Switching from using picture boards to an iPad has made such a difference in our sons life; when friends he hasn’t seen for a while come to visit he will go and get his iPad now and show them pictures he has taken, including those of his work colleagues. He seems to find it very easy to use and gets a lot of satisfaction out of it. We don’t need to communicate on his behalf as much and he is more confident.
In our second story of how assistive technology is supporting people with disability to take control and gain independence in many areas of their lives, one man’s main carer, his mother, shares how switching from using low tech communication aids to high tech communication aids has made all the difference in her son’s life.
I’m Debbie and my family and I live on the outskirts of Denmark. We have lived there for seven years, after my husband and I decided on retiring to the Great Southern’s peace and quiet. We have two sons and our 42-year-old son, Robert, lives with us. He is deaf and has intellectual disability. While it’s been an adjustment moving away from the metropolitan area, we received wonderful support from our LAC (Local Area Coordinator) in Denmark. Robert thoroughly enjoys working for a charitable store near us. He is a gentle man with a happy soul.
Robert is quite independent in terms of day-to-day living, although requires significant prompting in some areas. If I lay his clothes out for him, he can get dressed himself. Robert has fine motor control and thoroughly enjoys completing 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles, which we frame and display around the house. He also completes latch-hook rugging but his visual capacity is declining as he grows older.
Communication is where Robert requires a lot of assistance. He doesn’t use formal Auslan sign language but has his own way of communicating. He uses non-verbal signs such as the gesture for wanting a drink (forming a hand to reflect gripping a glass and bringing it to your mouth) or wanting something to eat (a bowl shape in one hand with the other hand imitating use of a fork). This is how he makes himself understood to others. He is able to write his own name and his reading skills extend to being able to pick out certain words (such as his name). He can also identify initials.
Until recently, Robert relied on manual communication methods, such as picture boards, to communicate with family and friends. This was not transportable so he was dependent upon us to help him communicate with others.
Through information and support provided by our LAC, we bought an iPad for Robert and are learning to use the ProLoquo2Go app. We’ve uploaded pictures of people he’s close to (family, friends, work colleagues and support staff) and other information specific to his needs and hobbies. He now uses this as his primary method of communication and takes it to work. As a result of this assistive communication device, we’ve seen Robert’s confidence increase which motivates him to try and interact with others more.
It’s a learning process because technology doesn’t come easily to my husband and me. We don’t use email, social media or mobile phones, so we’re thankful for the support available. Seeing the positive difference it’s making to Robert’s overall quality of life makes it all worthwhile. Robert is currently quite dependent on us for support, particularly me, and increasing his independence is a goal. We see this communication device as the way to get there.
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