Posted by Joanna Courtney on the 13th February, 2023
Rosie is in Primary 2 within an enhanced provision of her local Primary School. She was referred to CALL Scotland at nursery and has complex communication and physical support needs. Initially she trialled a Little Step by Step Communicator, accessed with a Specs head switch on a flexi mount attached to her wheelchair from the CALL Scotland loan bank.
She used this to relay messages to and from nursery and home, tell news, jokes and join in with songs and stories. She also enjoyed eye pointing to a choice of 4 printed symbols on an E-Tran frame, within structured activities. Initial trial of high tech eye gaze technology was not successful, due to physical and medical barriers and variation in visual skills and attention. In comparison, the head switch accessed simple communication technology relied more on auditory skills and controlled head movement and provided her with an immediate positive communication partner response to her communication efforts.
As Rosie made the transition into Primary 1, her physical and medical needs improved and she was making really good use of the simple communication technology and low tech eye pointing strategies both at nursery and home. However, she now needed to expand her expressive communication and have access to a more comprehensive language system, functional vocabulary and also easy access to the alphabet, so she could start to develop her literacy skills as she began her early primary education.
We decided to trial eye gaze again due to her current profile and, from the CALL Scotland loan bank, set up our Tobii Eye Mobile Plus device from Tobii Dynavox with Grid 3 software and Supercore vocabulary from Smartbox for Rosie. She was now able to achieve a good 9 point calibration on the device and was more focused and keen to communicate using this advanced digital technology.
We started by modelling use of the Supercore Learning Grids within structured activities like ‘doll play’ and ‘arts and crafts’ and also introduced some accessible picture books made in Grid 3 from CALL Scotland's Bookbug Digital Library. Rosie loved being able to read the books, make comments and turn the pages independently with her eyes and the books were a real motivator in her use of the eye gaze device, as well as in developing her access and communication skills.
Rosie's eye gaze and communication skills have continued to develop and we have now started producing accessible Oxford Reading Tree resources using the Grid 3 software, as well as personalising her own communication vocabulary on Supercore 30. Close partnership working between CALL Scotland and the local SLT, school team around the child and family, as well as flexibility in adapting to the learner's changing needs have led to this successful assessment and trial process within the National AAC Core Pathway. The next step will be provision of Rosie's own equipment through local funding arrangements.
I saw Rosie today and she was on great form, using her eye gaze really well. I had a student with me and she used her friends page to answer questions about her friends/sister, she was able to pick out the right people.
Do you want to find out more about using stories and shared reading to build communication, access and literacy skills with your learners?
Eye Can Do It: an introduction to learning, communication and control for eye gaze access