Dylan’s Journey to Talk
At 18 months of age Dylan started speech therapy because he wasn’t talking. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old and we started intensive early intervention services.
Even before Dylan had a talker, I knew he needed one. He didn’t request and there was no interaction between Dylan and us. We would read his mind, or at least that’s what I thought we were doing.
Before he had an augmentative communication evaluation, my husband and I did not know what speech generating devices were, though I do remember seeing someone using one on TV when Dylan was in preschool.
I was watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and there was a family who had three kids with autism. They had built screens all over their house and I thought that was just what Dylan needed. But at the time, none of the professionals we were working with had any experience with AAC, or devices, or even knew about them to tell us.
We moved to Colorado when Dylan was in kindergarten. We were now living in our second state, and it wasn’t until this time that his special education teacher started using PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) with him. This was finally a step in the right direction.
There was another student in Dylan’s class who had a talker and I asked his teacher if she knew of anyone to help us get Dylan evaluated. She referred us to our current Speech-Language Pathologist.
Dylan was evaluated when he was 6 ½ years old and a Minspeak system (Vantage Lite) was recommended for him. Prior to receiving his own device, he had an older Vantage on loan. He received his Vantage Lite several months later, a couple of months before his 7th birthday.
It wasn’t until after Dylan got his Vantage Lite and starting talking with it that he began using gestures, pointing and leading us to what he wanted. Minspeak and the Vantage Lite had opened his whole world and helped him realize that he can and does communicate.
When he first started using his Vantage Lite, he was using Unity 45 single hit with lots of buttons hidden. We quickly moved to Unity 60 one hit, and then went to Unity 84 Sequenced in January 2010 – 2 months before he turned 9. When Dylan started talking with Unity 84 Sequenced, he had all of the icons and vocabulary in the program available to him.
Dylan is now 9 ½. Though he remains nonverbal, he talks to us and to others all of the time using his talker. He requests, of course, and he also does lots more. He comments, provides information, asks for things, and expresses his likes and dislikes.
One story that will always stand out in my mind when I think about Dylan’s journey to talk and communicate happened during the summer of 2010. His Speech-Language Pathologist and I had created books for him by taking pictures of his favorite people, things he liked to play with, drink and eat, etc. We had laminated the books and placed icon sequences under the words on the pages in them.
Dylan was attending a new summer program and I sent the books with him to the program. One day, during the first week, when I went to pick him up, he looked to me, went over to his Vantage Lite, said ‘mom’ and looked to one of the women running the program.
I didn’t take it in when he did it, but on our 30-minute drive home, I realized that he had said ‘mom’ when I came into the room to pick him up, calling me by name and clearly communicating to the staff person that his mom was there to get him.
I lost it in the car because I realized what had just happened---he was saying ‘mom’ for the first time.
That night my husband and I called our family and friends, telling everyone what he had said. I also posted on Facebook that Dylan was now saying ‘mom.’
Family and friends started calling us and everyone was asking us when Dylan started talking. I immediately realized that everyone thought he was speaking---and he was, and he does, using language in his Vantage Lite. To this day, I continue to have to constantly tell people that he is talking and does talk, he has language, and he is speaking using words in his Vantage Lite.
When I look at him now and how much he communicates all the time, I can’t even imagine what his life or our life would be like now if he didn’t have Minspeak and his Vantage Lite.