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Tom Needs to Communicate

Tom is a frail little boy of 7 with cerebral palsy. He attends his local Primary school, mostly in the Additional Support Unit.

He is behind with all developmental and educational milestones but has good understanding of language though very little intelligible speech. He is sociable and has picked up a number of Makaton signs (but cannot express himself due to inaccurate one-handed signing and the fact that others outside the Unit cannot sign). Tom urgently needed a major boost to his communication for both personal/social and educational reasons.

 

The challenge

CALL assessment indicated that he needed one of the more complex and powerful voice output communication aids as: he had the cognitive capacity to use a large vocabulary; to build his own novel phrases and sentences (ie not just replay pre-stored messages); and to use numbers, letters and words as well as graphic symbols.

Our approach

With good vision and good function with his non-hemiplegic arm/hand, Tom could accurately access a small size touch screen device. We recommended the Tellus Mobi, which combines the advantages of a dedicated communication aid (long battery life, good speaker volume) with the convenience of being a standard Windows PC. We installed the Grid2 software, running the Ingfield Dynamic Vocabulary (IDV), level B, which was then personalised for him. Because he is at the other end of the country from CALL and there is no specialised local AAC support, we needed an 'off the shelf' solution, as straightforward as possible.

Impact

Following CALL recommendations, purchase was extremely rapid because Tom's local authority has an excellent system in place whereby routinely each year, funds are 'top-sliced' from Education, Health and Social Work budgets to create an ongoing fund allocated specifically for communication aids into which local professionals can bid, for individual pupils and adult clients.

Tom liked his brightly coloured device and quickly learned how to operate it. He uses it quite effectively but in the coming year, CALL training work is still needed to help school staff create more communication opportunities; to add, teach and practice new vocabulary and to extend sentence work; and to balance up 'testing' his reading, arithmetic and spelling with more emphasis on language and functional communication.