Parents are the Best People to Help Kids Learn Communication [Infographic]

Jun 02, 2015

There is no better communication partner for children than their parents. That’s the main reason that much of the recent research in autism management focuses on parent mediated intervention as a way for a speech professional (like a speech therapist) to maximize communication outcomes.

Below is an infographic explaining why parents are the best communication partners for children.

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Why pictures help kids communicate better than words

It is widely believed by researchers that the primary reason that kids with autism find communication and language complex, is because of so-called “processing issues”. When a child is exposed to language at a volume and rate which typically-developing adults are comfortable handling, the child would find it immensely complicated to “decode” these words into meaning. This is true of both spoken language and written language, though the latter is somewhat less stressful (for literate children) because they are able to take their time to decode it.

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Every Child Can Read and Write : AAC and Literacy

We believe, as a matter of faith, that one of the end-points of AAC(Augmentative and Alternative Communication) is the development of literacy, i.e. the ability for a non-verbal child to read and write.

Well-designed AAC is more than an assistive technology — it is also an educational technology. In other words, AAC can (and should) provide a way for a child to transition from being a picture-user to being a text-user.

Some parents, and even a few therapists, sometimes question the assumption that a non-verbal child is capable of literacy. We take inspiration from David Yoder’s quote — “no child is too anything to be able to read and write”. Both systematic research as well as anecdotal evidence has shown that even children with very high levels of disability can be taught literacy.

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Avaz – Autism Awareness Month Offer

Like every Autism Acceptance week, this time round too, we’re running some great promotional

offers on our Pro apps. Avaz Pro in English, Spanish and Italian are all available at 50% off until

the 10th of April.

If you were looking to buy new licenses for your school, or if you know someone who you think

should experience the same awesomeness of Avaz that you have, now’s the best time to get a

great deal on these products.

As a special gift to you in support of Autism Awareness Month, we’re offering 50% off on Avaz apps:

  •  Avaz – Pro – 50% off – $149.99 – $74.99

o Download from iTunes here: http://bit.ly/1atGoya

o Download from Android here: http://bit.ly/1CDKdKe

  • Avaz – India – 50% off – $109.99 – $54.99

o Download from iTunes here: http://bit.ly/1CDKexN

  • Avaz – Italiano – 50% off – $299.99 – $149.99

o Download from iTunes here: http://bit.ly/1bVqld0

  • Avaz – Español  – 50% off – $149.99 – $74.99

o Download from iTunes here: http://bit.ly/1BZ9yLb

This limited time offer is only valid until April 10, 2015!

Give your loved one, the best gift ever

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Avaz Webinar – Powering Your Chilld’s Communication

Developing communication skills helps children with Autism live fuller, richer lives!

But how can you make your child’s therapy sessions go farther, so those skills develop even more? Presenting Avaz Together, world’s first iPad AAC app for home use, designed to help your child learn faster everyday.

Join us on Apr 2nd ( 3 pm – 4 pm PST) for a webinar explaining how Avaz Together helps you put your child on a fast-track of communication. Here are some of the things we’ll discuss:

  • Why is communication the most critical skill for a child with Autism?
  • Integrating communication-opportunities in your child’s daily life?
  • Modelling and why is this critical for the child’s communication development?
  • Measuring the vocabulary improvement of your child

Register for the webinar today!!

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Guidelines for Participating in a Avaz App Twitter Chat

Introduction:

Twitter chats, sometime known as tweet chats, occur when a group of people tweet about the same topic using a specific tag, known as hashtag (#) that allows the conversation to be followed online. The chats take place at a specific time and topics are defined in advance. We use the hashtag #avazchat for our twitter chats.

Getting Started:

You’ll need a Twitter account to join a chat. To sign up, visit twitter.com. There are several ways to view a chat as it is happening:
• Go to twitter.com and type in the hashtag you want to follow (e.g., #avazchat) in the search bar. You will see a list of every tweet that uses the hashtag, with the most recent tweets on top.
• Third-party tools (outside of twitter.com) are also available. Tweetdeck and Tweetchat are two options.

Format:

Tweet chats typically last for 60 minutes. A moderator will start the chat to introduce guest speakers and provide an overview of the agenda. A specific amount of time is allocated to each topic, followed by an open mic for follow-up questions and idea sharing. Participants are encouraged to submit questions prior to the event by e-mailing to sally@avazapp.com or by directing the question to our twitter handle @avazapp and by using the hashtag #avazchat on twitter. Due to time constraints, not all questions may be addressed during the chat.

Etiquette:

Stay on Topic. When you join a chat, be aware of the topics being discussed. If you ask a guest or moderator a question, stay on topic. Don’t use the hashtag unless your tweet is on topic.

Use the hashtag. If you ask a question or respond to someone in a chat, always include the hashtag so everyone can be in on the conversation. Services like Tweetchat.com automatically add the hashtag for you.
Share. Share tweets from within the chat with your network by retweeting or by commenting. Let your followers know you’ll be participating in a chat advance so they know you’ll be active during the time period. (They might also want to join the chat.)
Don’t be a self promoter. Don’t use someone else’s tweet chat stream to market your product or services.

Policy & Terms:

Participants of the Avaz App Twitter Chat may not post or link to any content that is false, defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, harassing, obscene, sexually oriented, threatening, invasive of a person’s privacy, or that would infringe on any third party’s rights (including copyrights and other intellectual property rights) or content that otherwise violate any applicable law, rules or regulations. Any information that you post becomes publicly available and may be viewable by any visitors to the site. Participants must also agree to twitters Terms of Service.

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Avaz Webinar – How can Avaz help your child communicate?

If you are a therapist, and have been checking your calendar and thinking that it‘s time to evaluate new AAC options

Or

You are already using Avaz, and would need a brief refresher course, then please join us for a FREE demo of Avaz on 26Th Feb 2014, 3 PM – 4 PM PST. Choosing the right AAC app is a conscious decision, and we’ll cover the following items to take you through Avaz and explain how it can help children communicate:

  • Customize Avaz for each child’s needs
  • Learn how Avaz helps reinforce learning
  • Discover Avaz features for children who need consistent motor patterns
  • Find out what makes Avaz child-friendly

Click here to register for the webinar.

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Join Us For The Twitter Chat With @Debraruh, Global Disability Inclusion Strategist

Topic: How to get schools to educate your child with Autism, so they are ready for employment

Time: Join Us on 26th Feb, 20:00 hrs GMT

About our Guest:

Debra Ruh is an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities and founder of Ruh Global Communications.

Debra has provided global leadership to governments, corporations, NGOs and DPO’s (Disability Persons Organizations) supporting research projects, DPO outreach, policy and standards initiatives with the public and private sector. Debra has worked with United Nations agencies and countries to help implement the CRPD.

Debra founded TecAccess in 2001 and merged it with another firm in 2011.  TecAccess was an IT consulting firm that employed persons with disabilities and helped businesses create accessible technologies for people with disabilities.

Debra is active on social media and blogging on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+, Tumblr, and Pinterest her Twitter handle is @debraruh. Debra is the Co-Founder of www.AXSChat.com a Social-chat website, on accessibility and disability inclusion.

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Dah Der Peas

Not every mother would know how to decipher “dah der peas”. But that was what Alex, a child with speech difficulties, was saying from the back of the car one morning when his mother was ferrying his younger brother Andy to school.

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Demystifying – AAC, Recorded Webinar

We at Avaz are having a great new year!! As part of our efforts to make every voice heard, we had a webinar on ‘Demystifying AAC’ on January 17.

Parents, special educators and speech therapists like you enthusiastically took part.

We tried to address the issue of how jargon was clouding the AAC space and ensured that voodoo around AAC was cleared.

If you are feeling sorry that you missed it, don’t be. Here’s a recording of it. Also, we will be coming up with more webinars in the future. Stay tuned.

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Hello world!

Welcome to Avaz Multi Network. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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Avaz Communication Challenge – Vocabulary Extension

We had posted the below question on our FB-page and got some great responses.

The answer to the question is Option ( C ).

{Disclaimer: The ‘correct’ answer varies according to the communication level of the child. We would suggest you to consult the child’s therapist for the best advice.}

Extension is similar to expansion, but one step more, where you introduce a new concept that is related to what the child has just said. It is preferable that you introduce only one concept at a time, which makes it easier for the child to digest. For e.g. if your child says “doggie tail” , you can extend it with “Yes! The doggie’s tail is fluffy”. Or if your child says “red flower” you can extend it with “Yes, the red flower is soft”! If your child says “doggie bark” you extend it with “Yes, the doggie is barking, he is hungry.”

Look out for words that your child is uttering and grab that opportunity to build on what he has just said – to expand and extend his language. Extension adds to his language and vocabulary in a natural way. These strategies make communication far more engaging, since the child is encouraged by seeing the parent respond to his statement and this tends to initiate and sustain a conversation.

Expansions and extensions are techniques that parents tend to under-utilize. These strategies not only aid in building the child’s vocabulary, but research has shown that it also helps the child build longer and more meaningful sentences.

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Avaz Webinar – Demystifying AAC

Specialized AAC(Augmentative and Alternative Communication) jargon makes AAC decisions difficult. Many of the questions that researchers have studied over the last few years are loaded with complex terminology. For example:

  • Is a vocabulary based on core words different from a pragmatically oriented vocabulary?
  • How do we deal with multi-graded vocabulary that a child has to grow through? Which color-coding works best for AAC vocabularies? Is it possible to combine high-tech and low-tech vocabularies for the same child?
  • Our webinar demystifies this terminology and the process of selecting or building an AAC vocabulary based on the latest research findings.
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Avaz – Communication Challenge { Topic: Extension in Communication}

We are back, with the Avaz Communication Challenge!!

Johnny is a 7-year-old and communicates in 1-2 words.

He returns from school and shows you a fish he made in crafts class. He uses his AAC device to say “BIG FISH”. You expand his utterance with “Yes! This is a big fish”. Now, what is the best way to extend this communication?

Leave a comment, with your answer – Option (A) or (B) or (C).

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Avaz – Communication Challenge!!

A few days back, we posed the following question to our Facebook community. We got some great responses.

Our answer to the question is (B).

We asked this question because we wanted to explore the topic of ‘Expansion in developing language’. First, a disclaimer. The ‘correct’ answer varies according to the communication levels of the child. Consult the child’s therapist for the best advice. Having said that, here is our rationale for the choice of the answer.

Expansion is a technique that helps develop language. It is useful for children who are emergent communicators. Expansions are comments that add syntactic and semantic details to incomplete phrases, to create a simple sentence that is grammatically correct. To expand your child’s comments:

  • Use the same words that your child has used and in the same order
  • Maintain the same meaning
  • Add the missing words to complete the simple sentence that is being conveyed

E.g. If your child says ball red,  you can expand it by saying, “The ball IS red”. Or if he looks at a dog and says big doggie, you can expand it with “HE IS a big doggie”. You are building his language without correcting him directly. Expansions have been shown to increase the probability that the child will spontaneously imitate the adult’s expansion of his utterances.

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Is one hour of speech therapy at school sufficient for your child?

In general, most children hear approximately 1,200 words per hour, and they learn language by listening to the words they hear every day. It’s difficult to imagine how many times a typical one-year-old hears a word like ‘more’ before learning to say it. Children develop language and speech by hearing sounds, morphemes, words, and sentence structures repeatedly, and these repetitions sometimes happen 10,000 times before children are able to generate them on their own.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) users need that same type of exposure to their AAC language systems before we should expect them to ‘speak’ AAC.  If a child is using an AAC device, then his or her parents or caregivers also need to work continuously to model how the AAC works, so the child is immersed in the language. Over time, children will be more likely to observe and mimic what they’ve learned. The more you use the AAC, the sooner your child’s language skills will improve.

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Choice-Making Empowers Children

We asked the below question to our FB-community and we thank our fans for coming up with answers and making the discussion lively.

The reason we posed this question was because it throws up a number of interesting subtleties in AAC strategy, which every parent should know. First a disclaimer that the ‘correct’ answer depends on the child, and you should consult the child’s therapist for the best advice.

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Avaz-Webinar: Recording

It has been a wonderful month for us so far, and we conducted our first webinar last Thursday. Special educators and SLPs participated from around the world. We talked about the various elements of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and how Avaz addresses them.

We started with a quick introduction to AAC, and about its importance in the broader context. Participants took a quick tour of Avaz to learn about its features, and the webinar ended with a great question and answer session.

Our webinar participants shared interesting ideas regarding communication pragmatics,language acquisition via motor planning (LAMP) etc.. Some of the participants were very interested in the Track Session feature and wanted more details, so they could make the most of it.

If you weren’t able to attend, here is a link to the webinar. Check it out and share your thoughts with us.

Also, stay-tuned for news on our upcoming webinars.

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Presume Competence – An AAC Mantra

I received a heart-warming email today from a mother whose two sons, both with autism, have been using Avaz for nearly a year now. Her email had one detail in particular which will probably remain with me for a very long time. She spoke about her elder son — let’s call him Harry — who is seven years old, non-verbal, with sensory issues and delays in fine-motor and gross-motor skills. Harry hardly initiates speech, so his mother was often left wondering what he was thinking about. But a couple years back, she and Harry’s speech therapist made an astounding discovery. They realized that Harry had taught himself to read, and he is now able to communicate — autonomously and, to a large degree, independently — by using Avaz.

Harry’s mom went on to write about all the wonderful instances where he’d used Avaz to astound his family, his therapist, and his baby-sitters. But I think the most important takeaway from this email is a validation of an AAC guideline that we may have heard about but don’t put into practice often enough. And that’s the advice to presume competence. Presuming competence is so important that I think it deserves to be called an AAC mantra. And it’s probably a good idea for you to repeat this mantra to yourself five times before you start your day with a child: “I must presume competence. I must presume competence.”

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Speech, Language, and Communication: What each of them means to a child with autism

I was at ISAAC 2014 in Lisbon earlier this year, and the highlight, for me, was the research symposium after the conference. This event included a hundred or more researchers in AAC from all over the world, who came together to discuss some very important cross-domain topics in the field. I had the good fortune of sitting next to Signhild Skogdal from the University of Stavanger in Norway. Signhild spoke to me very passionately about how we are always using the term ‘AAC’ to refer primarily to speech and language, whereas we should be focusing on the “C” — communication — more often. Talking to her, I came to understand a very interesting distinction between those three words we use rather carelessly while working with children with complex communication needs: speech, language, and communication.

What is speech? Speech is the common term that we use to refer to what’s known more technically as articulation. In other words, it is the process of physically expressing a sequence of sounds, which, through the process of hearing, convey a message. So, speech is definitely a physical process involving the muscles of the respiratory system and the vocal tract, or, in the case of people with speech disabilities, a speech-generating device or app like Avaz.

What is language? Language is shared meaning — “an agreed-upon set of symbols that enable people to interact and communicate with each other”1. The core property of language, then, is its symbolic nature — our ability to name and remember names of objects and actions in the world around us, so that we can ‘talk’ about them with each other. The names, by themselves, are more or less arbitrary. For instance, the object which we call a door, by any other name, would still open and close. But language is a way to put these words together to create meaning. Language is either sound-based (for verbal communication) or gesture-based (like sign language); and for many people with autism (and other disorders), it could be picture-based, too.

And what about communication? Communication is a medium of interaction between people that allows them to direct the emotions and actions of others. We communicate to convey information, to get people to do things, to express approval or disapproval, and to express our needs and wants. In short, we communicate so that we are able to live socially. All social creatures must communicate with each other — whether by the grunts and roars of tigers, or by the scent trails of ants, or by messages written on Facebook by human beings.

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Vigtigt ændring: Avaz 3.2

Date: 10-Nov-2014

Kære Avaz – Dansk Brugere,

Vi har netop udgivet en gennemtestet stabil opdatering af Avaz Dansk i app-butikken – version 3.2.1 og det er sikkert at opdatere. Den seneste version af denne app vil give mange flere folk som har specielle behov, muligheden for at opleve og drage fordel af Avaz.vaz Dansk er gået fra at være en betalt app til en gratis app, med mulighed for in-app køb. Dette skift har dog givet visse af vores brugere nogen problemer. Vi beklager meget, hvis du har oplevet nogen problemer i forbindelse med denne opdatering.

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Avaz Webinar-Discover How Avaz Helps Children Communicate

We’ve had a very exciting October. We attended the “Closing the Gap” conference in Minneapolis. We released Avaz Spanish. And we have been working on some exciting new projects. It’s all hush-hush for now but do watch out for more announcements.

This Nov 13, we have a one-hour webinar ( 3 pm – 4 pm, PST) on the various aspects of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and how Avaz addresses these.

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Hola señoras y señores. Bienvenido a Avaz Espanol

Hello! If you were wondering why this sudden burst of Spanish, we have news! We just launched Avaz Spanish. Partly because we love saying Hola to each other, but primarily because we received a lot of interest from the Spanish-speaking populace.

Avaz Spanish comes with a vocabulary of 5000+ words that has been localized to Latin American Spanish. For instance, you will find that in categories like food, restaurants, sport, religion etc the words are specific to Latin American culture. More of football, less of baseball.

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Contest Terms & Conditions

  1. The promoter is: Avaz Inc. whose registered office is at Stanford Financial Square, 2600 El Caminao Real #403, Palo Alto, CA 94306
  2. Employees of Avaz Inc. or their family members or anyone else connected in any way with the competition or helping to set up the competition shall not be permitted to enter the competition.
  3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
  4. Closing date for entry will be 17-Oct-2014. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
  5. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.
  6. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
  7. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.
  8. No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
  9. Winners will be chosen by the staff of the Promoter. The decision of this team is final and conclusive in all circumstances and no correspondence will be entered into.
  10. The winner will be notified by email/on social-media platforms within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
  11. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  12. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
  13. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material.
  14. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
  15. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Network. You are providing your information to Avaz Inc. and not to any other party. The information provided will be used in conjunction with the following Privacy Policy found at http://www.avazapp.com/privacy-policy/
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Avaz goes to CTG

The Avaz team is eagerly looking forward to next week.

On Monday, we fly to Minneapolis for the 32nd Closing the Gap (CTG) Conference – one of the best and most practitioner-driven Assistive Technology conferences in North America. This yearly conference provides a comprehensive examination of the recent developments in assistive technology for use by persons with disabilities and professionals who work with them.

This year’s conference will cover a broad spectrum of topics as it is addressing all disabilities and age groups in education, rehabilitation, vocation, and independent living. CTG typically sees a balanced mix of participants comprising SLPs, Occupational Therapists, AT Consultants, teachers and parents.

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A day of nothing spoken, and much communicated @ Avaz

The Avaz office is usually a noisy place – whether it’s the engineering team discussing new ideas and new features, or the customer relations team discussing feedback from users, everyone has an opinion and everyone freely airs it. But on October 1, the office was quiet.

A synthesized voice broke the silence. “Happy AAC Awareness Month.”

This was followed by a series of synthesized voices – “Thank you”, “Wish you the same”, “To you too” and so on.

On September 30, the entire team received an email from our marketing team,

“October, as we all know, is celebrated as the International AAC Awareness Month.

In the true spirit of the month, let us use only AAC devices to communicate tomorrow (Oct 1).

Let’s use Avaz for all communications within office. Even if you have to ask any of us for a pen, you will have to use Avaz.

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This October – Educate, Organize & Promote

Being the parent of a child with special needs is challenging. Add lack of communication, it can be frustrating and heart-breaking. Imagine seeing the crayon you want to use across the table, it’s the perfect color for your picture, yet you can’t voice your need. A pain in your body that makes you feel ill, or something as simple as wanting a glass of water becomes an internal stress because you can’t say what you need. People with communication difficulties have the daily challenge of having their voice heard.

As we head into October, the official month of AAC( Augmentative and alternative communication) awareness, we think of how far we have come with AAC. Technology is moving fast. Increased awareness about AAC and the availability of AAC is a gift to individuals with communication challenges. It is also a tremendous help for the parents of children who lack communication. Currently, assistive technology is becoming more advanced, easier to use, and affordable. Having access to AAC will increase independence, heighten education, create opportunities for inclusion, and broaden learning and life experiences.

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Here’s what’s cooking in our kitchen

September has been a busy month for our developers at Avaz. The next version of Avaz US will be out in mid-October and we are super-excited about the new features in this version!!

Here are two of our favorites:

  • Graphic UI for Track Therapy: Until now you were able to view only text reports of the therapy sessions you were tracking. In Avaz 3.3, apart from a sleeker display of the report itself, you will see analytics of the therapy sessions with graphs measuring mean length of utterance, percentage of core words used etc as well, thus giving you a better insight into the child’s progress.
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Avaz – why are we increasing the price?

Avaz has been on the App Store for 20 months and we have had tremendous response so far from our customers. A big heartfelt thanks to the people for believing in us and contributing to our success till now.

We have had 2 major updates and several minor ones to improve the app based on customer and expert feedback. The big news is that we will now be shipping with voices from IVONA. IVONA voices have been consistently ranked the best text-to-speech quality in several independent studies, and we are glad to be one of the first AAC vendors to be supporting these wonderful voices.

The other important feature we introduced in our latest version is word morphology, brought to you with the support of Ultralingua. We’ve worked hard to make morphology very user-friendly and accessible, and from the feedback we’ve received so far, many Avaz users have been able to form more complex utterance formation because of this.

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Happy Father’s Day

Fathers are special human beings. Some would even say they aren’t human beings at all, but super heroes. But undoubtedly, a father is someone your child looks up to. Little girls want to find a man like their fathers and little boys want to be the type of man that their father is.

A father is someone who is their kid’s biggest fan. He takes them to their soccer games and cheers them on, or he sits in the front row at their school play so he can get the best shot for the photo album. He supports his children as they get older and offers his help where he can. A father is someone who has all the answers. His children may have never asked the questions, but dad is always the first to offer his solution. He has his opinions on how they should handle things, and this may get frustrating as they grow older, but this is his way of trying to help.

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On communication

Think about the last time you communicated with someone. The scenario you come up with will undoubtedly be reflective of your definition of the idea of communication. Overall, there is a societal tendency to ascribe a higher value to verbal communication over non-verbal communication. For example, I assume that the above question most likely directed your thought stream to the last conversation you had. If verbal (and thereby written) communication is the means by which humans share and receive information, then language becomes the most important facilitator of this process.

However, I feel that thinking of language as the only way to communicate is problematic – it is too narrow of a lens. Ask the parents of an autistic child, who have learned, after several frustrating hours, to find meaning their child’s slightest shrug, frown. According to a blogger, and mother to an autistic daughter “every single thing we do communicates something”. Especially for parents like her, learning to reposition this idea of communication provides for a way in which to feel closer, more connected to their children who struggle with ‘mainstream’ verbal communication. Gestures, pictures, expressions, vocal utterances are a few examples of the ways in which communication can operate on levels independent of speech and language. It is important, here, to acknowledge the interconnectedness of these communication channels. That is, we have noticed that developing one or few of these dramatically increases the development of other channels as well. For example, for a child we worked with, her parents noted that using an AAC aid substantially increased the number of gestures she used as well.

This is not to discredit verbal communication: in many ways, language forms a more objective platform that people can interpret with more uniformity than non-verbal communication; it is associated with intent and ability. Perhaps it is in finding each child’s unique way of relating non-verbal and verbal communication with each other, it will be possible to develop both channels simultaneously.

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Mom’s the word… Happy Mother’s Day!

Dear Mom,

We often wonder how you do it all. How you can stay up all those nights, just so your child can sleep better. How you cook the most delicious meals, yet are content with the burnt ends of toasts. How, your joy in your child’s progress is often tinged with lost dreams and small worries. How, no matter how many temper tantrums and meltdowns you deal with, it makes no difference to you.

A part time counsellor, a full time friend, sometimes a teacher. Planner and organizer par excellence. Chef extraordinaire. Caregiver, coach and comrade rolled into one. And all of this powered by a heart of pure gold.

A mother’s love is something that can never be replicated no matter how strong the support system around a child is – a love that is unconditional and perpetual, absolute and profound. And today being Mother’s day, we would like to honour this special bond.

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SLP Testimonial: "Without Hesitation, Avaz It Is!"

As we continue the transition from The Flintstones into The Jetsons age of technology, the process of selecting the perfect AAC app can be exasperating and overwhelming, due to the massive selection in the app store.  At the present time, there are over 300 AAC apps in the store, each with subtle differences, but all targeting the augmentation of communication.  Our goal as professionals and caregivers is to find the AAC app that is most appropriate for the child and meets their individual needs.  Avaz has done what the iPad has done for all learners, modernizing the way children with special needs learn and communicate.  As a Speech Pathologist and Assistive Technology Specialist, the most common question that I receive relates to what I feel is the best AAC app on the market to support our nonverbal students.  Without hesitation, I quickly refer them to Avaz, as I truly feel that this AAC app is one of a kind.

We know that there are a number of communication apps that let you create multiple communication pages and link them together, but most of them have a steep learning curve and takes a lot of time and training to use effectively.  Avaz is extremely user-friendly, allowing the user to create their own custom buttons and communication pages in seconds.  The user is in control of how the language is arranged, and with pre-designed communication pages, creating a solid language foundation can be quick and easy.  Jane Farrall, an expert in the world of AAC, rates Avaz with 3/3 stars, and the iTunes store has a user-rating of 5 stars, which is a difficult feat to accomplish these days.  If you want to simplify your life in the AAC world, give Avaz a try, as I can honestly say that it has made a world of difference in the lives of the students I work with and in my professional life as well.

By
Chris Wenger, M.Ed., M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech & Language Pathologist

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Avaz FreeSpeech will revolutionize how you think about language!

Children have been using Avaz extensively till now, and it is an extremely successful AAC intervention for children with autism. Although Avaz allows for extensive literacy development in children with autism, there were still a few situations that were not addressed by this app. Namely, children with speech and developmental conditions using the app were found to struggle with word orderings and abstraction. So it is simple to identify and learn a word that denotes ‘eat’ but when it becomes ‘I want to eat’ – it becomes problematic – for how do you visually represent ‘to’? Additionally, children struggle with understanding word order, and how different sequences of words have different meanings.

A need to address these issues is what gave birth to the idea of Avaz FreeSpeech. FreeSpeech is a way of representing ideas visually, and a way of converting the representation into perfectly grammatical, meaningful English (or any other language). Instead of stringing words together as sentences, you can use Avaz FreeSpeech to create maps of images, to represent ideas in a completely language-independent way.

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Celebrate Christmas with Avaz

It’s finally our most favourite time of year! Christmas is all about love, family and memories. People are nicer to one another. More people smile.There’s a magic in the air. And to make the moments you share with your child extra special, we recommend that you use the Christmas vocabulary sets in your Avaz app. (Navigate to : Advanced→my topics→special days and events→Christmas)

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Innovative uses of Avaz’s features!

Children with autism have a tough time adapting what they’ve learned in one physical environment (e.g., the therapist’s office or school) to others, including the home. Creating consistency in the child’s environment is the best way to reinforce learning. One important way is to find out what the child’s therapists are doing and continue their strategies and tactics at home. It is vital to transfer learning from one environment to another, through consistency and practise. This helps your child feel more secure, because it creates a consistent and predictable environment.

We have heard some nice stories about therapists using Avaz innovatively to promote consistency. One way is to share backups of Avaz content on Dropbox (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hl1HnTavZhE&feature=player_embedded). A child using the Avaz app on different iPads at home and school can use the same vocabulary by syncing both iPads to the same Dropbox account. This not only synchronizes the content, but also saves content from being deleted or lost accidentally.

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25% off on Avaz this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to simply say, Thank you. It is a time to take a moment, stop and think about all the wonderful blessings in our life and be grateful for our family and friends. And to make this season a little more special for you and your family, we’re offering you a 25% discount on Avaz. Do avail of this offer by making a purchase between 28th November and 2nd December 2013.

 

Please do spread the Avaz Thanksgiving cheer around you! We’d appreciate it if you talked about the discount with your family and friends (email, tweet, facebook) or those who might need Avaz.

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Avaz Resource centers and the 'Data Logging’ feature on Avaz

An Assistive Technology (AT) Library offers families and therapists the opportunity to preview or trial assistive technology devices for children and young adults. Thus, families of children with special needs can go to an AT library, have a look and trial the different AT devices the library has to offer. They can subsequently borrow a device/app for a period of few weeks. This way they can preview a host of AT devices and based on the child’s compatibility with it, buy it for the child. (For example, check out one of Wisconsin’s AT libraries: http://www.atlclibrary.org/).

Many of Avaz’s resource centers (http://www.avazapp.com/avaz-resource-centers/) are AT Lending libraries, where people can borrow an iPad with apps in it, and a parent/therapist can try out Avaz (or other apps) with their child before deciding on it. Since, these lending libraries offer a time based trial of the app, it’s critical that the speech therapists or parents have some evidence to decide if the app has worked for their child or not.

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Sensory Processing Disorders

Sensory processing refers to our ability to take in information through our senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision and hearing), organise and interpret that information and make a meaningful response. For most people, this process is automatic.

 

Children who have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), however, don’t experience such interactions in the same way. SPD affects the way their brains interpret the information that comes in; it also affects how they respond to that information with emotional, motor and other reactions.

Babies and toddlers learn about the new world around them by using their senses. At first they put everything in their mouths, they grab your finger with their little fists, then they start using their eyes to look at all those baby mobiles hanging over the crib. They learn to recognise the sound of their mother and father’s voices and other noises. They start putting meaning to what they are hearing and seeing. The lesser known senses that have to do with balance and body position are also necessary in order to making meaning of the world around. If these are not working properly and are not in synch, they acquire a distorted view of the world around them and also of themselves.

Although a sensory processing disorder is not considered a qualifying characteristic for a diagnosis of autism, most people with autism have stated sensory processing challenges as the number one difficulty for them, regardless of where they are on the spectrum. So, many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty managing their sensory inputs. They may over- or under-react to visual, tactile and aural input – sometimes to the point where they are unable to participate in typical life activities. Information is processed by the brain in an unusual way that causes distress, discomfort and confusion.

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Using Avaz with motor planning

In my last post, I spoke about how some kids with special needs are better at motor planning than picture identification. In a nutshell, kids who tend towards motor planning can ‘remember’ a movement sequence that leads to selecting a word, and learn to associate that movement sequence with the word. It’s another way of building and using vocabulary.

We build Avaz so that it could be used by nearly all kids with complex communication needs, and so we built in a number of features to support motor planners, too. Here are some tips about how you can set up Avaz for maximum efficacy if you think the child you are working with is stronger at motor planning than picture identification:

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Contest Winner – Independence Day

Thank you all for participating in our Fourth of July – Independence Day contest. We were overwhelmed with the response!

A $50 iTunes gift card is on its way to Toby & McKade, who sent in this winning entry of McKade using Avaz to tell his parents what he would like to do each day. Toby also wrote a few lines to tell us he loves Avaz and how it has helped everyday interactions for him and his wife with their children.

Thank you. Avaz is our preferred AAC app. I have been so grateful to have found it. I love that there are different levels to use in the app. Thank you for what you all do for families like mine.”

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Approaches to Better Communication

It is widely known that children with developmental or language disabilities like autism have difficulties with identifying words from their sound or spelling. They need a different way of identifying words and using them to build their language and communication skills.

In an interesting conversation with an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) expert we discussed two approaches that have worked well to build communication in the context of these disabilities: Picture Identification and Motor Planning.

Picture Identification

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Independence Day Contest!

Independence Day is the celebration of an idea : An idea that all of us deserve to be free; that we have the freedom and rights to make choices and communicate those as best as we can.

We are conducting an Independence Day contest this week and next (till July 14th, 2013) as this gives us a chance to thank our Avaz community for being part of our endeavor to help every child’s voice heard.  Our last blog post on Independence Day Vocabulary set very easily enables your child to enjoy using Avaz this 4th of July.

Contest Details:

Stand the chance of winning a $50 Gift card at the iTunes Store (Terms & Conditions Apply)! To participate and win the Gift card its just one simple step:

Mail us a photo of your child using the Avaz app and tell us how you used Avaz on Independence Day! Whether it was spending the long weekend with friends and family, seeing the Independence day parade, going on a long drive or  dressing patriotically – there’s no fun activity that communication can’t make even more fun.

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Celebrate 4th of July with Avaz

Independence day – 4th of July is a day for Five Fs – Fun, Food, Family , Friends and Fireworks – and a time for celebration and enjoyment for everyone. There is so much to see all around and so many new experiences which your little wonder might get a chance to explore and learn from.

To help your child express himself on this occasion and to enable you to prepare him for what’s coming up, we have created a special vocabulary set for Avaz users, for 4th of July. Whether it is expressing amazement at the sight of the American Flag, or happiness on watching the fireworks, or just conveying that he is tired and wants to go home – there are numerous thoughts that flash across his mind, waiting to be expressed. But not getting the right words cause disappointment to the child and might decrease his intent to communicate. The child’s joy at his ability to express exactly what he wants to say with the least effort, is what drives our team forward to create these little sets of vocabulary for you. So, with Avaz Version 2.1 we offer you the opportunity to download and add these tailor-made vocabulary sets to your Avaz content, which enable your child to express himself more accurately, for every special occasion.

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Avaz Vocabulary Sets: Raising the Bar with Avaz v2.1

We’re launching Avaz 2.1 today. We are very excited about the new feature that we are introducing in this version. We think it’s a big game-changer!

Every time we meet and talk to educators, therapists and parents, we hear the same complaints — too much work, too little time. We’ve kept raising the bar on how user-friendly Avaz is, and we’ve tried very hard to make it the easiest AAC app to use.

Version 2.0, which we launched only a couple of months back, had several great features that received awesome reviews all-round. But today, we’re going one step further – from enhancing the app’s features to helping you create content on it. Avaz 2.1 allows you to download and incorporate new words and vocabulary into your copy of the app, and we promise to keep creating interesting, research-based vocabulary, that you can use right off-the-bat.
(e.g. a birthday party vocabulary set)

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Choosing an AAC app: it's not even about the app!

One of the most insightful things I ever heard anyone say about AAC was the magnificent Ian Bean’s talk in 2012. His talk was called “The Killer App” — and his point was that the most important thing, which decides whether AAC works or doesn’t work, is not the app – it’s the way it is used; it’s not the technology, it’s the parent or therapist; it’s not the features, of the app, it’s the strategy of the caregiver.

People often ask me what’s the best way to choose an iPad AAC app, and (when I take off my Avaz evangelist hat) I tell them, choose the app that you think that you, as a caregiver, would feel most empowered with. When you see an app, do you feel intimidated by it? Or do you get that tingly feeling of possibility, as ideas crowd around in your head about how you can use this shiny new tool in your arsenal to build communication skills in new, fun ways? Always choose an app in the second category. It doesn’t matter what the price is, or how famous it is, or how pretty the graphics are – what matters is how easy it is to incorporate in your strategy, and how comfortable you feel with it.

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Celebrating Father’s Day with AAC

While interacting in conferences, support groups and online forums, we’re more likely to run into moms rather than dads (Autism Daddy is a notable exception) – but this Father’s Day is a good time to thank all those awesome, amazing dads out there – for the incredible things they do for their kids, and for the amazing support they provide for moms.

As SLPs and speech-language techs, we are sometimes guilty of looking too deeply on the ‘how’ and the ‘how much’ of communication, and too little on the ‘why’ and the ‘who’. Nearly every heart-warming story we’ve heard about Avaz and AAC usage is a beautiful interaction that happens between a parent and a kid. Whether it’s a kid expressing a food preference for the very first time to their parent, or seeing the awesomeness of the big smile of a kid who’s just got something they love by asking for it with AAC, or just sharing an emotion or a feeling.

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New & Improved Avaz 2.0

1. Track your therapy sessions

Therapists suggested that they would love to have the app track their therapy sessions automatically in the background. This would save them time from taking notes during or after therapy, and allows them to concentrate on their therapy instead. In this version, you can automatically track the users’ activities during a therapy session, by using the Track Session option under Settings. When you end the session, you get an option to email the session log. The session log maintains a log of all sentences spoken out, changes made to settings, and changes made to the vocabulary (add or edit).

2. Backup & Restore

Therapists voiced their concern that after customizing the vocabulary in a particular device, they were unable to backup the content, and would lose the content if they change the device. We now offer the option to backup the existing Avaz data onto your iPad using Create new backup from the Backup & Restore menu in Settings. To restore backed up content, select from the list of backups displayed. This restores the state of the app at the time of backup. The backups can be deleted by connecting to iTunes.

3. Use Dropbox to synchronize your Avaz content over multiple iPads

With this version it is really simple to synchronize your Avaz content over multiple devices. You can do this by linking your Dropbox account in Avaz. Use the Link to Dropbox option (under Settings -> Backup & Restore) to sign-in to Dropbox and then create backups of your Avaz content. Use the same Dropbox account on the other iPads to synchronize the content.

4. Share messages

Avaz now empowers the user to communicate with family and friends through the social media. An Avaz user can share messages (that Avaz speaks) through Facebook, Twitter or Email. Set the medium of communication using Share on Social media option in Settings. You can share the message after you speak it out from the message box. A child can say “hello” to his friends through email or wish “Happy birthday” to his grandmother on Facebook!

5. Color coded vocabulary

The vocabulary is now color-coded (optional) and grouped linguistically, to facilitate language development. You can also individually change the colors of any of the images using the Edit image option.

6. Enhanced vocabulary

Parents and therapists were keen to have vocabulary that serves a wider range of children, and offers increased opportunities for communication. The Avaz vocabulary has now been enhanced by an additional 2000+ words. You can choose from more than 80 topics of conversation under My Topics – e.g. “Go shopping”, “Play basketball”, “Pet care” etc. Each of these categories contains the relevant context words, supported by appropriate core words to facilitate sentence formation. These topics are grouped under the relevant settings or environment where they are likely to be used – e.g. At home, Outdoor etc.

7. Add your own voice to messages

Some parents and therapists wished to personalize the spoken messages by recording their own voice. You can now add your voice to the message using the Record button when you edit the message. This is also useful for correcting mis-pronounced words or words having different audio messages.

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Backing up your vocabulary with iTunes in Avaz 1.1

We just released a minor update of Avaz into the App store.

Here are the major features
* Backup functionality has been added through iTunes. You can now back up your vocabulary and transfer it between iPads if you want to.
* Restoring the default vocabulary is faster
* A few minor bug-fixes

The backup functionality was something that many people asked for. While we’re working on a new backup mechanism for v1.2, this one has the basics covered.

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Avaz – Success Stories

It is certainly a pleasure to know what our customers feel about us! I was completely overwhelmed when I went through the articles written by Mukund, a student of SPASTN. Read on to know more about Mukund and how Avaz has transformed his life. Thanks to Ms. Jyothi, speech therapist of Mukund and Mrs. Jayashree, the Director of SPASTN. The article below was typed out on Avaz by Mukund and his teacher has written it down.

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A day at the library with Avaz

We love to hear stories of Avaz users generalizing AAC beyond the classroom, and that’s why we found the story of Gopinath in the library so much fun.
Gopinath is 11 years old, with CP, and he’d been using Avaz for a few months when his therapist decided to take him (and Avaz) out of the classroom and into the big world outside. There’s a large public library only a few blocks from his school, and Gopinath was only too glad for the opportunity to skip out and go there.

It was a lot of fun for Gopinath and his therapist to pick a book to read in the Children’s section. The shelves in the Children’s section are low and really well-designed, and Gopinath, on his wheelchair, could browse all of the books without too much assistance. He ended up choosing a colourfully illustrated book about a tiger cub and a little boy, and used Avaz to request his therapist to take out the book for them to read together.

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Evolution of Avaz's easy to use features

The #1 comment we hear from reviewers of Avaz is how easy it is to use! Some people think that products that are easy to use are also easy to build. If only this were true. It’s easy to build complicated AAC systems – just put in everything including the kitchen sink, build the code, and release into the app store. To make something simple is rather more work.

With Avaz, we went through many iterations before we could get something that was ‘simple enough’. The first generation of Avaz couldn’t be customized from the device – you had to customize it on the PC, and then load it in. The next version was better, but still cumbersome – to add a new word, you would type it in the keyboard mode, and save it as a picture for it to show up in the picture mode. It seems the most intuitive idea now to make every screen of Avaz editable with a single click on the Edit pencil – as it is today – but it took many iterations to get to that point!

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Some Common misconceptions about AAC

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is the name given to devices and apps that can help non-verbal children with cerebral, autism, mental retardation, Downs syndrome and other disabilities to communicate. While developing and demonstrating Avaz, I’ve heard parents express numerous misconceptions about AAC. A child with special needs isn’t empowered to make his or her own choices about AAC, which is why a parent’s misconceptions are doubly dangerous.
Here are some of the most popular ‘myths’ I’ve heard:

1. My child can talk – if she uses an AAC aid, she will not feel motivated to develop natural speech.
This is the most dangerous myth of all. Some non-verbal autistic children go on to become verbal and some do not. Withholding communication and trying to insist on natural speech prevents a child from experiencing a normal childhood, with new experiences, expressing curiosity, and making friends. Even for those children who do become verbal eventually, research has shown that using an AAC aid actually assists the process, instead of inhibiting it.

2. My child is too young to get started with AAC.

This is related to the ‘can talk’ myth. Thirty years of AAC use have demonstrated very clearly that early intervention is key to managing autism and other disabilities effectively. The brain is very plastic before the age of 6 – new neurons are created, and new connections are formed between different parts of the brain. Picture-based AAC aids for autism work by bypassing the brain’s verbal center and instead using the visual center or language-planning center for developing language. The earlier the intervention, the greater the likelihood of success. I’ve seen stellar successes in AAC intervention with kids as young as 2.

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Babu loves his biryani

In the dimly lit Audiology room, 10 year old Babu emanates energy and good cheer. Accompanied by his mother, he seems excited about his Avaz communication therapy session with his teacher Ms. Radhamani. Babu has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic, yet this doesn’t stop him from having fun with the people around him. Before sitting in on his session, I envisioned somewhat of a struggle between him, the teacher and Avaz, but in retrospect I realize that I was far from the truth. In the forty five minutes that I spent with Babu, I partook in wonderfully lighthearted moments when he joked with his mother and giggled, and saw his mother’s beaming pride as he navigated the device to speak his mind.

Of the many instances that stayed with me, one stood out with particular because it was – for lack of a better way of putting it – super cute. His teacher asked him about his favorite foods, and he quickly navigated the screens with his little finger, scrolling up and down searching for his choice. Then looking up at his mother, his face broke into a naughty smile. Biryani (Indian spiced rice), he tapped, biryani, biryani, biryani, he persisted, and laughed all the while. Soon, everyone joined in and his mother happily said to Ms. Radhamani “Yes, he really does love biryani”. Using Avaz, Babu was also able to tell his teacher what he wanted to eat for lunch, and his mother was more than happy to comply.

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Contingency Mapping to enhance positive behavior in autistic learners

Inspired by a recent post by Speech-Language and AAC specialist, Dr. Carole Zangari, we’re bringing to you the basics of contingency mapping and its merits in decreasing behavioral problems in autistic children. We think this strategy shows immense potential in creating and sustaining an environment where lesser time is spent on tending to behavioral issues, allowing for more time and energy to be devoted to learning AAC use.

What is Contingency Mapping:

Contingency mapping, developed by Dr. Brown and Dr. Mirenda is the process whereby pictorial representations of antecedent – behavior – consequence pathways are created. The map shows divergent pathways depicting consequences of desired behavior (or alternative behavior) as well as undesired behavior (or problem behavior) from the learner. It contains the following components:
– the common antecedent that occurs before the problem behavior (and alternative behavior)
– the topography of the problem behavior and alternative behavior
– the functional reinforcement that will be provided if the learner avoids the problem behavior
– the absence of this reinforcement that will not be provided if the learner continues the problem behavior. (Brown,

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The importance of motivation

In using AAC devices, I’ve noticed that parents tend to envision the device as an automatic solution to their child’s communication needs. Parents anticipate that the child will take to the device right away with somewhat of a sustained interest, and express disillusion with it when he/she doesn’t use it the way they expected. Some parents report their children touching the wrong keys, responding incorrectly and getting distracted. Disheartened by the lack of immediate results, parents spend decreasing amounts of time helping their child with the AAC.In India, where the credibility of AACs and its success is still little known, there is a skepticism towards using technology, which in turn impacts how much the child is actually exposed to the device. If the child doesn’t respond quickly to the device, parents stop encouraging him/her to use it: it becomes easy to blame the technology, to claim that it isn’t a good fit for them.

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The Disconnect

India is indeed a paradox. Those of us in India are aware of the extremes that we find ourselves in the middle of, yet sometimes the disconnect between the two polar ends takes becomes more real, more unsettling than ever. Recently, I found myself in such a position of disillusionment. It came in the newspaper one morning, when I read about a mother in Tamil Nadu, India seeking euthanasia for her 14 year old daughter – Madhumita – who suffers from cerebral palsy. The mother – Jaya’s – disheartening appeal was the result of her being unable to access adequate care services for her daughter. In the words of Ms. Jaya, “She cannot walk or speak. She cannot even identify us. She sits all the time in her wheelchair or lies on her bed. The only thing she does is cry. I am taking care of her with great difficulty and I am worried about her future”. The family whose income was insufficient to cater to their daughter’s medical expenses said that the homes for rehabilitation were unwilling to accept Madhumita, driving them to seek this drastic measure.

This is particularly unsettling because my work with Avaz has exposed me to the expanse of individuals and companies that are coming up with new technology and solutions to the very problems of communication and mobility that Jaya talks about. Even within India, there is no dearth of such technology – it is just overwhelming problem of connecting these resources with the people like Madhumita that most need it. Is it a lack of awareness, funding, governmental intervention or an amalgamation of all of this? In any case, it was shocking to me, as I work alongside individuals who envision better futures for children like Madhumita, that there are still many who are being left behind – that structural problems of society cause families to make such extreme decisions in evident desparation. Can this change?

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A visit to Chrysalis

I walk into Chyrsalis – a small school for autistic children in Neelankarai, Chennai- and I’m greeted by smiles. In a courtyard shaded by trees, children interact with their teachers, tossing a ball back and forth to each other. It is oddly serene, and I am immediately put at ease. Inside, I meet the director of the school Ms. Rekha, and Ms. Viviani – a special educator, who have graciously agreed to share their experiences with Avaz – their stories – with me.

“We feel like we’ve become better people”

Due to our extensive reliance on language to express and understand emotions, sometimes an autistic child’s feelings go unnoticed, or are misinterpreted. Several high-functioning autistic adults have elucidated that as children, they often had instances where they felt intense emotions (such as those of anger or fear) but had trouble expressing those feelings coherently. Here, AAC devices help facilitate this very expression, by giving a voice to previously unspoken feelings. Rekha and Viviani recount the instance where a young student was in distress, crying incessantly. It was by using AVAZ that she was able to relay to her instructors that she wanted to see her mother, who had passed away. Needless to say, both Rekha and Viviani were overwhelmed by the extent to which the little girl was able to express her emotions when given the right tools. According to Rekha, AVAZ has helped the faculty of Chrysalis be better listeners and establish deeper connections with the students.

“Don’t leave me alone”

A 5 year old at Chrysalis was gearing for his transfer to a mainstream school about a year ago, and as a part of this process, he was required to attend an assessment session at his new school. Upon his return, his teachers were eager to hear about how it went. Using AVAZ, they asked him questions about his experience. Pushing the device away, he burst into tears, then taking back the device, he used it to say “Don’t leave me alone”. Later, AVAZ helped him communicate to his teachers his fears about transferring to the new school – he thought his teachers were pushing him away and leaving him. Understanding this, the teachers were able to pacify him, tell him that he would never be alone, and explain to him how much fun he was going to have at his new school.

Great reviews

The ease of navigability and extensive customization options are features that make AVAZ most appealing to the students at Chrysalis. The predictability of the software, coupled with the appeal of the touch screen make communication a hands-on, enjoyable activity geared to the multi-sensory needs of an autistic child. Rekha notes that the intent to communicate has grown, and more children are taking the initiative to communicate. Rekha and Viviani have only good things to say, and in the year that it has been in use, Avaz seems to have brought about many wonderful improvements. I leave as I came, with a smile on my face.

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Helping Jyothi speak – Lalitha's reflections

Visiting Akshaya Prathishtan, I knew that the wheels of change had been set in motion. There was none of the initial resistance and skepticism about using Avaz, only progress and communication. The kids have only been using the device for a month and a half, yet the developments have been incredibly encouraging. Interestingly, most of the children are hearing impaired, and therefore the the effectiveness of a voice output device was suspect. Yet even in the short time span, not only has communication increased, but simultaneously so has the will to do so.

We had a meeting with around 10 children (current users and potential users) along with their parents. One child, Jyothi, who has never spoken at all save a couple of words in all her 14 years is suddenly attempting to speak. Although the words are not comprehensible, she is making a very strong attempt at trying to speak. Her mother who had also come there was extremely happy with her progress and was very happy to share her experience with all others there.

This is a very heartening response to the those who believe that a voice output device would impede speech development – on the contrary it has resulted in speech development within barely a month of usage! Most moving was hearing her parents express their heartfelt happiness and excitement about their child’s improved speech.

Other children also tried it for the first time that day. They were able to quickly understand the text mode and even started using it to type their names, parents’ names etc. One of them even used the clear button to clear the message box after using it ! He was so keen to use it that he refused to give it to the next in the queue !

It is moments like these that stay with us, and show us that with a little help, encouragement and an open mind, anything is possible.

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