Monday, October 15, 2012

Supporting communication

Maggie communicates with her Dynavox Maestro, a communication device that she operates using a two switch system. The two switches work sort of like a computer mouse. She moves through the screen with one switch and when she gets where she wants she uses the other switch to select. It's quite amazing to watch her, she can fly through the pages when she really gets going.

Maggie's abilities on the Dynavox are the result of years of hard work by numerous therapists and teachers. Professionals recognized her intellect and abilities early and started the building blocks long before I understood where it was all heading. Maggie is smart and motivated to communicate, and she had excellent instruction and support. All of that is necessary.

In addition we need the practical pieces of the puzzle or she cannot use the device. In order for Maggie to work her magic, she needs the dynavox itself to be charged and in good working order, the tray with the two switches on it so she can navigate through the pages and the pole which attaches to the chair and mounts to the dynavox.  . With all the pieces she can take her dynavox anywhere and have her say. It should look like this:

When she arrived home from school on Friday she did not have the pole. Arrrgh. We were looking at an entire weekend of little or no communication which is very frustrating for her and by extension, for all of us. I will say, though, that of the three needed components, forgetting the pole is the easiest to work around. Without the device, forget it. Without the tray, she can't maneuver around the device, but we can and did MacGyver something for the pole.

We put Maggie at the dining room table and put the dynavox there. It's not perfect because the talker cannot come with her, but ti's better than nothing. We have to prop up the dynavox so she can see it. The design of the dynavox is frustratingly flawed, though, as it does not stand up by itself. (The "stand" is part of the case, but you can't use the case if there is a mount on the device for a wheelchair - it's like they forgot the users are sitting in wheelchairs). First I balanced the dynavox against a pillow. Not perfect. Not terribly steady, but serviceable. Of course the angle" wasn't right and she couldn't really see what she was doing. Maggie depends mostly on sound because of her vision, but she does look at the screen and it was bugging her that she couldn't see it right..

Steve came home and messed with it and when I looked the dynavox was sitting perfectly upright and steady. Maggie's face looked like she wasn't buying it.

Thank GOD for Giant Wine bottles! I believe that is called a jeroboam and holds (or held) the equivalent of four bottles of wine. And one dynavox.

Better, but she was still stuck at the dining room table. She couldn't use her talker in the bedroom or in the front room or anywhere else.

Steve disappeared into the basement - his workshop, his sanctuary. He can build just about anything and is at work on Maggie's Halloween get up now. After a while I asked what he was doing and he said  I'm making a new pole for Maggie. I wondered what it would be. The possibilities were endless. Steve saves every thing in that shop - every scrap of wood, old toy wheels, even broomsticks, because they make good dowels. Forget the dowels, it turns out broomsticks also make excellent poles to hold a dynavox.  He made it the right size to slip into the mount on the side of the wheelchair and used a screw to hand the dynavox from the broomstick. Maggie could now communicate on the move - but we had to move very slowly because it was held up by only one screw and it is an expensive thing to drop. (We didn't drop it).

Steve (visible in the background wearing his Giants hat) feels justified in his broomstick hoarding now. However, one broomstick to the rescue every 26+ years does not justify the pile we have down there. I admire his ingenuity, but it is my duty to keep up the nagging.

Maggie might have something else to say about that, though.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I love this post. I love it for Maggie's tenacity, Steve's ingenuity and your perseverance. I was thinking that perhaps those broomsticks would come in handy when you're angry with someone or something -- you could walk in with it between your legs -- witch style!


Hi Maggie loves your comments. It may take a while for the comment to post, but you will see it eventually.