Emmalee’s Art-Abration was a Blast!

Emma and Vivian were blessed enough to be invited by a friend to Emmalee’s Art-Abration, hosted by Sherry’s Craftastic Cottage, this Art-Abration is an annual celebration event for families of children with special needs.  The goal was for the children to enjoy the gift of art and to build friendships in an inclusive environment and is a part of  Art-Ability, an inclusive art program for children of all abilities in grades K-12. 

Who is this Emmalee you ask?  Well, Emmalee is the daughter of Wayne and Tina, the founders of the Ability Tree, Florida.  And this day is to honor her and the gift from God from she is along with every single other child that He blesses us with, no matter their ability level!!!

Dad took Emma and Vivi this time to the event, so I missed out on the art fun and am telling the story second hand.  But apparently, it was loads and loads of fun!  Emma, Vivian, and all the kiddos there got to make their own paintings, and my girls came home with absolutely gorgeous snowman paintings(as you can see below)!  They must have had a good time because Vivi had enough paint on her in various places that she needed to take a quick shower to get all cleaned up before meeting up with Grandma and Grandpa for lunch (don’t worry, it washes of the kiddos and the clothes!).  Emma said she fun paining too, of course! 

A great BIG THANK YOU to Sherry’s Craftastic Cottage and Ability Tree for a wonderful event that my little girls thoroughly enjoyed and my hubby got to have some Daddy — Daughter time at!!!


We Visited Santa’s Workshop!

Over the weekend we were able to visit the 4th Annual Santa’s Workshop, sponsored by The Inspire Foundation, whose mission is to bring music and the arts into the lives of those with special needs, hosted by Trinity New Life Church, visit lots of fun activity tables that the children thoroughly enjoyed, and see Santa himself!

Sponsored by The Inspire Foundation, whose mission is to bring music and the arts into the lives of those with special needs, we were able to go to the 4th Annual Santa’s Workshop hosted by Trinity New Life Church, visit lots of fun activity tables that the children thoroughly enjoyed, and see Santa himself!

The activity tables areas included “sensory snow,” which actually felt cool to the touch, and we all enjoyed touching and feeling the “snow,” trying to figure out what it was made out of; a station where you made your own snowglobe in a plastic sandwhich baggie; a pipecleaner station where the kids were encouraged to use their imagination and make shapes with the pipcleaners; a fun playdough station; a station where you made a snowman our of construction paper; and more.  There were even GFCF (gluten free casein free) snacks there, a popular diet that helps many ASD children! 

…And then, of course, there was Sensitive Santa!  He and his team of elves were awesome!  Very patient with our entire family, allowing the children a few moments to get comfortable with Santa before the picture taking began.  We all high-fived Santa, and told him what we wanted for Christmas, and Emma told him she wanted a live pig!!!  Oh my goodness, girl!!! The first picture the look a little shocked, but I think the second one came out absolutely perfectly! And I love it!  Thank you, Santa, and the Inspire Foundation for a frameable moment to remember for years to come!!!

Halloween at Our House This Year

We have a tradition at our house of coming home that on Halloween, we get everyone home from school, get pizzas, then go trick or treating!  However, this year ended up ittle different than year’s past…

45288717_1163301887161933_8676536963936813056_oWe had a funky cough going through the house, but it was never a full cold or sickness for anyone, just a funky cough…. well, until Shawn seeemed to get sick.  Emma and Vivi already had it for  days, so they were no longer contagious. But poor Shawn got sick and got ssiicckk.  So Wednesday morning I took him to the pediatrician, and it was confirmed, yep…RSV and an ear infection.  He spent the majority of the night in bed with me with a fever and a ratchety cough.  And I was to be prepared for it to get worse, I was told?  Aww, I felt so bad for my poor little man.

So, since I had to take my sick little dude to the pediatrician, Shawn took off work and took Emma and Vivian to school.  I was a bit bummed because I was going to try to see Vivi in her Good Character Parade at school.  But as I was told, Vivi refused to let her teacher put her costume on her anyway.  Ah, my strong willed children, at it again.  We had no problem getting that costume on her at home though, so…?

After getting my Baby Shawn home from the pediatrician, I had a few minutes, and since Shawn was home to pick up Emma and Vivi from school, I desperately wanted to finish my little project for Vivi.  I wanted to make little cards for her to give in exchange for treats, since she is unable to speak.  The benefit to the cards, hopefully, is bifold – it reforces the use of cards in exchange for a preferred item (in this case, candy) and it will hopefully spread the public awareness about autism.  The card reads “Happy Halloween, I have Autism which can make it hard to speak.  Please accept this card as a Thank You for the Treat!” If you are interested in using these cards for your little one, please contact me and I can send you the template!

Since Baby Shawn was sick, he stayed home with me and Jenny, who decided to dress up a little herself in cosplay as Undertale Sans.  Dad took Emma, who dressed up as a very cute bee and Vivi the good fairy to a Trunk of Treat.  Good thing I had backup to help me answer the door at home, I don’t know what I would have done if I was by byself, the whopping two times the door bell rang.

We had pizza that night, but not order out, I got some from the grocery store and baked them in oven.  I actually prefer that over the delivery, as its not nearly as greasy, and you can add a few toppings if you want, and the best reason, its cheaper!

Happy Halloween!

 

Guess What?!? I’m a Contributing Writer for TBMB!

That’s write…errr….right!  As if I needed more things to do, I decided to do something for myself and that I enjoy doing and become a contributing writer for a local Moms Blog!

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The Tampa Bay Moms Blog is a parenting website/blog written by Tampa Bay area moms (like me!) and is focused on keeping Mommas and Daddys in the know on activities around town, provide sound parenting adivce and give encouragement to one another.  It’s nice because the contributing writers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, live in different neighborhoods throughout the Tampa Bay area, yet we all ahev the same goal – to come together and provide a great blog!

My first blog post for TBMB, How a New Florida Momma Navigates Free VPK, It’s Quicks and Easy, can be found following the link.

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I hop you will take a few minutes to read my blog and peruse the Tampa Bay Moms Blog website as it has lot of cool infomation and other blog posts that are most definently worth reading!

Oh, and let me know what you think of my my very TBMB blog post!  I would love to know your thoughts!  Thanks!

All The Pieces…Of My Heart…Welcome, AGAIN!

Welcome to the blog land of All the Pieces of My Heart…redesigned!

I think I may have gone through about ten blog designs, I mean the entire design process on WordPress, and published them too, then didn’t like finished product.  Finally, I found a theme that worked well for me, and I took my sweet time designing a blog the exhibits my and my children’s personality.  I even explored Fiverr, and got myself and cool little logo – I designed on paper and sent it to a graphic designer – I’m rather pleased with the results!

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So, anyway, if you’re new here, let me first break down the meaning of my blog’s name – All the Pieces of My Heart is meant to represent my family.  The ‘pieces’ are my family members.  I decided to choose pieces, like puzzle pieces because three of my four children are autisic and the most widely known image to represent autism is the puzzle piece.  And then my a heart to represent my family because they are everything to me — I wake get out of bed for my children.  My family and my children make my heart beat strong for life and for a cause every moment of the day.  They’ve saved me.

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All the Pieces of My Heart is basically a personal blog written my me, a stay at home all over the place, busy like crazy taking care of it momma, of what happens when you put a working military Dad, busy Mom, teenage autistic daughter, autistic eight and six year old girls, and one very-busy discovering the world two year old little boy under one roof.  Usually not one minute of life is dull. Or quiet. Or sometimes even believable.

I also like to write about more of the mundane bloggy things that other moms or humans like to write about too, like recipes, giveaways, crafts, reviews, being cheap (becuase I find it fun as a hobby).

Anyhoo, welcome again.  Enjoy the show!

School Car Line Challenges

Any parent who has the luxury of being in the school line (particularly during the beginning weeks of school), knows how chaotic and frustrating these lines can be.  There is absolutely no standard between schools on how these car lines are setup and run. So, if you are lucky enough to have to go through more than one of these fun monstrosities you then need to learn two sets of absurd rules for dropping off and picking up your children.

I am one of those “lucky” mammas – my middle two girls in elementary school go two different schools because of their differing exceptionalities and special needs.  And each school has very different configurations for their car lines.  And from the parent point of view, one seems to work well, the other, needs some work.

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I only use the car lines in the morning – I go to Emma’s school first because her school starts a hour before Vivian’s.  I bypass the car line and pull up maybe ahead of the carline, far enough that it’s obvious that I’m “cutting” to the front of the line, but parking for a different reason.  And because Emma has been known to run off, an IA (Instructional Assistant) will come to the car and get her — the IA also gets a few other ESE students from the buses that are parked not far away.  Last year, when I did pick her up in the afternoon, the cars would line up (around the corner and on the side of the road, but hey at least it wasn’t on the road like many schools have problems with), and as you approached the pick-up area, there was a teacher with a microphone who called out the student’s name from your placard.  Emma always had an IA with her to ensure she didn’t run off, but she was with the rest of the students (inclusion).

Then I head to Vivian’s school where beginning this year, they actually want us (parents with ESE children who drop off in the morning) to use the car line.  I am usually there absurdly early because I drive directly from Emma’s school to Vivian’s school.  It doesn’t bother me, it actually gives me a few minutes to catch up on emails, social media, phones, and the like.  Given I am so early, I am usually the first one in line.  When it’s the appropriate time, a safety patrol helps Vivi out of the car and another dedicated safety patrol walks her to her class to ensure she gets there safely.  Which is all good and fine, now, but the first two weeks of this routine was a nightmare.

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Day One.  The first time, which I was really hesitant about, I told the safety patrol before it was time to get the kids out of car, that Vivian was a special needs student and needed help getting out of the car and needed an adult or a safety patrol who knew who she was to walk her to class.  He was seriously confused and ran and asked the school security what to do, who told him to ask the front desk. At the end, the receptionist walked her to class. Oh, dear.  I let Vivian’s teacher know through the communication app we use that the safety patrol had no idea what to do.  The teacher promised that the next day would be better.

Day Two.  As the little girl safety patrol was helping Vivi out of the car, I let her know she was an ESE student and needed to be escorted to class. She looked a little confused but said “ok, yes ma’am.” Hmm, nice manners. I like that.  I watched as she helped Vivi onto the sidewalk and spoke to another safety patrol, nodding her head.  It looked like a good sign.  Vivian’s teacher assured me that she would speak with the Safety Patrol coordinator and ensure all the Safety Patrols were adequately aware of all the ESE students that were care riders and their individual needs.

Day Three.  A nice looking little girl opened the door and rushed Vivian out of the car without saying anything, but unfortunately I was on the phone with an important call.  It looked like she had a  good handle on Vivian, so I drove away.  Later I received a message on the app letting me know another parent found Vivian wandering around the car rider area alone. WHAT?!? I was assured and assured again this would not happen again. I freaked out quite a bit, and was upset and angry.

Day Four.  Unfortunately I was on the phone with another important phone call (blog post about subject matter soon) Same little girl from the day before helped Vivi out of the car, silently.  I thought, hoping their impromptu ‘training?’ helped. She was nicer with Vivian, a bit more helpful, and I felt relieved. Well, until I heard through my cracked passenger window “I need someone to walk it to class.” Excuse me?!?  I was livid and that was inexcusable.  I spoke to Vivian’s teacher and that particular safety patrol was to never help my child out of the car again and apologized profusely.  The safety patrol coordinator now has one particular, very nice little girl help Vivian out of the car by hand, uses her name, and is very, very nice, kind, and patient with Vivian and walks her to class.  It’s a shame it took all that to get to this very helpful, responsible little girl I am thankful for.

 

The ABC’s of ABA

Below is a glossary/collection of ABA terms that are extremely helpful to know as a parent when your child is going through ABA Therapy.

ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) – An established science that goes MUCH father than just treating those on the ASD.  if all you know that ABA is a treatment for young children with Autism, then I recommend you read further into the field.  ABA at its core is a was to teach, manage and/or reduce behaviors.  ABA is actually an umbrella term that can cover many specific and unique strategies; for example Incidental Training, Discrete Trial Training and Verbal Behavior.  There are many, many ways to implement ABA.

ABA Therapist – Anyone who provides therapy to a learner, in a direct staff role. This label can be used many ways, ABA Tutor, ABA Technician, Clinical Assistant, Services Provider, etc.

ABLLS Assessment (Pronounced “A-bulls”) – A comprehensive assessment and curriculum planning tool created by Drs. Sundburg and Partington. This tool allows assessment across twenty five varied domains to get a complete portrayal of a child’s functioning level, strengths and deficits.  Domains include self-help skills, gross motor skills, receptive skills, group instruction, etc.

Acquisition Task – A target that is in the process of being taught. This behavior is not yet a known skill.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – Persistent deficits in social communication and social interation across multiple contexts.  There is a severity level rating based on the intesity of supports of the individual needs to function.  It’s important to know that Autism is a spectrum and no two individuals are the same.  There is a great variability amongst those with Autism.

BCBA or BCBA-D/BCaBA– This is the board certification required for a person to become a Behavior Analyst, and it is recognized worldwide.  In many states or with insurance companies, only BCBAs are recognized as being properly authorized to oversee, manage, or supervise ABA programs. The BCaBA denotes the person is at an associate level, and must work under a BCBA. BCaBA’s usually have less training or experience, although this isn’t always the case. Becoming certified is a lengthy process that takes much dedication, focus, and graduate level coursework.

RBT – Registered Behavior Technician. For direct level staff, this is a credential that denotes the person has met specific education and experience standards.

Behavior – To be considered behavior, it must be observable and/or measurable.

Bio- Medical Approach-  The bio- medical approach to treating Autism is based on treating the biological causes of, or issues associated with Autism, such as heavy metals or an over growth of yeast.

Chaining – Used to teach multi-step skills in which the steps involved are defined through task analysis, and each separate step is taught to link together the total “chain”.  Can be either done by backward, forward, or total task analyses.

Chronological Age/ Developmental Age – The Chronological Age of a child si the actual, calculated by their birthdate.  The Developmental Age is based on the lavel of functioning and cognitive ability/adaptive skills.

Co-Morbidity– This means having multiple diagnoses as the same time, such as being diagnosed with Autism, OCD, and an Anxiety Disorder.

Consultant- Describes anyone who creates the treatment/behavioral plans, trains and supervises staff, and may or may not assist with hiring staff. Typically this is a BCBA level individual with extensive experience and training in running an ABA program.

Contained Classroom- A contained/self-contained, classroom is a classroom that has only special needs children. These classrooms have a smaller teacher to student ration than a typical classroom.  These classes are typically taught by Special Education teachers and include at least one or more instructional aides.

Deprivation –An ABA principle which states that the more deprived of a particular reinforcer, the more powerful that reinforcer will be.

Developmentally Delayed (DD) -A child may be given a DD diagnosis when they are not progressing as they should be and are not meeting standard developmental milestones for their age.  However, adolescents and adults sometimes are also diagnosed with DD later in life.

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) – A specific method of instruction in which a task is isolated and taught to an individual across multiple trials (repetition teaching). A specific opportunity to respond is presented, and a specific response from the learner is expected (Teacher: “Stand up”. Learner: (stands up). Teacher: “Nice standing!”).

Discriminative stimulus (SD) – This is the demand/question or directive given, to obtain a specific response. This is a technical term that basically means to make it clear that reinforcement is available if the correct response is given. Examples of SD’s: “Touch red”, and  “Clean your room”.

Echoic -This is a verbal behavioral term where one is able to vocally imitate upon request.

Echolalia – Echoing or imitating what is heard, can be immediate or delayed. So if you ask your child “Want to go outside?” and they respond “Go outside?,” that is echolalia. Many individuals with Autism (particularly early learners) exhibit echolalia, but engaging in echolalia does not automatically mean someone has Autism.

Elopement – Elopement is wandering, or running away, from an area the person is not supposed to leave. This behavior can be very scary, especially for individuals who cannot communicate.

Expressive – Expressive means speaker behavior, and refers to tasks that require a vocal response such as singing or talking.

Extinction – The withholding of reinforcement for a previously reinforced behavior, resulting in reduction of that behavior.

Extinction burst – The increase in frequency and/or intensity of behavior in the early stages of extinction.

FBA– Functional Behavior Assessment. This is the process by which behavioral interventions are created. An FBA is intended to determine the function (or the reason) for a behavior, and then create an intervention based on that function. A Functional Analysis (FA) involves manipulating the environment to understand the behavior, while a Functional Behavior Assessment involves things like observation, interview, and collecting ABC data.

Fine Motor Skills – Activities that require the coordination and movement of the smaller muscles of the body, especially those in the hand.

Floortime – A treatement methos that focuses on child-lef, play-focused activities using a naturalistic approach.  Floortime is not type of ABA.

Generalization – Term used to describe the ability to learn a skill in one situation and be able to apply it flexibly to other similar but different situations.

GFCF Diet – Gluten (wheat) Free, Casein (dairy) Free Diet. GFCF diets are not empirically supported to be effective as a treatment for Autism.

Gross Motor Skills – These are the activities we do using our larger muscle groups; like sitting, walking & jumping.

High Functioning/Low Functioning – Those on the ASD Spectrum are sometimes categorized according to their functioning level, or cognitive ability.  A “high functioning” child may do well academically, has conversational language, and as social difficulties.  A “low functioning” child may have significant deficits and difficulties across all areas including language, cognition, language, academics, and adaptive behavior.  Many find the terms “high” and “low” functioning to be offensive due to their over generalization.

Hand-Over-Hand (HOH) Prompting – HOH prompting is a physical prompt where you place your hands over the learner’s hand to get them to comply with a motor demand or directive.

Hypersensitivity – Acute reaction (overly sensitive) to a sensory input.

Hyposensitivity – Little or no reaction (under-sensitive) to a sensory input.

Individual Education Plan (IEP) – An IEP is the Individualized Curriculum Plan that children and adolescents (up to age 22) have if they are in special education. An IEP is a legal document, and the IEP process should be taken very seriously and with much consideration for the child’s future. If the child is under 3 years old and receiving services they may have an IFSP, which is an Individual Family Services Plan.

Inclusive Classroom- An inclusive classroom is a classroom with both special needs and typical children learning together. Typically these are taught by General Education teachers, and there may or may not be paraprofessionals in the room.

Intervention– This is the plan of action or the strategy you will use to change a behavior. An example of an intervention is teaching a learner to use a card to request help instead of having a tantrum.

Intraverbal – Intraverbals are building blocks to build conversation skills as the current ability to discuss, describe, or a question about that isn’t physically present.

Mainstream – To “Mainstream” a child means they can be successfully placed in a typical classroom, as opposed to to a special education classroom.  This typically happens one class subject at a time. this also means they can perform the same level grade work, have play, adaptive, motor and cognitive abilities comparable to typically developing peers, in the least restricted environment.  Mainstreaming is typically the long term goal for a child placed in the special education classroom at a very young age.

Mental Retardation (MR) – A mental disorder characterized by significantly under-average general intellectual functioning associated with impairments in adaptive behavior. It is classified on the basis of severity as mild, moderate, severe, and profound.

Mouthing– This refers to when inappropriately placing items/toys, etc. in the mouth. Depending on the individual, licking items could also be considered mouthing.

NET – Natural Environment Training is a type of ABA where learning occurs incidentally and often playfully in natural environments, such as at the bus stop, in the bathtub, or during dinner.

Neuro-Typical (NT) – Used by come individuals with Autism to describe people who do not have Autism.  It refers to someone who does not have neurological difficulties or differences.

Perseverative Behavior – Displaying excessively repetitive and stereotypical behaviors, such as asking for a pretzel eighteen times in five minutes or repeating a line from a commercial over and over again. Many think this word is synonymous with “stimming” (see below), but its not because perseverative behavior may or may not be automatically maintained.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) – PECS is a symbolic communication system for functionally non-verbal individuals. The approach is designed to help individuals with autism learn to initiate requests and communicate their needs.

Prompt – A form of assistance or cue given to help the learner compete a task and to increase accurate responding. There are several types of prompts: physical, general, gestural, position, model, verbal, symbolic, visual prompt, and many more.

Prompt Dependent – When an individual becomes has become reliant on being assisted with a task, and stops attempting the task independently.  Alternatively, it could be the learner who has been prompted to do a task a certain was so many times, that is difficult for them to change the was they do the task..

Receptive – Listener behavior, and refers to tasks that require a nonvocal action or motor response such as touch, give, or point.

Recovered – Often used instead of words such as “cured” or “fixed.” A recovered individual has overcome the more disabling effects of the Autism diagnosis, and is able to be successful with minimum supports across a variety of life settings.

Reinforcer – Something used to motivate a learner to complete a task, or engage in a behavior.  A reinforcer can be tangible (toy), social (praise), physical (hug), etc.  To be considered a reinforcer, the likelihood of future occurrence of the target behavior must increase.

Satiation – When a reinforcer loses it’s effectiveness due to overuse.

Scripting – When a learner engages in a vocal stim where they repeat, or script, phrases or entire sections of a a TV show, movie, or commercial.  Also known as self-talk.

Scrolling -When a learner responds to a demand to a by either receptively or expressively linking several responses together.

Self injurious behavior (SIB) – Self-injurious behaviors are actions that an individual
performs that result in physical injury to the  body. Typical forms of self-injurious behavior include hitting oneself, head-banging, biting, picking at skin or sores, or scratching.

Stereotypical/Repetitive Behaviors (“Stimming”) – Self initiated, often repetitive movements (i.e. rocking, vocalizations, flapping, spinning) that can be vocal or motoric.  For some Autistic individuals, these behaviors can occur more than 100+ times a day and may engage in these behaviors for automatic reinforcement purposes.

Sensory Integration/Sensory Diets – Sensory integration refers to different strategies or techniques used to meet, raise, or lower internal sensory needs such as weighted vests, specific sensory diets, or brushing procedures. Often an OT will recommend sensory integration via a sensory diet.  Sensory integration is not empirically supported, and should not be considered to be part of ABA treatment.

Shadow– Also called a School Facilitator; a Shadow is someone who goes into the classroom with a child and helps that child integrate fully into the classroom environment.

Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)/ Occupational Therapist) (OT) / Physical Therapist (PT) These are professionals who often work with individuals with Autism to provide therapy services related to speech, movement, developmental goals, coordination, and functional communication. It isn’t uncommon for these professionals (including ABA professionals) to overlap in the services they provide, such as teaching motor skills or visual performance skills. Ideally, the “alphabet soup” team (BCBA/SLP/OT) will work together collaboratively to benefit the client.

Tact – This is a Verbal Behavior term. A tact is being able to label or describe an item with stimuli being present. For example, a learner can tact if they can label the color of a ball if the ball is present.

Target Behavior – The behavior of interest you are trying to increase, or decrease. There may be multiple target behaviors being addressed simultaneously, as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Task Reduction – Reducing the demands put upon the individual in an effort to avoid or decrease frustration levels.

Transitions – Changes from one activity to another such as a preferred play activity to a work activity. Transitions are typically very difficult for individuals with ASD, particularly those that are unplanned or abrupt.

Verbal Behavior (VB) – Verbal Behavior is a type of ABA based on the works of B.F. Skinner that focuses on understanding and teaching language as a behavior, and based on its function.

VB-MAPP Assessment- An assessment and curriculum tool created by Dr. Sundberg. This tool focuses on verbal/language assessment to get a complete snapshot of verbal abilities, strengths, and deficits. Domains include manding, intraverbals, echoics, etc.

Verbal VS Non Verbal- When people use these terms they typically mean if a learner can talk or not. Babbling/sounds are not usually considered verbal, unless they serve a communicative purpose. The behavior analytic term for being able to talk is vocal, not verbal. Verbal can be any form of communication such as sign language or gesturing, while Vocal is speech/vocalizations used to communicate.

A Voice for Vivi

 

So, as I mentioned in that oh, so important very first blog post, we are having a very difficult time finding a way for Vivian to effectively communicate with us.  And by effectively, I mean a way she is interested in.  We’ve heard Vivian use words before, but it’s been over a year since Shawn or I have heard her use them, and to be honest, they were generally out of context. We’ve tried, with the assistance of her previous Pre-K teachers and Speech therapists, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and have mixed success with the paper PECS format and the ipad format.

 

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Knowing this, I researched trying to obtain what the insurance company would consider a communication device, and our insurance company.  The device we are trying to obtain for Vivian is the Tobii Dynavox, an all-in-one speech tablet created specifically for for augmentative and alternative communication, created and designed for children like Vivian who have non-verbal Autism. Since Vivian is a visual learner and is attracted to electronic devices (likes most kids), we are hoping she will take a liking to the Tobi and will use it to communicate.

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Until next time…

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