October is both Rett syndrome and AAC awareness month. This is especially fitting for Ava who is 7 and has Rett syndrome, as her Tobii has really impacted the trajectory of her life. Our ultimate goal for her is to be literate and we are seeing some real progress!
I had the opportunity to attend Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver’s workshop on Literacy for Students With Significant Disabilities. It was inspiring but also quite daunting. I was pretty confident I could figure out ways to implement some of the reading ideas but the working with words and the writing are a bit trickier.
I tried to implement some strategies in the usual partner-assisted scanning kind of way and while it did work some, it was not overly engaging for her, and Ava voiced her opinions either by complaining or full-on falling asleep!
It was frustrating because this process with my older daughter was so easy; in addition to just being able to ramble off or show me, she understood in all the traditional ways, there were so many fun games she could play on her iPad to practise these skills independently. If you search the App or Microsoft Store, you can find hundreds of fun literacy games that work for touch. I found exactly zero that worked well for eye gaze.
Then we heard the people at Boardmaker were teaming up with Karen to create Reading Avenue which is comprehensive and was eye gaze accessible. This was huge! Finally, something for us! Ava and I got to trial the software and give our input. They listened to (and continue to listen to) our feedback and made the activities even more friendly for eye gaze!
Reading Avenue has three different levels. Although I was confident that Ava was interested in books and following text quite well (we are book-crazy in our house), I erroneously started her in Avenue A.
I figured she had never done anything quite like this, and to be honest, I wanted to be able to stretch the lessons in the program for as long as possible. I figured even if it was too easy, at least she’d be reinforcing basic concepts. This was not a good idea. Ava started complaining and shutting down.
Next, we tried Avenue B and it did the trick! Her engagement increased as did her pride in her ability! She’s so proud of herself and loves that she’s doing work that isn’t too easy for her!
What I love about these activities is that, combined with gaze viewer software, you can not only see her independently do these activities, but you can also really get a sense of how she’s thinking. She has surprised me not only with her ability and knowledge but also her willingness to try new things!
We look forward to continuing to work our way through Avenue B and then Avenue C!