Chapter 17

In this chapter, the family is first introduced to a voice output device.  While the device was relatively simple, it opened Schuyler’s parents minds to new possibilities for her.  This also is the part where they had to go over her evaluation and you can hear her parents absolute frustration that they appeared to score her even though it was evident she did not really cooperate.  There was obvious frustration toward the speech therapist as she was not willing to incorporate the parents wishes to add signing in Schuyler’s plan.  There was a bright light at the meeting for them when the technology person brought various devices for them to look over for possible voice output devices; however, frustration returned when they were told Schuyler could not have the more advanced voice output device, essentially that she was not ready for it.  You could hear frustration and anger from her parents that they felt all they heard was what she couldn’t do and what she wasn’t ready for yet.

Even though the device she had was relatively simple, it opened up Schuyler’s parents eyes to new possibilities for communication for her.  They could also see how excited Schulyer was to have words that she was able to use and that it allowed her to communicate more than she was able to before.  When they realized how quickly Schuyler was mastering the voice output device she had, they looked into options for a more complex one but soon realized how high the prices were and that their insurance flat out refused.  They looked into laws but realized the school district was only obligated to provide a device, not necessarily the one Schuyler needed but they knew that she needed something more and that’s where this chapter leaves us.

Thoughts:  It’s very easy to see why the parents are frustrated but then working in the system, I can understand why the school started with a simpler advice.  I feel like the school did the right thing by introducing the device but wonder why there was no real attempt at augmentative communication earlier, especially since the parents had asked for signs to be incorporated into speech.  It aso makes you realize that many children probably don’t get the correct communication device or even opportunity to use a communication device due to funding or lack or education on different AAC options.  This chapter seems to be a turning point as her parents realize there is a way for her to communicate very effectively and that AAC provides a way for Schuyler to have a true voice.

-Sarah Coty, SLP at Chenoweth Elementary


11 thoughts on “Chapter 17

  1. Jane says:

    I think Sarah is right with the question of why wasn’t AAC brought up sooner. I realize that these events take place before the technology explosion that came with the advent of the iPad. However, there were obviously devices available. This chapter (and others) highlights the need for good communication between team members as well as the need for us to keep up with professional development. These are 2 daunting aspects of our job, as there seems to be so little time to communicate with everyone we need to AND there are so many different areas of our field that staying up to date on the latest research in all of those areas seems impossible.

  2. Melanie says:

    Schuyler is so fortunate to have parents who continually advocate for her and push onward when faced with setbacks. It is concerning knowing that many families don’t advocate for their children, whether it be out of ignorance, no motivation, or simply because they accept one person or team’s advice as the end all.

    It seems to have taken her parents way longer to realize there are alternative forms of communication to give their child a device than it should have (since they have visited so many doctors, had therapy, etc.). I find it very concerning that no one has brought these type of devices (and the variety of devices) to their attention before this time. I also am disturbed that her speech therapist did not want to incorporate sign language into her therapy.

    I feel like it is our job to provide/incorporate whatever measures are possible to give our children an ability to communicate and often times it requires LOTS of trial and error to find a “voice.”

    Shame on her speech therapist for providing such a negative image of SLPs and our services.

    So frustrating!!!!!

    • Sarah Coty says:

      Yes I agreed, I was a little embarrassed by all of this! Even though it wasn’t me, it’s someone who holds the same title. I do wonder sometimes the other side of the story. I have had a student where I tried the signs and ended up doing PECS even though his parents only wanted signs. I did a trial and within a couple months he was verbal. However, I still tried to do the signs, because that’s what the parents asked for and that was in the SDI’s. Part of me hopes that there really is another side of the story but I feel they probably were met with a lot of resistance.

      • Candra Grether says:

        I think feeling embarrassed is the perfect way to describe how I felt reading this chapter as well. I felt like I was cringing so many times during this chapter, especially when her dad mentioned that the HipTalk allowed Schuyler to say yes/no even though she already had her own way to indicate yes/no — I highlighted this part in my Kindle while reading. I understand that some may put “yes/no” on this device based on my own experience with students using AAC and needing to explain to others the concept of multimodal communication as it relates to “yes/no”, but it surprises me that any SLP or AT consultant involved with Schuyler would put “yes/no” on her device. I do wonder who had the most involvement in her communication decisions as this time.

  3. Kim says:

    Yes, I saw myself seeing both sides. I often have the mindset of starting low tech or simple, but I have found this has become so boring to kids. With iPads and all the tech stuff available to them, they seem to be a lot more motivated with the high tech dynamic screens. I can hardly get kids to use picture exchange anymore. They seem to want something more exciting!

  4. Darcy Lanham says:

    I agree with Sarah and Melanie. I also have a little guilt as an SLP for the way that Schuyler’s introduction to AAC was handled. I also continue to reflect on the children that I see. I wonder if they had parents like Robert who advocated for them, if more progress could be made. It also makes me wonder if some of them also have some sort of organic cause to their communication disorder.

  5. allison forrester says:

    Throughout the book, I have wondered why AAC was not looked into earlier than this. This chapter was exciting because of the door that would open into her world. I can definitely understand both sides, being a parent and an SLP in the school system.

  6. Erin Ruppelt says:

    I was excited to read in this chapter that AAC devices were introduced with Schuyler. I like how her father went into detail about the IEP meetings and several of the options that the SLP offered. When Schyuler got the Hiptalker with three buttons and hit “Hi my name is Schuyler” several times that reminded me of some of my students (as in hitting the same button multiple times 🙂 ) Her father is very involved and such a dedicated parent to do his own research on AAC devices.

  7. Marie Fisher says:

    Like Allison, I was wondering when AAC would be introduced as a possibility for Schuyler. I have a passion for sign language and have seen students have great success when they use a device but also signs depending on their situation (total communication approach). If the parents were that adamant on using sign I don’t see why this approach wasn’t an option. Overall, I found this chapter interesting because I could relate to the lingo and emotions that the author described regarding Schuyler’s IEP meeting.

  8. lindsey noonan nicklies says:

    Like all of your comments… I am happy that AAC is finally being introduce for Schuyler! It’s a shame that you may get a therapist that has no idea how to work with your child depending on which school you go to. If only there were some sort of system to place therapist with more expertise/knowledge in a certain area of Speech Pathology with the students whose needs lie in those areas.

    Another thing that stood out to me in this chapter was the parent’s reaction to the low score on the PT assessment. As parents who are constantly told what their child cannot do, I see the importance in wanting to know what they can do and being given credit for the skills they do have. I think it’s important, after any evaluation, to remind parents that this is only a snap shot of your child’s skills. We know they can probably do more. I like to give parents the opportunity to share at the meeting things they are seeing at home that maybe the evaluation didn’t pick up on. Again, as a person without children, sometimes it is hard to remember to slow down and be more sensitive as you are addressing people’s children. I’m sure it is hard on any parent to hear about delays or disorders their children are experiencing.

  9. Jason says:

    This chapter and Sarah’s reflection made me think how blessed we are to work in such a large district with the resources available to us, In re: to not only AAC devices of all types, but have people like Cindy that are on-hand to assess a students and offer an expert opinion on what would be an appropriate device.

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