incredible to hear all of the stories from the new friends he made at camp, and it was clear that the device allowed him to share his personality with them so they could really get to know him and enjoy him as a person.
"I would encourage parents to have their child use the device for all their communication," she said. "It is good practice for them and also helps them to share exactly what they are thinking rather than have us guess."
"I couldn't communicate very well. I couldn't communicate in words or sentences, I meant. It was extremely frustrating not to express the simplest of things.
"Then I got a PRC-Saltillo device. The head light enabled me to point to a communication board without becoming physically exhausted! A tremendous weight was lifted. Using the Light Talker, Delta Talker and Accent 1400 gave me an actual voice that people could hear. It was awesome having people be able to hear what was inside!!
"Now I can manage my life! That may sound so simple to you but its significant. I can to say when I have to go to the bathroom, when I'm hungry or thirsty, when I'm sick and etc. My Accent helps me to use the computer and social media. It helps me talk on the phone, etc.
"With my device I can be the direct person I am. I'm opinionated but I am not forceful about it. That's due to my voice, I think. I like to make people feel better about themselves. I like to help people."
Susan Terrell Simmons
"This software and your service have significantly improved my quality of life and enabled communication with my family and caregivers. Since I have been diagnosed with ALS and no longer move between my neck and knees, being able to communicate keeps me alive. Without the ability to communicate I do not exist to the world. You all do SO make a difference."
Haleigh , Age 11
Despite her diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy (CP), Haleigh has worked hard to overcome many challenges in her 11 years.
"Haleigh wakes up every day with a smile on her face, ready to face whatever the day may bring," reports her mom, Becky.
PRC Consultant Beth Browning decided to set Haleigh up with the Accent® 1000 with CoreScanner™, as well a two-switch access method that allowed Haleigh to "scan" through the icons with one button and then use the other button to "select" what she wanted to say.
She started with a single switch to say "more," then increased to having eight core words available ("more, stop, go, hello, mine, play, on, turn"). Over a very short time, she advanced to the highest level of CoreScanner (Blast) with two-switch step scanning where she now has access to thousands of words and spelling.
This new system of accessing the program successfully addressed the problems of Haleigh's vision and fine motor difficulties. In addition, Haleigh was allowed to pick one voice for scanning and another to represent Haleigh.
"She thinks this is so fun and loves to change these voices all the time!" laughed her mom.
Haleigh uses her Accent 1000 to play at home with her dolls and even learns the names of all the voices programmed into her device to pretend they "play," too.
"She likes to tell jokes, engage in playful banter, and tell many other stories at home. Her Accent 1000 has allowed her to do all of this," said Becky. "In fact, she is getting more and more creative all the time!"
Haleigh's favorite time of day is talking to Grandma every night. She asks Grandma to tell stories, and recently even requested a ghost be in the story! Although Grandma was unsure about scary stories, Haleigh found "tickle" on her device and Grandma knew that Haleigh wanted a tickling ghost. Such an imagination!
Haleigh also likes to find new words on the device that she doesn't know yet and asks Grandma what they mean. The words she has been wanting to learn recently? Ability, enabled, and confident.
"She just loves to learn and it shows every day," said Browning.
In her classroom, she's constantly communicating with her classmates. "I just love seeing Haleigh having conversations in the classroom with other students or making comments during an activity without any prompting," says teacher Kara Berens.
"Everyone who knows Haleigh, knows that the sky is the limit for her," said her mom. "We cannot wait to see where she goes from here and how she expertly uses her device to interact with others."
Read the entire story
Stephannie Brajot M.A. CCC-SLP
"Before I found PRC, I had a highly frustrating series of conversations with another company: I found their customer service very unfriendly and difficult to reach; every device I had seen was completely unique from any others; and there was virtually no support for SLPs. How could I teach a client to use one, let alone the parents? The learning curve was too extreme. I felt like a needed a semester-long class in programming, and they had NOTHING to offer in terms of how to support clients' usage.
"Other AAC systems, like PECS or apps on phones, also were not user friendly and especially not designed for my clients with Autism, who tend to be visual thinkers and need consistency and ease of use without lots of "visual noise."
"I felt helpless and ineffective, two emotions which lead to professional burnout quickly. I wanted to give up and just refer clients to someone else, but I felt very guilty about this option too. People came to me for help and I had to tell them I couldn't help them..
"I was so grateful to have found PRC when I did. I have never had a negative customer service experience once. There was a lot to learn initially, but the team and reps made it feel possible and much easier than I expected. The fact that every device is set up essentially the same meant that I could put my resources into learning implementation strategies, the most important component to successful AAC usage in my opinion. Programming was easy with vocabulary builder. Customization was simple with the user-friendly interface.
"Whenever I did have a problem, I had multiple ways to try and solve it either through PDF instructional documents, videos on Youtube, or simply calling the 1-800 number on the back of the device. Moreover, if I had a novel problem or question that I couldn't find the solution to in these ways, I called my regional rep Jennifer Monahan, who has ALWAYS been there for me. For example, when I had my first patient with ALS, I needed to find an effective system for an adult who would have increasingly limited mobility issues. Jennifer came to my office and met with the patient to ensure she was well supported.
"I knew I had found "the" solution when my pediatric clients started demonstrating that they were intrinsically motivated to use the device independently, to communicate with me. When they followed this up with eye contact and smiles, I realized that I had finally found the right system and that I could finally deliver AAC therapy that I felt truly good about.
"I have had so many special memories with so many clients at this point. One of my very favorites is the video with Emma that I sent you. This was a little girl who only paced the room and howled when I met her. No one thought she would ever talk or interact at all. She was so distant and unengaged in the beginning. LAMP allowed us to SEE her in a completely new way. She had thoughts and feelings and questions and comments she wanted to express all along, but until that time, we had never had a way. When she asked for the Three Little Pigs story, she was asking for engagement with me, connection. I don't think she would have done that for a very long time without LAMP.
"Getting LAMP certified is one of the best things I've done in terms of continuing education. I can honestly say, ALL my clients have benefitted from the knowledge I gained with that training. Additionally, though it was only an hour long and very inexpensive, the online class Beyond Basic Requests, was also incredibly invaluable and I recommend it all the time."
Kelly Baer M.S. CCC-SLP
"I was lucky enough to be introduced to PRC and Saltillo products early on in my career. I know the problems I would have had without the products and support would be having vocabulary files available that children truly understood and could use. With other companies/files that I have used or been exposed to, it was difficult for many of the children I work with to understand, as many of the vocabularies required extensive navigation or did not allow for growth with both fringe and core vocabulary. In addition, the knowledge of the team and consultants of other companies, especially vocabulary/implementation knowledge, did not match what PRC-Saltillo has to offer.
"To not have a system that the children I work with could understand and effectively use felt frustrating. It would be like trying to squeeze into a pair of shoes that didn't fit. I knew independence would not be achieved and thus the families and children would be left with the idea that AAC, specifically SGDs, would not be effective for their child. With PRC- Saltillo vocabulary files and devices, understanding and independence are able to be achieved and families can see success.
"The vocabulary systems offered truly help me match a variety of needs. I love working with LAMP for those children who need consistent motor plans for vocabulary and it feels good as a SLP to have a system that teaches each word as a single unit, especially for those children with ASD. I also find that many children with language understanding,but no way to express, really connect with the WordPower files. I like how there is equal access to both core and fringe vocabulary and ability to easily navigate and build utterances.
"There are many devices to choose from allowing me to really match access needs as well as preference of the family, by offering devices with different operating systems.
"I can not say enough about the support, not only of the consultants, Gretchen and Amanda who are amazing, but also the entire teams' communication from start to finish to help the children I work with receive their device so they are able to communicate.
"As stated before, I was fortunate to be able to know about the companies/products of PRC-Saltillo early on in my career. I experienced them working for children from the very start with my first AAC evaluation in my Clinical fellowship year, where we matched the child with a Vantage Lite with LAMP vocabulary. I feel I have only been able to better match needs as updates and additional products are available.
"It is difficult to think of just one; however I would say some of the most special moments are when I see children who have so much language understanding and desire to communicate but no way to effectively do this. Then I have a session with them and their caregivers and as soon as they see the PRC-Saltillo device and vocabulary available they start exploring and get excited when they realize they can now actually communicate their thoughts and ideas. I recently worked with a young child who immediately understood the purpose and located vocabulary on the recommended Saltillo device, truly due to the vocabulary organization of the system. His mom explained he would "light up" as he was able to use words on the SGD to comment and finally initiate social interactions with others.
"It definitely makes me more knowledgeable and feel more confident as I am evaluating children for a device and educating families. I know I have a team ready with PRC-Saltillo to always answer any questions I have and also help offer solutions for the families and children I work with, not only in regards to product support, but also funding and education."
N. Z. M.S. CCC-SLP
"My experience with Saltillo has been overwhelmingly positive!
"I recently took over for an SLP who was in the process of initiating an AAC trial through Saltillo with a patient. I was worried that taking over the trial would be confusing and difficult; however, the transition was seamless thanks to our Saltillo consultant. I was able to quickly acclimate to the process and get up-to-speed on the current status of the trial and corresponding documentation. This allowed me to go into treatment sessions with the background knowledge I needed.
"Once the device was received by the family, they learned how to use it quickly. The patient and his family navigated through the device with ease, and have spoken highly of the intuitive nature of WordPower. WordPower has helped with his sentence structure and increasing his length of utterance.
"During the trial, the patient's mother accidentally deleted everything from the device and called me in a panic. I was able to get her in touch with our consultant who was able to troubleshoot the issue quickly and restored everything that had been lost.
"Saltillo's customer service is excellent, and I would highly recommend their services and products!"
A. V. M.S. CCC-SLP
"I was unsure about how to involve and engage my students with complex needs through a computer screen. The require lots of sensory input and modeling during sessions and I was unsure of how I could lead either of those things without being with them physically.
"Before reading TeleTips, I felt helpless, hopeless and overwhelmed, and anxious that my therapy might be ineffective.
"TeleTips was a complete and detailed resource that walked me through the beginning of my teletherapy journey. I work with children with a wide range of abilities and needs. TeleTips gave me reassurance that I could still provide quality therapy through a computer screen. The organization, outsourced links to videos and other resources, and the personal touch of a Saltillo consultant made all the difference.
"I felt more confident, prepared, and excited to try out new virtual materials.
"The links to the webinars and YouTube demonstration videos were a game changer. Once I learned I could share my screen to show videos and model with Chat Editor, I knew I could get somewhere with my kids. The correspondence with my personal Saltillo consultant was also top notch. She gave me more links to direct resources and videos and answered ALL of my questions thoroughly.
"After I watched a webinar about making virtual therapy fun, I was in!
"My kids have big personalities, each individual in their own way. I have seen kids beam with pride after ordering food/drink items independently at a restaurant. and watched them interact with peers in the community by telling a funny joke with their NovaChat.
"PRC-Saltillo has opened my eyes to a new language and way of communication for my kids. The materials, activity suggestions, and support are beyond compare."
Hello! My name is Elizabeth Kenkel. I was born with Moebius Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. This makes it difficult for me to speak and to make small movements. I also have Developmental Delay so sometimes it takes a little longer and a little more practice for me to learn new things. I have been surprising people for most of my life. When people said I couldn't do something, my parents said "We'll See." Now I can speak for myself and when people say I can't do something, a lot of times I can say "Watch Me." I can hear but I learned to use sign language because I couldn't speak very well. The problem is that a lot of people don't understand sign language. Also, sometimes my CP gets in the way of making clear signs. I did not stop trying to talk and now people who know me can understand half of what I say. It's especially hard for people to understand me when I am angry, upset, or frustrated. You can guess that makes me even more angry, upset, or frustrated. I needed another tool in my Communication toolbox. I have now found my voice. I use ChatPower on a Saltillo Chat Fusion 10 with a keyguard. I started using WordPower on a Dynavox when I was in kindergarten. I was learning where to find all my words very quickly. It was so important to me. I got frustrated because the Dynavox was heavy and not always reliable. It seemed like it had to be fixed a lot. The WordPower program had word prediction that helped me learn how to spell. I started using programmed words less and spelling more as I got older and learned to read better. Around 6th grade, my school let me use a Mercury I could use that device more like a computer and it showed me I could do more things. It was still too heavy for me and I could only use it if I sat in my wheelchair or at a table. I was still practicing my walking and balance, so that was frustrating. In High School, I tried using the iPad. That was always too quiet for people to really hear me. When I was about 17, I found the Saltillo NovaChat 10 at the Abilities Expo and fell in love! It is lightweight and has a handle that makes it easier for me to hold. It is loud enough for everyone to hear and it lets me use all the apps my sister uses on her cell phone. I can email, text, play music, and search the internet. I use a keyguard to help me hit the smaller buttons. My speech therapist and PRC-Saltillo helped us order the device through our insurance company. When people asked me what I wanted to do after I graduate, I told them I wanted to teach people how they could use AAC to unlock their voice too. So when Saltillo invited me to become an Ambassador, I said "When can I start?" That seems like a long time ago. I use a Saltillo ChatFusion 10 now. I still use a keyguard, but like that I can flip it out of the way when I go into my texting or email app. Today I still live with my parents. I still need help with a lot of things in my life, but I have a lot of support around me. I get tired out walking and my balance isn't good so I use a power wheelchair to be more independent. My ChatFusion has a strap on it that helps me carry it wherever I go and I can speak for myself to almost anyone. I can chat on Zoom, spend an evening with my Grandmother, go to the mall with a friend, or get a manicure with my sister. I can have one-on-one time with relatives and friends without my Mom hanging around to interpret for me. I love to travel and have visited several countries with my family. Every place I go, I get to decide if it is easier to talk, to sign, or to use my device. Thanks to PRC-Saltillo AAC, I have the tools I need.
Jay , Age 42
My name is Jay, I am 42 years old. I have Cerebral Palsy. I don't let that stop me because I think I live a pretty normal life. I like to play poker which I suck at but it kills a lot of time. I like to watch sports. Go Yankees! And I bet on football games. I like to go to bars too. When I first started to go to school they put me in a special school for kids with disabilities. The school was called Regional Day where the kids had the same type of disability like me. That's where I learned how to drive my wheelchair and how to use my communication device. Back in the olden days they didn't even have ones that spoke so the first thing that the teachers tried was they got a piece of cardboard and put pictures on it. I had a headstick and if I pointed to the picture of an apple that could had meant that I was hungry or that could had meant I just wanted an apple. there were a lot of guessing games being played back then. I still remember my first device it was called a touch talker. Back then I thought that was amazing but thinking back about it today it wasn't as advance as the technology today. I was still using my headstick and now I could write full sentences and tell everybody what I was thinking and what I actually wanted. I thought it was amazing because it could actually speak. When I was getting yelled at by my mom, I could talk back and she couldn't get the last word in. She wasn't happy about that. Once I learned how to use my TouchTalker, the teachers thought I was smart enough to be mainstreamed in a public school with in a general education class. At first, my parents were hesitant because they were scared that the kids would make fun of me but I wanted to take the chance. I felt like I wasn't learning enough and at a young age, I knew I wanted to go to college someday. My parents and the teachers decided to let me try it. So, to start off I was in a typical 3rd grade class for half days. The first day of class the teacher let the kids gather around me and let them ask me questions to break the ice. They asked like could they catch my CP and questions like how did I go to the bathroom and I answered by using my TouchTalker. After that they felt more comfortable, I was doing fine and the kids were adjusting to me. I liked it so much, that by sixth grade I decided that I wanted to go full-time because by that time I was going to the special school less and less. I was learning everything I needed to know at the middle school. By that time PRC came out with a new device called a Liberator. I liked it because it had a better voice a bigger screen and a built-in printer. One thing I didn't like was that my speech teacher wanted me to stop using my headstick and start using quarter row scanning. That was I had a switch by my head and the device had lights on it and the lights scanned the device in four quadrants and once I got to quadrant that I wanted and I had to hit the switch to stop it there. Then it scanned like five rows and once again I had to hit the switch to stop it at the row that I wanted. I still wasn't done yet then I had to hit the switch once it got to the key that I want wanted. I felt that was a long process to get to one key I would rather use my headstick and directly hit the key. My speech teacher finally won and I stopped using my headstick just because I wanted to look cuter for the girls. Now it was on to high school I enrolled to go to Steinert High School in my home school district. But, there was a problem. All the science classes were upstairs and there wasn't an elevator. I didn't let this stop me. With my Liberator I had to write a speech like this and go in front of the Board of Education and explain to them why it was so important to put an elevator in so I could meet my graduation requirements and go to college. They agreed and within a year and they put an elevator in. At the end of four years of high school it was time to choose a college. There weren't too many to choose from because obviously I need a lot of care. We found one in North Carolina called Saint Andrews Presbyterian College that had a dorm for disabled people. They had aides 24 hours and note takers in the classrooms. The best part was I was still on my own and they couldn't tell me what to do. So, of course I wanted to be like any other student who wanted to experience college. It was a small campus so instead of studying all of the time, I rode around campus looking for people to talk to and tried to make friends. After a few weeks I was riding around campus, everybody knew me and started to give me drinks. One time, I even tipped my wheelchair over trying to get back to my dorm and another time the police had to follow me back to my dorm. I guess I made a name for myself. I have to say I miss those days. Yes, I did really graduate with a Liberal Arts degree. After college a new device came out it was called an ECO. I really liked it because it was a computer, a cell phone, and I could work everything that is remote control. I activated it by using something called eye gaze and that was I had to look at a key for a half of a second and it would activate the key. It was pretty amazing. Now I'm using an Accent its basically like the ECO but the eye gaze is so much better. Now, I volunteer at the hospital, I have been doing that for 12 years. I take visitors where they need to go throughout the hospital and I even received an award for my service there. since about a year now I hold a little group for people with disabilities to try to motivate them to live a normal life like I have. We talk about how to be a self-advocate and how to try to better ourselves. One person actually got a job after years because he was so motivated by what we talk about. I think when people first see me they think I'm not smart or think that I cannot hold a normal conversation. But, people who aren't afraid to come up to talk to me quickly realize how smart I am and like that I have a sense of humor. You can't blame them for loving me.
Hello, my name is Scott Palm and I am a Prentke Romich Company, or PRC, Ambassador. I have been a PRC consumer since 1986, and an ambassador since 1995. I have manned the PRC booth at numerous conferences over the years. I have attended the ASHA, PeC, and C-SUN conferences. I'm using Unity 144, and I have been told that I'm good at it. I have assisted others with their PRC devices. Also, I own a business named Palmtree Enterprises, where I do a PowerPoint presentation about disability awareness and anti-bullying for children with disabilities. Thank you.
David Mize, Age 63
"Hi I am David Mize. I am new to the Ambassador program. unlike some of the other ambassadors I have not been using the Accent fourteen hundred very long. I am sixty three years old and was not introduced to this technology until 2019.
Most of my life I had to repeat what I was saying until people understood me, or someone in my family would translate for me. When I was two days old there was an accident in the hospital that left me with cerebral palsy. I have done fairly well; I made it through school, worked as a computer programmer and have been married for thirty four years. We have a 31 year-old son and our daughter is 28.
I would like to show others who have trouble communicating that it is possible to have intelligent conversations with family, friends, and sometimes with those who you just met. I know the frustration of trying to be understood. These devices can open up a whole new world for individuals."
Caroline Conner, Age 8
"When she was eight months old, I had a nagging feeling something was off."
For Marta Conner, this was the first indication that something was happening with her daughter, Caroline. Marta and her husband consulted with a geneticist who noted that, based on what he was seeing, it was most likely Rett Syndrome; by the end of June the blood test confirmed the diagnosis.
Despite her initial fears for Caroline, Marta was determined to do everything within her ability to allow Caroline to express herself. And once Caroline began using the Accent + NuEye, she took to it right away. "Immediately Caroline got excited. It all just started clicking for her," said Marta.
Since she's had the device, Caroline's communication at home and at school has continued to improve, reports her mom. In fact, she noted, her speech therapists, both private and at school, have observed major milestones in her ability to communicate.
"Caroline's ability to communicate has increased her self-esteem and level of happiness, which in turn brings a lot of joy to our family life," said Marta.
Even better, with the Accent + NuEye, Caroline can better advocate for herself, from expressing basic needs like thirst and pain to voicing her like or dislike of specific activities or circumstances.
"The device has helped Caroline reach her IEP goals around communication, socialization, writing/reading skills, and so much more. It's given her a little more control over her world," said Marta proudly. "Something like this is really life changing."
Kristy Lipe, Age 30
"Hey everyone! My name is Kristy Lipe from Memphis Tennessee. I'm 30 and I have Cerebral Palsy. I use the Accent 1400. I use the Unity 144 system and I've been using this Unity system since kindergarten. I love showing people just how awesome communication devices are and how they can really open and impact the world of a child or an adult!
I'm a 3rd degree black belt and three time world champion in A T A. I took Taekwondo for eight years and I did dance also! To keep physically active as an adult now though I love doing anything fitness-related. My weekly routine is lifting weights at least 2 days, sit ups in the wheelchair and then on really nice days I love to run around the block and the neighborhood park!
I have a Continuing Education Certificate of Ministry and Leadership from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I love anything to do with Disney, theater and Marvel Avengers! My two favorite theater shows are The Lion King and Wicked. Some of my favorite TV shows are Friends, American Ninja Warrior, Titan Games and Dancing with the Stars!"
"My name is Mindy Thomas. I grew up in a small town south of Fort Wayne, Indiana with both parents and two brothers. I firmly believe having this family unit has helped me to live as normal of a life as I can despite having Cerebral Palsy.
Throughout my life, I have accomplished such things as obtaining a bachelor's degree from Ball State University, getting married to my wonderful husband of 16 years, raising a beautiful 13 year-old daughter and running my own marketing business called Media Services Unlimited.
I know without a doubt that I wouldn't have been able to do the majority of these things if I haven't had access to products developed by PRC."
Tyler , Age 14
"When Tyler was diagnosed with Autism at 16 months of age, he had no verbal language and communicated using a few gestures," says Sarah, his mom. "It was difficult not knowing what he wanted and a challenge knowing how to help him if he was experiencing discomfort." Today, 14-year-old Tyler has progressed to communicating verbally most of the time and using his Accent 800 as a backup, particularly when he is feeling tired or stressed. That's why when others question if using AAC will hinder their child's ability to speak verbally, Sarah is quick to share her personal experience. "Ty's older brother, Brady, began using PRC's Vantage Lite in 2008 and by 2010 he was able to verbally repeat everything he said on his talker," Sarah commented. When it was evident that Brady no longer needed the Vantage Lite, it was passed on to Tyler. When Tyler was two years old, he experienced success trialing LAMP Words for Life and used the app on an iPad for a short time. "From the first day using the iPad with LAMP, Ty experienced attachment, learned what an iPad was, and how to say 'up' to request his favorite Elmo toy." "It quickly became obvious that while an iPad was lightweight and easy to transport, durability was going to be a factor," says Sarah. "That's when Ty's speech-language pathologist introduced us to the Accent 800. Its lightweight design featured the perfect combination of the LAMP system that worked so well for Ty from day one with the durable performance to withstand everyday life." Ty put the durability of his Accent 800 to the test recently on a school field trip to the Columbus Zoo where he tossed it into a hyena exhibit. "Apparently, the hyena had a lot to say," says Sarah. "There were many new words on the talker screen after the zookeepers were able to retrieve it by offering the hyena a bone! Amazingly, other than a broken case and handle, Ty's Accent 800 still works. Now that's durability that exceeded our expectations!"
Oscar Kvitko, Age 8
For Mary Kvitko, PRC's Accent 800 has meant the world to her family – and to her five year-old son, Oscar.
It was Oscar's private speech-language pathologist (SLP) who first brought up the idea of a speech-generating device. After evaluating Oscar, and working with PRC regional consultant Christine Kramlich, the team determined that the Accent 800 with Unity would be a good fit.
"It was very exciting," said his mother, Mary. "He could finally say the words that other kids could say!"
Once the family received their device, life for them changed quickly. Oscar, a technophile, took to the Accent right away. In no time at all he was taking pictures with his device, even taking advantage of its unlocked state to get to Minecraft.
"At school, he gets everything the other kids get," Mary said. "And his teachers have been great, working the device into his educational plan and rewarding vocabulary building with incentives."
For Mary, the journey has been one she wouldn't trade for the world.
"If any parent is having apprehension about the device, don't. It's like any new technology: it can be intimidating. But if you put in the work to know the device it'll make a world of difference. It can be such a good tool.
"Knowing what your child is thinking – it means the world."
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Parker Schueller, Age 8
"I can't imagine living in a world where I had no say, no control, no way to express how I was feeling," says Nikki Schueller. "Because of the NovaChat, my son Parker does not have to live in that world."
Parker has what Nikki describes as a "laundry list" of medical challenges that leave him unable to speak or walk. "He is overall undiagnosed but his challenges include global developmental delay, hypotonia, migraine, GERD, Central Sleep Apnea, Failure to Thrive, Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, Autism, Dysmotility, and seizure disorder, among others," she explains.
For Nikki, enabling Parker to share about how he is feeling may be the device's most significant contribution. "Parker has been hospitalized over 135 times," she says. "We wanted desperately to understand where he hurt. One day, without prompting, he used the NovaChat during a session with his SLP to tell us his head hurt and that he needed medicine. We sat stunned and then we cheered. I wanted to cry. I knew we had opened up this most important line of communication."
Now, she says, "Parker and I talk all day. He picks out his morning television show, his snack, his drink. He tells me what hurts, what he wants to play, and where he wants to go. We talk about what time and day it is, who we are going to see, and what's on the agenda for the day."
The NovaChat has "impacted everything," says Nikki. "I can now talk to my child. I can find out what his wants and needs are. I can't imagine a world without this device.
"I am grateful for the opportunity the NovaChat has given us. It took time, but we truly don't leave home without it. It is Parker's voice, and it's part of the family. I feel lucky that we were able to match Parker with the right device – and therapist – so early in his life. I know this is only the beginning of what he will learn and be able to tell us and I can't wait to find out what he has to say!"
Tobin Beard, Age 6
So much has changed since Tobin received his AAC device.
I knew from my research that behavior therapy was what we needed. And I couldn't find it anywhere. Finally, we found an amazing therapy center two hours away from our home.
It was there we learned of the possibility and potential of an AAC device. On December 29, 2017 his Accent 800 arrived at our door, and life has never been the same.
Our son has words.
Tobin has become so much more present and engaged, even choosing to be with the kids when we have friends over instead of with the adults or by himself. He is looking up and out. And eye to eye. He's attempting new words on his own.
Tobin has found his voice.
From the moment I put the device into his hands, he began poking and pushing the buttons. My husband ran to the door to leave for the store and called out, "If you guys think of anything else I need to get, let me know!" And Tobin quickly pushed "Ice cream candy ice cream." This was within the first five minutes of having his device in his hands at our house.
We carry his "talker" with us wherever we go. This means that in the middle of Costco, I've heard "I want home," at a church function he's typed, "leave go now," and I'm pretty sure I heard "dumb jeans" in the changing room at Kohl's. (Important to note that we never used to even do errands like this!)
He's even called me "Mom."
Words. My son has words. And it's changing everything.
"Before my son had a Saltillo device at ages 2-4 we had to guess what he wanted. We knew he was a bright boy but didn't have the tool to express his needs, wants and feelings.
"We felt frustrated that he didn't have the appropriate tool that he needed to communicate. We also felt guilty that we weren't providing him with a tool to help him.
"I have called into the service department several times in the last 4 years. The service team was also polite, friendly, knowledgeable and patient with me. If we couldn't problem solve over the phone, I knew that sending the device in for service wouldn't leave my son without his communication tool. The loaner program has been easy to use and is seamless.
"I believe that it's the Saltillo team that has made me a believer in Saltillo. The service and support team has been top notch. Recently, because of Covid-19, I decided to home school my son, who is immune compromised. Before telehealth therapies, I was on my own to continue his education. When I needed a person to guide me through taking my son to the next level academically, I reached out to Melissa Hoy, my support person. Not only has she been supportive in the past with ideas and lessons on using the device, but she really stepped up with the hours of conversations and went above and beyond and reprogrammed his device to meet his current needs. Melissa has been a pivotal person in my son's communication. With her lessons and conversations, my confidence in modeling how to use the device has helped.
"My son can read. We know this in his receptive skills. However, to take him to the next level academically specifically in reading, he can answer questions about what he has read by using his device.
"My son used the device to tell his doctor who saved his life, "I love you," at our last appointment. The doctor had tears in his eyes. It was very emotional.
"I have discovered that just because a person can't talk, doesn't mean that they can't communicate and accomplish big things in life. My son has shown so much potential. As his mom and current educator, I'm excited to see how far he will go! Thank you Satillo Team for giving my son The gift of communication! His is device is priceless!"
"The biggest issue we had with our old device was how hard it was to navigate. You would have to press several icons in order to find common words and unless you really knew the program it was very hard to use. It made it difficult for teachers to help my daughter learn and communicate. It took her years to become somewhat fluent with the program.
"Our Saltillo device, the NovaChat, is very user friendly. She was able to use and navigate it very quickly. Within weeks she was fluently using it and was able to say things much faster. She is also now using complete sentences more instead of two- or three-word phrases. My daughter also speaks Spanish. With her old device the accent in the voice was so bad you couldn't understand what she was saying. With our new device the voice is much more clear in English and Spanish.
"As a parent is was very frustrating to try and learn the program of our old device. I attended two classes where they taught us about the device and program but was still very confusing to use. It has been such a relief to have a device that is more user friendly.
"The home screen is so much easier to navigate. My daughter has access to 148 icons on the main screen alone. With her old device they used a lot of symbols as to words and it became very confusing. We have also had amazing support in setting the device up and customizing it for her. If there ever is a issue, it is resolved quickly.
"We tried several devices out in therapy before we came across the Nova chat. We knew instantly that it was a match. I didn't realize how much her old device was holding her back. Even from the very first time she used it, she was able to navigate it very easily.
"As I stated before it really helped her academically. With the easy access to so many words, she began using full sentences in class. Before she would put 2-3 words on the talker and you would have to guess the rest of the sentence.
"For example, if she wanted to tell you she went to the fair this weekend she would say "go fair." Now with her NovaChat she would use a complete sentence such as " I went to the fair." She was able to write essays and school presentations with her NovaChat as well. Her teachers also noted that she didn't seem so drained by the end of the day because it took less effort to use.
"One thing she was really excited about is that she is able to text and send emojis to her friends. Very important to a kid haha. Overall we are very happy with our new device. It has given our daughter more independence and confidence!"
"My child was diagnosed with ASD. The most pressing concern we had before taking him to be tested was a delay or drop off in speech. We subsequently noticed a decrease in desire to interact with others because he could not communicate during play or to have his needs met.
"It was the lack of communication, probably more than any other that presented then or has presented since his diagnosis, that is the most difficult. In terms of safety, it is scary to be in a situation where your child cannot communicate if there is a problem. He attends preschool and therapy where I leave him in the care of others. It is still scary for me to leave him knowing he cannot fully communicate to his teachers or therapists if he is being mistreated, if he is scared, or if he is having some other kind of crisis.
"For me, it was also painful not to be able to communicate freely with my child. The basic things like hearing about what my child did during the school day or what he might like to eat for dinner was sad. It was also difficult to gain my child's attention or his" buy in" to interact and build a strong relationship if I did not know how to meet his needs or what he was interested in playing.
"Since acquiring his communication device ("talker," as we call it at home), he has blossomed. He enjoys choosing the snacks, movies, or games he wants. He can tell me where something hurts, he can tell me his favorite animals, and he can even finish lines to songs or stories using his talker to "fill in the blank."
"More than anything else, this provided a fast way to communicate that can be easily specialized. This system allows me to add more pictures of people (classmates, family members), food choices (to allow me to present choices on the go, like in restaurants), movies as they become favorites, and toys as we gain them. It is easy and efficient to give my son the vocabulary he needs to interact with his family, classmates, and therapists.
"The other methods we used prior to this, mainly PECS, was difficult to maintain and resulted in my having to find, cut, laminate, and Velcro pictures in order to add them to his ever-growing binder of words. It was definitely not practical for on-the-go.
It also only gave my child the ability to request. His "talker" has unlimited possibilities in terms of communication. He can share information, tell me where something hurts, comment, initiate play with a peer, ask questions, and (his current favorite) "make" animal sounds, just to name a few. The possibilities are endless with this device and there are now no limits to my child's communication.
"On my child's fourth birthday, we took him to the zoo where we came upon the tiger exhibit. We were in the beginning stages of learning the device and he was using it mostly to request. We brought it along and used his favorite topic, animals, to model labeling as we came upon each animal and tried asking him what he wanted to see next. When we stopped at the tigers, the babies that had been born a few months prior had been given a red ball to "play" with. My son grabbed his talker and told me "tiger play ball."
"This was significant for 2 reasons. First, that statement is 3 separate "hits" – 3 buttons he had to find and push (without losing interest) to communicate with me. That was more than he had ever done at the time. Second, it was just a statement. He wanted to share the experience with me. He wasn't requesting or labeling, he was talking to me. I won't ever forget that day and luckily, I've had several beautiful moments just like that since.
"I also think it is worth mentioning that the communication device we got has served as a gateway for my son to communicate in other ways. He is now learning sign language and is practicing verbal speech as well as using his talker.
"This was meaningful to me from the beginning of this whole journey with this talker that we never give up hope that communication for my child could be verbal. Because he has been able to get his needs and wants met and have meaningful interactions with a variety of people through this talker, his desire to communicate overall has grown.
"This device has given my child and me a new relationship. I am encouraged every time I can say "tell me" and point to his device because it gives us a way to understand each other. We get to have fun communicating with each other, not just have confusing and frustrating interactions that leave both of us disappointed. It is also a very gratifying feeling to know that I can give my child what he wants. It seems simple enough, but in our experience, it has not always been this way. I can give him the red cup he wants to drink out of and his grandparents can buy him the stuffed animal he wants at the zoo gift shop!
"I feel fortunate to have so many special memories with my child. I feel happy every time I have an enjoyable interaction because of this technology. Each time my child asks for help or shows me what he knows when he couldn't before, it feels special.
"I particularly love reading books with my child using his talker to discuss pictures further. I can ask him which animals he loves or what sound an animal makes and he can respond – and wants to respond. Our favorites now are "Wimmelbooks" which have no words to read at all, only pictures or scenes. We have reading time each day when my younger child is napping that we spend looking at these books together. The small, quiet moments that show how much our relationship has grown because we can communicate are truly my most treasured.
"I have discovered, through this experience, how much both of us want to be understood. We both want to communicate with each other and we both want to share our thoughts and feelings. I have been able to watch my child persevere through the frustration of being unable to communicate. I've seen him have such big happy moments because he can share his passions.
"I've learned that these wonderful tools, like the talker, do not have to signify the end of hope. By opening myself up to new ideas, I've been able to give my child this technology to help make communication easier. Because of this talker, I have been able to experience hearing more new sounds and sound combinations (including "mama"). This talker does not mean he will never speak traditionally.
"I was also, embarrassingly, a little worried about how the public perception of this device would be. I wasn't sure if my child would receive unwanted attention at school, in our community, and even with family members. I have been surprised and very excited that the reception of this talker has been overwhelmingly good thus far. We love people's curiosity and sharing how my child uses his talker and we have received very little judgement or unwillingness to accept this new method of communication.
"I know he is still very young, and we obviously care more about the benefits he receives as opposed to public opinion, but it did worry me before the talker became a part of our everyday life. I have found that our attitude also sets the tone in interactions with others in our community. We have chosen to treat the talker as if it is a very "normal" part of our life and we find that most everyone follows suit.
"I also have an ever-growing appreciation for the people who make things like this possible for my family. From the actual device, to parent education, to innovations to make current technology even better, I am grateful to be on the receiving end of this device. Knowing there are people out there who have chosen a job that includes making it possible for my son to be able to tell me absolutely anything at all, gives me a lot of hope."