Updated: Oct 23, 2019
“Animals were capable of telling us about themselves if one knew the proper way to ask them.” – Dr. Penny Patterson
Stella’s AAC device has evolved over the past year to support her growing communication skills. In the videos of Stella, you will notice the difference between her early communication days and her current device setup. You will also notice the buttons are different colors. The colors are not significant; these buttons just come in four different colors.
I started the experiment by placing individual buttons in different areas of our house. The “outside” button was by the door, “eat” and “water” buttons were by her dishes, and the “play” button was by her toys. I chose to start this way when I didn’t realize how much Stella’s communication abilities would grow and how similarly to humans she would learn language. As we added more vocabulary and noticed Stella walking to different rooms to combine words, we made the exciting switch to one location for all of her buttons! If I could start the process over again, I would use this setup from the beginning.
Stella’s current communication device consists of a board with three rows of five buttons on top. The buttons always stay in the same location on the board. Consistent button location allows Stella to learn faster and not search for words every time she talks. Similar to how we know where keys on a keyboard are without having to search for each one as we type, Stella memorizes where each button is. Imagine how hard it would be to type if every keyboard you used had a different layout!
The buttons are arranged to allow enough room for Stella to walk in between the rows. Since she cannot easily reach all of the buttons from one location, I think it’s important for her to be able to walk along the board. I must say though, I have not yet trialed pushing the buttons closer together. With more experimentation will come more learning. Under each button is a label for human use (I’m not teaching Stella how to read as well)! The labels help us and visitors more easily talk to Stella using her AAC. The more we talk to Stella using her device, the more she learns how to talk to us.
We bring her device with us into different rooms and to different locations when we travel. Just like everyone, Stella deserves access to her words wherever she is! It is important to remember that Stella’s device is just a tool for her to access language. Without the appropriate teaching strategies, the device would be useless.
Check back soon to learn more about how Stella learns words!
Christina Hunger, M.A.,CCC-SLP