Ace Centre Case Study by guest blogger Meghan Ebbage-Taylor
Audio of blog
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Welcome to our weekly CENMAC blog post
Ace Centre Case Study by guest blogger Meghan Ebbage-Taylor (Senior AAC Consultant at Ace Centre)
In this week’s edition, CENMAC have invited a member of the Ace Centre team, Meghan Ebbage-Taylor, to give a guest blog on one of their case studies about a student’s journey of getting an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device.
Before I started working for Ace Centre, I was a teacher. Recently a video about one of my student’s, Megan, was created highlighting her journey of getting an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device which you can watch here.
But it wasn’t just Megan’s journey, it was also mine! When Megan joined my class, she came with a PECs book. She could use it effectively, but it wasn’t very practical – you always knew where she had been as there was a trail of symbols behind her! I felt she had so much more to say so I started to explore a way for her to access vocabulary that would give her the ability to chat with friends and family rather than just request things.
At first, we tried a communication book, similar to Ace Centre’s Developing and Using Communication Book. This gave Megan access to core vocabulary (highly powerful and useful words mainly made up of verbs, pronouns and adjectives) which opened up a whole new world for her. Megan began combining and stringing words together to build sentences. She used a range of language functions, including commenting, rejecting (showing her stubborn side) and joking with staff and pupils. Her cheeky personality really began to shine!
Although the communication book had many positives, there were some downfalls. Megan is a social butterfly and has many friends she wanted to independently chat with, but the book kept her relying on adults. Due to fine motor issues she struggled to turn pages independently and the lack of voice output meant an adult would have to read out her messages. Both caused her frustration when she wanted to quickly get her message across.
The next step for us was to ask Liberator for a trial of a high tech AAC device (Accent 800 with EasyChat 60) to see if we could overcome these hurdles. Using the device, she learnt to find and use language that was important to her. She followed the example of two other AAC users in my class, who were great role models for her. Soon I saw her chatting with her friends on her own.
Having an AAC device with voice output also supported her verbal speech development. She began to say and combine more words. Her favourite phrase became ‘come back’. Due to lockdowns during the pandemic, school and staffing was not consistent. This caused her to become anxious and she would often ask if members of staff would ‘come back’.
Megan has severe epilepsy and during a cluster of seizures she stopped breathing. Between seizures she reached out to her AAC device to communicate ‘help me’. I will never forget how powerful AAC was in that moment. She was scared and frightened but was able to let the paramedics and those around her know she required help.
Although an AAC device had a positive impact on her life, there remained a place for paper-based resources too. My classroom staff and I used communication boards with Megan which mimicked pages on her AAC device so we could teach her things she could say without touching her device. Ace Centre’s free eBook on Getting Started with Paper-based Symbol Resources gave me some great guidance on how to make and use them.
Eventually we made a referral to Ace Centre through their NHSE Specialised AAC Service and Megan was provided a device of her own. The excitement when she unwrapped it was like all her Christmases had come at once! It was pure joy! She commented ‘Like it! I feel very happy today’. The power of AAC was encapsulated perfectly in her comment ‘loving say’, telling us how she could now say what she wanted and was loving every moment! Megan’s AAC journey has only just begun, and I am very excited to see how she blossoms over time.
Meghan Ebbage-Taylor is a Senior AAC Consultant at Ace Centre, a charity providing Assistive Technology and Augmentative and Alternative Communication services for people with complex needs. They offer assessment, training and information services across England, delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of specialist teachers, occupational therapists, speech & language therapists with the support of technical and administrative staff.
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