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Child with severe expressive language diffficulties

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Started by Mary-Anne Murphy 10 Dec 2013 2:25pm () Replies (8)

On behalf of an educator can we ask for ideas around assistive technologies or approaches for the following:
Child aged almost 8 years
His speech is unintelligable (major problem)
MRI scan last year showed "an unidentified bright object"  located in the thalamus
Gross motor skills ok. Fine motor skills delayed.
Learning levels well below those of his peers.

The main objective is for him to be able to communicate. Can you offer any ideas around this. 


  • Susan Feron (View all users posts) 10 Dec 2013 5:04pm ()

    I am assuming speech language are involved so may have already made these suggestions.

    I have used a folder of picture cards that the boy would point to to communicate.  This was fairly effective.  I have heard (but not seen) that their are ipad apps that will do this now.  He was also taught Makaton sign language.  This is designed for special needs so they can communicate essentials.  It is similiar but much simpler than NZ sign.  

     As a reward for the other students they would play a barrier game with the child.  It would generally involve some talk, pointing and colouring.  This targeted fine motor and communication at the same time.

    Being in Christchurch at the time I would always have toys from the Special Needs toy library as well.  Marble runs etc that targetted fine motor skills.  He had a visual timetable saying what order the toys were to be played in.  This was his 'work'.  His developmental age was 2-3 years.  Again the other students (8-11 years ) loved to 'work' with the toys when they were finished.  the Correspondance School used to send us toys and activities that vaguely went with the topic we were studying.

    Hope this helps.  

    Cheers Susan

  • Anne Sturgess (View all users posts) 10 Dec 2013 5:25pm ()

    Here's a recommendation from one of my Edshelf collections: https://edshelf.com/tool/icomm


  • Chrissie Butler (View all users posts) 10 Dec 2013 8:37pm ()

    Cool Mary-Anne. Here's a few questions/thoughts to help us along as "a virtual team", just building on some of the ideas from Anne and Susan. 

    One good place to start would be mapping where communication is working well, then you can see the edges of the learning. Also mapping the edges of the fine motor skills will help us too. You may have done this already, but if you can share a sense of that here it will help us pitch in. Just have to keep in mind maintaining the anonimity of the student, so just tailor how you share with that in mind.

    In the land of assistive technologies, could you give us a heads up of any digital tools that the student is using successfully both independantly and with support?

    Are there a couple of specific scenarios/situations you have in mind where you think the student could communicate what they want/need/think if only they could ......? Then we can offer some suggestions for the dot, dot, dot Smile

    PS Anne, that edshelf collation tool looks really useful.

  • Allanah King (View all users posts) 10 Dec 2013 10:10pm ()

    Tap Speak Choice might be a useful ACC app but you really have to do your research to make sure that it is right for your boy and it will likely be able to meet his needs going forward as well.


  • Mary-Anne Murphy (View all users posts) 12 Dec 2013 7:26am ()

    Thanks so much for these valuable responses. Will look into the suggestions, as well as further map the edges of the learning. :)

  • Patrick Pink (View all users posts) 13 Dec 2013 9:25am ()

    People's capacity to connect and communicate never ceases to amaze me.  And the multitude of ways we do so is just as remarkable.  We use our eyes, our hands, our bodies, our voice.  We use actions, gestures, sign language, movement, vocalisations and speech.  We are designed to share our thoughts, wants, wishes, our disppointments, frustrations and struggles.  We question, answer and comment.   We truly have the capacity, the desire to connect.

    This thread reminds me of the many students who I have worked alongside and who did not communicate in the 'typical traditional' way but still communicated their hopes and wants, their likes and dislikes.  As a teacher, I worked closely with my students, their families and the concerned and committed team members to better understand what my students were conveying.  My students used eye gaze and gestures and sign language and facial expressions and movement to let me know what they wanted and what they did not. They asked and answered and commented and shared and as their teacher it was up to me to discover the 'what' and 'how' of their communication.  

    To be understood and to understand is a very powerful interchange.  It is the basis of a trusting relationship where challenges can be introduced and supported so as to provide opportunities to increase the circle of communication partners and share more and more.  

    The following video demonstrates the power of shared communication, of entering the world of the student and simply be present and observe how the student expresses him or herself so as to enhance trust and foster relationship.  


  • Jane (View all users posts) 13 Dec 2013 4:22pm ()

    I would hope that there is a team around the child including a Speech-language therapist and Occupational therapist - if not then prople like those at TalkLink (http://www.talklink.org.nz/ ) can be invaluable at providing information, assessments and a 'fresh pair of eyes'. How does the child communicate at home / with peers?

    I follow a blog written by a Dad about the challenges of having an (almost) non-verbal child http://www.schuylersmonsterblog.com/ and although they are in the States, the insights he provides are fantastic. The Dad's honestly can be quite confronting!


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