How do your children communicate?

Anchel discusses Syona’s communication challenges and the strategies they are using to help.

Syona loves her iPad.

“If all my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest.” – Daniel Webster

In case you haven’t guessed, I am a big believer in the power of communication. As a writer and strategic communications professional, I’ve seen first-hand the power of sharing, receiving and interpreting information. It can be the determining factor in business success and failure, it can strengthen or break personal relationships and, in my world, it’s a crucial part of enjoying life.

We’ve known for quite some time that Syona has some communication challenges.

Recent assessments have shown that her level of understanding is significantly higher than what she is able to communicate out to the world, which can be so frustrating for her. We’re getting a lot more screaming, yelling, crying and sad “ahhh ahhh” sounds as she desperately tries to get us to understand what she needs, wants, is thinking, etc. As her mother — and someone who so strongly believes in the power of communication — this is heartbreaking.

We recently started speech therapy and have been lucky to work with incredible speech-language pathologists who are knowledgeable and dedicated to their jobs. We use some traditional therapy techniques, such as helping Syona close her jaw, mouth and lips; singing songs and allowing her to fill-in-the-blanks (her favourite is the ee-i-ee-i-oh sound from “Old MacDonald”); giving her plenty of time to respond; and encouraging her to use her words and responding to those versus crying and screaming. If you ever hear a parent repeatedly saying, “use your words” over and over, it’s likely our family!

Syona has a lot of “word approximations” which are essentially her representation of certain words. “Huneeee” means hungry, “baaa” means ball, “mo” means more, etc. This is great because it means that Syona gets that certain words represent specific objects or actions, but it requires a lot of interpretation and guesswork.

We’ve also been using various forms of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC for short). AAC encompasses all non-speech forms of communication. We use some basic sign language, encourage Syona to choose between two photos to share what she wants and an AAC app for the iPad called “TalkRocket Go” by MyVoice, which is one of my personal favourites.

The app is awesome because it can be completely personalized with your own pictures, is very physically accessible (which is important for us because of Syona’s fine- and gross-motor challenges) and is automatically synched online. It is also a lot more practical to carry around an iPad versus binders filled with pictures for her to choose from. As an added bonus, we also use it to label objects and expand Syona’s vocabulary.

And while I would love for Syona to talk in the traditional sense, my priority is for her to have some way to express herself. To share her basic needs and wants, and eventually her emotions and ideas.

When did your children start talking (whether traditionally or via alternate methods)? Does your family rely on any alternate forms of communication?

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