Avaz AAC App: The New found Voice at Sunrise Learning

Sunrise Learning is a Center for Autism and Special Needs located in Noida, India. The center uses Avaz extensively for teaching communication strategies to their students. Since communication partner skills are important for a communicator’s AAC use,  the center also focuses on training parents so that they can guide children and empower them with communication.

We are grateful to Vandana Gautam who played a pivotal role in Sunrise Learning center adopting Avaz AAC app. Thanks to her passion for implementing AAC in the center, several students with complex communication needs can express themselves better. A huge thanks to Dr. Sonali, Founder and Principal of Sunrise Learning Center for supporting the efforts of all the teachers and making it all happen.

Here’s what special educators in the Center had  to say about Avaz AAC and how it has enabled their students to communicate better:

How it All Began

Sunrise Learning’s Avaz journey started on 4th August 2018. We had a workshop on Avaz app byNaryanan. He introduced the wonderful app to us, and it just occurred to us- Why  not  have  such  a  powerful  tool  of  communication  for  our students. And thus we got started.

Charting the Course

Initially, it took us a lot of time and planning to make a road map. We spent a lot of time understanding the communication needs. To do this, We requested parents and class teachers to gather background information of each student along with relevant pictures. We created individualized folders for all students on the ipad, with subfolders of “family”, “things at home” “favourites” etc. When a student opened their personal folder on the ipad, they could see their family members, along with other things they could relate to. This familiarity made them happy and motivated them to use Avaz.

When Students Couldn’t Wait for ‘Avaz Class’

As we started one-on-one sessions, the first step was to teach our students REQUESTING using their top reinforcers. The main purpose of  this  exercise  was  to  get students  familiar  with  Avaz and make  them  feel motivated to use it. We wanted to give them the idea that their voice can be  heard  through  this  tool.  We  saw amazing  communication growth  with this strategy. Students were requesting their favourite things such as rhymes and songs. They also communicated about their visit to grandparents, malls, cinemas and many more things. It  was  overwhelming  to  see  them  express  their  needs  and likes  !!It became the  center  of  attraction  for  all  the students with them eagerly waiting for Avaz class. Even the class teachers thoroughly enjoyed the Avaz classes, since they saw their students opening up like never before!! 

Avaz in the Classroom

Avaz AAC was soon introduced in  the  classrooms  or  with  smaller  groups of students. The class teachers were instrumental in bringing AVAZ to the students by including it in everyday schedule. 

Here are a few  things that we incorporated Avaz AAC in: 

Calendar Time

We started with “How’s the weather today?” and “What time is it?”

Each morning, it was a great opportunity to talk about the day,  date,  month,  weather,  time etc.through  Avaz.  

Greetings

A Greetings  folder  was  created,  and every  class  had  a  greeting  time  with  Avaz  where students were greeted through Avaz and were taught to greet back.A  customized  template  was  used  for  this.

Gradually,  we  started  talking about the seasons, the clothes we are wearing, naming and identifying friends, teachers, school didis, and also about class schedules through Avaz. All the students’ communication attempts were reinforced with their favourite rhyme or song which they could request  through  Avaz. It  was exciting with each day filled with surprises as we discovered the new “favourites” of each student.

Smart Classes with Avaz

We converted the regular classes to “smart” classes using Apple TV. The regular walls became alive with new exciting pictures and videos and drew the attention of the students. These smart classes were different from the regular “audio-visual” classes.(that we create using the projector). These Avaz-Apple TV classes were more engaging bcause we are able to modulate the screen through the buttons on the ipad. And so students were able to enjoy the “real time action” on the wall. It’s fun, exciting, and a novel way to get their complete attention towards  the  activity or the  concept  being introduced.

Once we taught them how to pay attention to the teacher and the board, we then introduced students to various concepts through Avaz. We  taught them about their  surroundings.  Most  importantly,  we  helped  them  to communicate  about their needs, feelings, likes and dislikes.  This step was the most crucial, in making this app a “voice” for students who are either non-verbal or less expressive. It  meant  a whole  new  world  for  them,  and  for  their  teachers, to discover a “new means” to express, say, ask for, request, demand and speak for themselves!! 

Avaz’s Role in Acquisition of Literacy and Life Skills

Avaz  also  helped us to teach students academics  skills  such as  listening comprehension, reading comprehension, picture comprehension, understanding the concepts and storytelling. In fact, storytelling sessions became more interactive, and the quiz sessions became far more fun!

We  organized an Independence  Day Quiz  using  Avaz  and  got  amazing  responses from  the students  who might  not have been  able  to express their  capabilities without Avaz. 

Then in 2019, we used Avaz for a “theatre play” at the 3rd Annual Function at Sunrise  Learning. Earlier, other students  or  teachers delivered  the dialogues for the non-verbal students. But with Avaz,  the students delivered their dialogues  themselves. It  was  one  of  the  most touching  and emotional moments for parents who never thought it was possible to hear their children speak dialogues in a play on the stage at a cultural event.

Recently, we have been using Avaz to teach independent skills to our students. They  have  been  working  in  the  Sunrise  Learning  Shoppe,  and  the  Sunrise Learning café, working on their own, towards independence and dignity. Now, they make tea, sandwiches using the recipes on Avaz without any other physical or verbal support. Our students are also learning self-help skills using Avaz. Few of the students are using Avaz to order food in the restaurants.  

Laying the Foundation for Self-Dependence

So far, it has been a great tool for the students to express their feelings and pain and  helped  to reduce  or  minimize  control  battles, aggressive behaviours and anxiety episodes. Reducing anxiety, in turn increases connection and bonding, thus increasing the chances of learning and development of social skills. Our next step is to gift Avaz AAC app to all our students who need a tool  to  communicate,  express, and learn.  We  believe  that  it  will  boost their  self-confidence  and  their  ability to  connect  with  the world, and  lead  them  towards  freedom  from the “stigma” of being “disabled due to the inability to speak”.  Once they learn to use a tool that gives them the “ability” to express themselves, (be it writing, typing, or AAC like Avaz), there is NO STOPPING THEM…!! Thank you Avaz team, for understanding the perspective of people on the autism spectrum, and creating a tool as powerful as this. Thank you, Ms Vandana Gautam for introducing this tool to the students at Sunrise Learning, and inspiring and motivating all the teachers and parents to use AAC to make it a new found “voice” for the children !!

Learn more about Sunrise Learning Center at www.sunriselearning.inwww.facebook.com/sunriselearningnoida122

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you enjoyed reading about how AAC was used to power the communication of students with speech and langauage difficulties. If you have a story to share, please let us know in the comment section below or write to us at support@avazapp.com

 

 

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