Hello my friends! I know I have been kinda absent from the blog, but that is because the end of February/beginning of March tends to be a crazy busy time for our family. March is when we have Liam’s IEP meetings with his school and it’s his birthday month. This year in particular was a pretty big IEP meeting because Liam is going to be in Kindergarten next year, so there have been extra meetings and evaluations and we aren’t done with them yet!
Liam has been using a physical PECS system to communicate at school. PECS is a way for non-verbal/mostly non-verbal people to communicate using a PECS book and sentence strip. Here are some example photos:
It is a great system, however we had moved past it in Liam’s private speech therapy and started to use an AAC (Alternative & Augmentative Communication) app on a tablet at home. The AAC app we chose is called Niki Talk. We chose it for several reasons mostly because it is set up like a PECS board so it looked familiar and the second major reason is that after a 30 day free trial, if you purchase the app you get unlimited downloads on Apple and Android devices! When Liam started using this app, he lit up like a Christmas tree and he loves the fact that it “speaks” for him. You can program a male or female voice and there are many languages available to choose. Liam and I have actually had arguments in the car using this app! He will tell me “I want french fries” or “I want McDonalds” using the app. I will reply back to him “Not today” and then he will verbally yell “NO!!” and use his app to repeat those sentences over and over! It is awesome! I would highly recommend this app to anyone wanting wanting to check out AAC apps but not the $200 and up apps. This app is 49 Euros (the dad who created it for his daughter lives in Italy), I used my PayPal to purchase the app and the total cost in US Dollars ended up being $59.26
So this is all exciting and awesome right? The school system should be eager to get on board right??
I had done my research on AAC apps vs a physical PECS system. I had already requested the school start testing him for AAC tablet in the classroom (which they had started but not finished) and the lady who was conducting the testing was coming to the IEP meeting. One of the first things the tester said was that she didn’t think a tablet would be a good fit because when she tried to get Liam to use her iPad he wanted nothing to do with it.
This is the boy who has instinctually known how to use and loves using iPads and smart phones from the first time he could manage to hold them on his own! So I told her that was not at all like Liam and it was probably because he didn’t know her. The next big objection was that per the research they received in their PECS training it was best for students to master the physical PECS system before moving onto an app/tablet.
Parents let me tell you something if this is thrown your way in an IEP meeting. There is no independent research that states that this is true. If it comes up in your IEP meetings ask them to show you independent research. They won’t be able to give you any. The only “research” they knew about was what the PECS trainers gave them. OF COURSE the PECS trainers will provide research that says that kids need to master their program before moving on to something else. I want to state that there is nothing wrong with PECS system, however, Liam has been rocking the Niki Talk app and we wanted him to use it at school!
So once I busted out with “that isn’t true and here’s why” the next thing that came up was that the school couldn’t let Liam bring in his tablet because there wasn’t any legal release for me to sign so the school wasn’t liable for damages.
My mom was in the meeting with me and she was like “Uh yeah, I work in a Jr High and every single one of those kids has a tablet and/or smart phone”. Then the county answer was “Well we are Special Ed not General Ed so it’s different and I will have to check with my boss”. At the end of the 2 HOUR IEP Meeting, I had it written in that he could bring his tablet to school and use his app because I wasn’t budging. The rest of the meeting went smoothly with his goals for the next school year. After the meeting mom and I went to breakfast and then I was all:
Of course, we have to have a whole other round of meetings in May for Kindergarten placement and test results. Sigh.
If you are looking into AAC for yourself or a family member, my favorite website that gives great advice is PrAACtical AAC go check it out!
This weekend is Liam’s 5th Birthday Party and we rented a huge inflatable obstacle course, which Liam will love!
If you aren’t following me on Instagram, you should go check it out! Even when I am too busy to post here, I am almost always posting in Instagram! I am at One Lost Mama
Hope everyone is having a great week!
Thanks for reading!