Tag Archives: Easter Seals

Assistive Technology in the Land Down Under!

by Sandy Masayko

This is the second post in a series Sandy will be doing from Australia

After traveling for about 30 hours I landed in Sydney on Friday morning, made it through customs, and I am now enjoying hot summer weather and a little culture shock.  The culture is not shocking in big ways: everyone speaks English, of course, and the people are a diverse group like you’d see in an American city. People are friendly and polite. But the sound of the language is different, the spelling too, as well as some vocabulary.

ATMs are everywhere so it’s easy to get cash just like in the states. The money is organized in a dollar system with the paper bills increasing in size to reflect greater values. There are no paper dollars, instead one and two dollar coins.  Pennies have been eliminated.  The smallest coin is 5 cents. Payment amounts are rounded up or down to deal with the missing pennies. Right now the Australian dollar is worth about $0.75 US, so I mentally calculate percentages to see what things “really” cost.

Since I am here to look at issues around disability, I decided to test out accessibility on public transportation by lugging my 40-pound suitcase, duffel bag and backpack on the train from the airport.  (Normally I travel much lighter, but I am bringing books for my Australian colleagues.)  Despite my burdens, it was easy to travel on the train from the airport and change to another line because of the “lifts” (known in the US as elevators), curb cuts and seating set aside for people with special needs: age, disability, or other issue.  The biggest accessibility challenge was getting up to my hotel, located on a hill in North Sydney with 12 steps leading up to the entrance. As I hauled the suitcase up the steps an Australian woman my age came to my rescue to assist me.

The next few days are vacation for me, and a chance to catch up with my son, who lives in Sydney.  I will travel to a section of Sydney called Parramatta on Sunday to be close to Northcott, the first center I will be visiting in Australia.

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Making Connections and Forming Bonds

by Jeanine Johnson

It has now been a little over a year since I joined the Easter Seals family. I can say that I feel sufficiently settled-in. Due to the nature of my position as Data Secretary, I often get to know names of individuals before having the opportunity to meet them in person. It has been a great experience getting to know both students and staff.

It still amazes me that the excitement I felt about making an initial connection with one of the students named Max has not waned in the least. It started out with kisses and now has expanded to cats! He fell in love with my mug that had a picture of my cat named Teacup on it. I made a copy of the picture for him. This new found love of cats has made its way into his home life as his parents report that “he is really liking cats now.”   The best part of the last year has been the multiplication of connections and bonds I have had the opportunity to make. I now have many little friends! To one named Mung, I am known as Wonder Woman and because of that I dressed-up as the character for the Fall Festival. Another, Jaylen, stops by every day and gives me a hug before boarding the bus to go home. Others I visit during the day to receive my daily smiles and conversations. I get to witness first hand their progress and growth and it is nothing short of spectacular! The programs here tap into each child’s potential and make it reality. These interactions recharge my batteries and I’m able to be a more productive employee because of their enrichment. It is such a symbiotic environment.

I had spent over 20+ years in the banking industry and I can truly say that I have never felt as fulfilled as I feel here. Easter Seals is good for education and good for the soul.

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Easter Seals of SEPA: A Leader In Developing Communication Using Eye Gaze Technology With Young Children!

by Sandy Masayko

In November 2016,  Joy S. McGowan, Sandy Masayko, and Melissa Spada presented a seminar on “Developing Communication in Young Children Using Eye-Gaze Technology” at the national convention of the America Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Philadelphia.  The presentation was accepted for the conference after competitive peer review.

Easter Seals of SEPA provides the Assistive Technology resources and support to evaluate and implement eye tracking technology for communication for children who have limited speech production and motor difficulties. Our Easter Seals team presented training guidelines to determine candidacy for successful use of an eye-tracking system.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Fact Sheet & Myth Buster

by Ani Soghomonian & Bridget M. Coady, MA CCC-SLP

As a speech-language pathologist in the preschool setting, I often use pictures, devices, and language boards to help children communicate and learn language. These are known as “augmentative and alternative communication” (AAC) methods. AAC can teach language vocabulary and structure, and enhance the communication of children with special needs. Sometimes, parents express concern that these visual supports and communication devices will hinder or replace their child’s natural verbal speech. This is not true. “Are we giving up on their verbal speech?” parents ask. “But I want my child to talk,” they say. In order to address these concerns, I recently created a handout in collaboration with a speech-language pathology graduate student who worked with me at Easter Seals. The graduate student researched articles on AAC and its impact on speech and language development. Together, we translated the research into easily understandable terms. The end result was a parent-friendly, research-based fact sheet about AAC.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Fact Sheet & Myth Buster
“Communication is the essence of human life” -Janice Light (1997)

 1)What is AAC?

  • A way to enhance the communication of people who have significant speech and language impairments (Light, Binger, Agate, & Ramsay, 1999)
  • AAC can have positive benefits for natural speech production—using AAC intervention will NOT inhibit the production of speech
  • A way to help language skills develop (Romski & Sevcik, 1996)
  • Includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas (ASHA)

picture icons, speech-generating devices, gestures/signs, language boards

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2) I’m worried my child’s speech production will be inhibited if he/she continues to use AAC as a way to communicate. What if AAC negatively impacts my child’s ability to learn speech?

  • AAC will actually facilitate the development of speech for many children with developmental disabilities (Romski & Sevcik, 1996)
  • This is no research that suggests AAC will hinder the development of natural speech
  • AAC is highly beneficial because it may:
    • Reduce the pressure on the child to speak verbally
      • This can reduce stress and facilitate the production of speech naturally (Lloyd & Kangas, 1994)
    • Reduce the motor and cognitive demands of speaking, and focus on the goal of getting the message across instead

3) What is communicative competence?

  • It is a child effectively communicating his/her message to the listener
  • It is the central goal of AAC intervention (Light, 1997)
  • AAC can help create effective communicators
  • It is about the people:
    • AAC is just the tool; it is the people and the interaction between them that is the main focus!
  • It is learned:
    • Children must be taught how to use their AAC system to be effective communicators
    • It is a step-by-step process that takes hard work, commitment, and instruction—that’s where SLPs and parents come in!

4) How do we build communicative competence? (5 steps)

  • Identify meaningful and appropriate opportunities for communication
  • Prepare for these opportunities by teaching the child who uses AAC
  • Ensure conversational partners provide support, such modeling use of AAC system
  • Have the child participate in these opportunities at home and in the classroom
  • Reflect on experiences and learn through them
  • It focuses on the 4 purposes of communication:
    • To express our needs and wants
    • To build relationships or friendships with others (Light, 1988)
    • To share information (Light, 1988)
    • To use social etiquette; For example, “Thank you, have a good day” (Light, 1988)

5) My child has been using AAC in speech therapy for a while now, but I am not seeing any increase in the amount of speech he/she is producing. Should I be concerned?

  • Each child’s speech and language development is highly individualized, so there is not a straightforward answer. However, research shows that some individuals who are using AAC intervention may take somewhere between 6-25 sessions to show speech gains (Millar, Light, & Schlosser, 2006)
  • Your child’s SLP will monitor the effectiveness of the AAC system on communicative competence, social interaction, language skills, and speech production.
  • Your child’s intervention will be changed as deemed necessary, and in the best interest of your child and your family.

Main Points:

  • SLPs and parents should not hesitate to use AAC with children whose speech is inadequate to meet their communication needs.
  • AAC has significant benefits for developing the language skills and communicative competence of many children.
  • AAC can have positive benefits for natural speech production—using AAC will NOT inhibit the production of speech!

Additional Information:

References

Light, J. (1988). Interaction involving individuals using augmentative and alternative communication: State of the art and future research directions. Augmentative and               Alternative Communication, 4, 66–82

Light, J. (1997). “Communication is the essence of human life”: Reflections on communicative competence. Augmentative and Alternative Communication13(2), 61-70.

Light, J. C., Binger, C., Agate, T. L., & Ramsay, K. N. (1999). Teaching partner-focused questions to individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication to enhancetheir communicative competence. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research42(1), 241-255.

Lloyd, L. L., & Kangas, K. (1994). Augmentative and alternative communication. In G. H. Shames, E. H. Wiig, &

  1. A.Secord(Eds.),Humancommunicationdisorders (4th ed., pp. 606–657). New York: Merrill/Macmillan

Lloyd, L. L. & Kangas, K. (1944). Augmentative and alternative communication. In G.H. Shames, E. H., Wiig, & W.A. Secord (Eds.), Human communication disorders (4th ed., pp 606-657). New York: Merrill/Macmillan.

Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with          developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research49(2), 248-264.

Romski, M. A., & Sevcik, R. A. (1996). Breaking the speech barrier: Language development through augmented means. Brookes Publishing Company, Maple Press Distribution Center, I-83 Industrial Park, PO Box 15100, York, PA 17405.

 

Seasonal Sensory Success

by Alyssa Brief, MS, OTR/L

Making PlayDoh from scratch with common household items is a tried and trusted OT activity that can provide opportunities to develop hand skills while providing sensory input. With the holiday season now upon us, my OT group at the Philadelphia division’s Approved Private School recently enjoyed a seasonal twist to the traditional recipe- Gingerbread PlayDoh! This is an excellent (and wonderfully scented) therapeutic activity that is safe to eat since it is made exclusively with baking items. Making homemade Gingerbread PlayDoh can literally add some spice into families’ lives during vacation time off from school or on a Snow Day. Fun and safe for all ages and abilities, Gingerbread PlayDoh offers a fun play experience for children who are sensory seekers. This holiday season, I’m feeling incredibly thankful and lucky that facilitating creative sensory play opportunities is part of my job as an Occupational Therapist at Easter Seals.

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Gingerbread PlayDoh Recipe:
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Salt
1/2 Tbsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Water
Mix ingredients together and knead until the ingredients reach consistency of PlayDoh. For longer lasting use, keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Enjoy!

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Science Leadership Academy

by Sandy Masayko

Nine Senior Engineering students from the Science Leadership Academy, a Philadelphia public magnet high school, and their teacher, John Kamal, visited Easter Seals at the end of October.  Prior to their visit the students interviewed Sandy Masayko using FaceTime to learn about projects that required engineering solutions.  Learning that the students at Easter Seals need to have toys adapted to meet their special needs, the students selected Easter Seals as a site for their engineering and design project.  After an introduction to concepts of Assistive Technology, the student engineers toured the school and observed children and teachers in action. The students have now begun their project by taking apart and repairing switch operated and adapted toys back at their lab at the Science Leadership Academy.

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Laurie McGowan, Assistive Technology Specialist, demonstrates to students how eye gaze technology works.

Project Vive

by Sandy Masayko

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Project Vive has partnered with us at Easter Seals to repair and adapt toys for children with disabilities.  Recently Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, an engineer and the founder of Project Vive, visited Easter Seals at Bucks County to see our AT Department and to get a feel for the kinds of toy adaptations we need.  She took back several large boxes filled with broken toys for her team to take apart, repair and adapt. We are very grateful for Project Vive’s assistance.  We are discussing whether Project Vive may be able to help us with adapting children’s ride-on cars to adapt mobility for children with disabilities.

To find out more about Project Vive, visit http://www.projectvive.com/