METHODS TO HELP COMMUNICATE
Most students with Rett syndrome will benefit from augmentative and alternative commnication (ACC), which includes any methods used in place of speech (i.e. written language, body language and facial expression). These avenues may be diffcult for those with Rett Syndrome and will therefore want to consider using eye gaze, head pointing, communication boards, switches and voice output communication devices.
Methods for ACC can be divided into 3 levels of technology complexity:
“No tech” methods include signing, using pictures and objects without voice output, facial and body language, and eye gaze.”
Communication boards are a simple and portable way to provide access to choices. They can be made out of anything from a manila folder covered with contact paper, to a foam board with a velcro strip along its length, to a large piece of cardboard, to the front of your refrigerator. They can hold objects velcroed on or placed in pockets, pictures, words, or any combination. They can be set up so that the student can take pictures o and hand them to a receiver, or point with her finger or even her nose, a head pointer or light. They can be stationed anywhere in a classroom and geared to specific activities in that area, placed on a lapboard to go with her, or placed in strategic locations around your house. She can point to them by herself or with someone steadying her arm or head (facilitated communication).
“Low tech/Mid tech” methods include devices with voice output, but only one choice or one page recorded on them.
Switches & Non Dynamic Display Devices
Through the use of cause and effect she learns, sometimes accidentally, that “If I do this, something predictable will happen.” At first, use the switch to activate something she already enjoys such as music she loves or a VCR with her favorite movie. When using the switch is rewarding, she will be more willing to do it. She may need help to steady her hand or to press harder. To connect a switch to an electrical, rather than a battery run device, you will need an extra piece of equipment to change the current. Explore different switches to see which works best, looking at pressure needed for activation, size, pressing versus swatting, etc.
“High tech” devices are like computers, allowing for the greatest number of options.
Eye Gaze Devices
Full-sized computers are a great vehicle for learning and play in the classroom, although they are not very portable. While laptops are more portable, their screens are small and their keyboards cannot be moved out of the way if alternative access methods are used. While touch sensitive screens are available, they are harder to find and more expensive on laptops. However, they are very good for cognitive development and interactive games. Computer programs and games can be very motivating, especially those with sound and action. Sound cards, external adaptive devices and software can be easily added to your computer to provide needed input and output methods.