Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Personal Choice: put it all out there

Before discovering a symbol based communication system, the communication level of Julia was very low. In 1998 Julia was 8 years old and her behavior was becoming a concern. The absence of a visual communication system for Julia made it difficult not only for Julia but for everyone involved on Julia’s “life team”. We struggled with different ideas and tried everything. Then through Julia’s elementary school teacher I was introduced to a symbol based communication system. Once I got the software program and with the support of her teacher I started creating labels, communication boards, and schedules. I first labeled everything in my home with the visual, the English word and the sign language symbol all within the same square. Some professionals may say this would have been too much for a child; however, my personal choice was to put it all out there and see what happened. I didn’t know what was going to work for Julia, but I wanted her exposed to the language. I also used the symbol based system to set up daily routines and schedules within the home and for the community. The symbol based communication system became the “missing link” changing forever the face of Julia’s World. Keeping in mind this didn’t happen overnight, Julia’s expressive and receptive language skills, including sign language, increased tremendously.

As stated above labeling was very important to me. I had Julia help me label things on a Saturday. It was the only thing we did for the day. We had a lot of fun and even made a game of it. I would pretend to put the wrong label on something to see if she would correct me. She did most of the time, because she could see the visual on the card and know it was the same as the real item. Then she started doing me the same way. Only she would tell me the label was wrong. For example, she took the visual for the table and told me it didn’t go on the lamp because it was a table then she would put it on the table. We also took turns putting up labels. Labeling items in the home helped Julia make the association with the real object, the visual, the sign language and the written text.