I always try to give Max a summer goal he can work on that keeps him learning outside of school. For the most part the goals involve math, reading and other school subjects, but I made it interesting this summer. I gave him the choice to learn the Proloquo2Go on his iTouch (also known as the talker, augmentative communication device and aug com) or become fluent in sign language. Of course this goal doesn’t come without a super cool treat at the end, and it’s completely up to him – he can go anywhere he wants, get whatever toy he wants or do whatever he wants (there are limits here of course). This year he chose to go to Elitch Gardens, a theme park in Denver. He’s thinking about not bringing his younger brother, which is totally fine because it’s just mom, dad and Max. His only restriction is that he has to complete his goal by the first day of school, August 24th.
Max thought for a minute, and said that he would spend the summer learning the Proloquo2Go. He made the decision based on everyone else in the world not knowing sign language, but they could understand when his iTouch talked for him… smart idea little guy.
What is the Proloquo2Go?
The Proloquo2Go is probably one of the best apps ever invented for kids that have to use talkers. Back when Max was 3 he got a talker that weighed almost as much as he did and was almost as big (really it was only about 10 lbs and 12”x6”… I exaggerate). Max refused to carry it around, which was perfect since the price tag was somewhere around $8,000! How’s that for a “toy” that ends up collecting dust on the top of our closet?
Back in 2009, I posted a comment over on the Mama to Mama Special Needs forum at Denverpost.com asking other parents to comment on what they’ve found to help their little ones communicate with the world (I’m @MountainConditions). Guess what, someone came through! @okate52 posted the following:
Hi, I recall recently an article about kids with autism (which I realize your son does not have) using an iPhone application for communication. That should have the cool factor!
Do a search on something like “iPhone app autism” and you should get all the info you need. I hope it works for your son.
I started researching immediately, and found the app she was talking about – the Proloquo2Go. We spent around $200 on an iTouch, $200 on the app and hoped that it would work. Well, not that it wouldn’t work, but that this “toy” wouldn’t end up collecting dust as well.
Enter 2011, guess what… that iTouch has been used for nothing more than to play free gaming apps. Ugh, frustrating. My thoughts:
Okay Max, you are about to enter the 5th grade – I think that’s the first time I’ve written or thought about that… I think I threw-up in my mouth a little bit and started crying at the same time. Anyways, it’s time to grow up buddy even if you and I both don’t like it. You’re going to be entering the horrible, horrible middle school years next year and it’s only going to get worse if you don’t have some way to communicate. Some way that works for you, yes, I understand that, but some way. What is it Max, what is it?
So, out of that I came up with the summer goal. It’s a win-win for both of our frustrations, and he gets a killer prize if he pulls it off.
I went off trail, apologize for that.
If you are unfamiliar with talkers, they are a box (an iTouch in our case) that has words with associated pictures that you can push and the box will speak the word for you. Say Max wants to order at a restaurant – which is totally embarrassing for him if he has to speak to the waiter (I typically order everything for him). He can punch in “Root Beer No Ice” in his talker, and it will tell the waiter exactly what he wants. Yes, this does confuse the waiter, but at least Max can do it himself. Then, he can put in “Chicken Nuggets with French Fries and Honey Mustard” to tell the waiter what he wants to eat. It sounds simple, but these little apps have a vocabulary that consists of more than 8,000 symbols and words. Max doesn’t have to learn the entire vocabulary over the summer, but he should be able to communicate affluently with the talker… wish him luck!