Friday, July 22, 2016

Bringing Therapy to Life

I think I can safely say that summer is the time that rekindles my love for what I do. It also highlights my appreciation for the flexibility of having my own practice. Instead of packing my suitcases and headed off to the next trip (hopefully that happens in September), the last days of June are spent with my planning team, sitting on the floor of my office trying to think up the most awesome ways to make summer groups functional, interactive, and most importantly FUN.  As part of my self diagnosed ADD I absolutely hate to be confined to the clinic, so I try to incorporate as many outdoor activities as possible. Summer groups have been sooooo much fun thus far! The little ones have been having a blast and really building their language skills and it's such a beautiful thing to watch them shine within the group setting. My favorite group activity so far has been our community helpers day with our Language Building.

Just before summer started most of the little ones in this group were working individually on community helpers vocabulary, as well as responding to "who" questions. To start the group session we reviewed the community helpers worksheet from Black Sheep Press, and the little ones got a quite a surprise when some of these helpers showed up one by one at the clinic.

The policeman was clearly an undercover speechie, since he took everyone's worksheet and asked them to point to the policeman, asked them to find the different parts on his bike and shout them was amazing.

Just when they thought it couldn't get any better, a huge firetruck came around the corner, complete with 3 real life firemen. They got to see and label all the different parts of the firetruck, climb on, hear the was perfect. This speechie was on cloud 9.


I am so grateful to the members of the Barbados Fire Service and the Royal Barbados Police Force for helping make this happen. It was truly an amazing experience, and language learning opportunity.

Stay tuned for more of what's happening in summer groups!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What does Baking have to do with AAC?

I've discovered a love for baking. My pinterest page is filled with the most delicious looking cakes, breads, muffins and all sorts of dough filled goodness. I even made the investment and bought a kitchenaid stand mixer a few weeks ago. Now I can't stay out of the kitchen (or the gym for that matter...sigh). It has become a bit therapeutic for me as well. If I have a bad day, I bake. My neighbors and friends are quite happy with this new hobby.

My love has also been rekindled for AAC. Don't get me wrong I never stopped using it in my practice; there were just some periods when it all felt a bit overwhelming... However it's important to note as a therapist that when you stop having fun with AAC your clients will as well. So I started having fun with it again. My AAC goals moved away from being focused primarily on choosing specific language/ vocab targets, and became more about fitting those targets into clients' interests.
So we started going on treasure hunts, and having afternoon tea....and Baking...yes we started baking.

When I first introduced the concept of AAC to an older client about 3 years ago her response was quite a lackluster one. Actually it was more like BLEH! And to be honest I don't blame her. In her shoes I would have had that reaction too. It was boring, it was something new to learn, it wasn't motivating. All I was thinking of then was "Hey, I'm giving you a voice (sounds familiar?), you should want to use it, right?" Wrong! It wasn't working. We tried a few other things and well...bleh! Then one day I introduced her to pinterest on her iPad, and at that moment the heavens opened up, a light shone down, and I had opened the gates of technology. I followed her, she followed me and she became a "pinmaster"  (3.9k pins and counting) Believe it or not Pinterest is one of the greatest forms of communication. I got to learn so much about her interests, aspirations, skills, travels, through this medium. I taught her how to categorize her ideas and findings into boards, homework assignments were being completed, and magic happened. I saw a new motivation appear....I also saw a shared love for food!!

I tiptoed in very hesitantly over a few sessions with the "touchchat" app. Slowly introducing it to talk about some of our findings on pinterest, then expanding to other ideas. In this case it was received well. Then I said "let's use it to bake!" and her eyes lit up.

We spent the first week choosing the perfect recipe from pinterest. In this case the most mouthwatering blueberry cream cheese bread.

After which we worked on navigation of the app to talk about the ingredients and directions for the recipe, and made a shopping list for the family. It was easy to navigate through 1/2 teaspoons and 1/4 cups of ingredients using the app, and I also programmed a separate page called "baking actions", specific to baking activities.

The next session was baking day and the highlight of our therapy. I showed up wearing an apron with iPad in one hand and a whisk in the other, ready for some AAC baking action.
She took the lead as head baker and supervisor, using the device to give directions, and ensure accurate measurements (as well as to ensure I didn't mix up salt for sugar *hide face*). I mixed, beat, stirred, and poured away under the best instruction. 

There was also great fun in licking the batter from the bowl. Yumm!

Our hard work was definitely worth it, since her willingness to independently use the device to initiate and communicate was amazing, plus the finished product was on point :). 

So the answer to the title question is Love. Love is baking delicious goodies, while effectively using AAC for functional awesomeness!