When the talker arrived I decided that I did not want to do formal teaching sessions with Archie. Mainly because he reacts very badly to being adult directed in an educational setting, particularly from me. I’m Mum and I’ve found over the years that if I try to teach him myself it really doesn’t work. He loves working with Nikki his speech and language therapist, and she comes to our house every other week to work in a pretty structured way with Archie for an hour. I then take whatever Nikki’s aims are and try to back them up in everyday conversation.
When the talker first arrived we worked mainly on verbs. Verbs have always been difficult for Archie, I suspect partly because he didn’t learn to imitate until he was 8 years old. If you can’t imitate then verbs are pretty meaningless, because without an understanding of imitation watching someone running or jumping (for example) bears no relation to you running or jumping. I can’t think about this for too long as my head usually explodes trying to imagine what the world was like for Archie pre-imitation. Anyway he has begun to use verbs more and so we’ve moved onto the next target which is increasing utterance length.
For the past two sessions Nikki has been working to get longer phrases from Archie and I’ve been backing this up when possible. So for example Archie would say ‘silver’. I knew he meant silver car but would say ‘silver what?’. Initially this was met with ‘silver silver silver’, but gradually Archie has worked out to reply with ‘car’ and now is beginning to say ‘silver car’ without prompting.
In the last week it seems a little switch has been flicked and phrases are beginning to fall into place with no prompting. Nikki visited last night and asked Archie what he’d done the day before. ‘yesterday sea surfing beach’ came the response. Nikki asked how it was; ‘good’. The screen capture is below (ignore the ‘close’ that was from a previous conversation)
The next photo shows the screen after further conversation. Dan is a TA who has just moved to a new job. Archie starts by asking whether Dan is going to be in school at all (green and purple refer to days of the week). I explained that Dan has moved; ‘Dan gone school’ and Archie later recounted this as ‘Dan different school’. In between you can see him asking for some apple. Notice how eat is often added as an afterthought; he still struggles with verbs (although on the Vantage Lite ‘apple’ and ‘eat’ start with the same button so it does encourage that particular error).
The final photo shows another sequence. Verb in the correct place this time, and refers to another favourite topic of conversation at the moment – the new swimming pool. We’ve had quite a few independent phrases produced around the topic of the old and new swimming pools; ‘old pool water gone’ being another example.
So longer utterances are being produced. This has been reflected in speech as well (although I usually have no idea what is being said). Of course eventually we’ll have to work on helping Archie to produce sentences that are grammatically correct and include all the little words that are currently missing. If he carries on at the rate he’s going, that won’t be too far away.