Tuesday, 1 May 2012

I can...use my eyes!

Many children who use Augmentative Communication (AC) also have difficulty using their vision optimally.  Having your child's eyes tested by an optometrist is a great first step to ensure good health and to correct for visual acuity if necessary.  Sometimes vision cannot be corrected or a child may have difficulty functionally using their eyes.  In this issue we'll explore information to gather on your child's vision,
                                 to maximize success with an AC system.

Who can help? 
There are a variety of professionals who can help gather relevant vision information to help you set up your child's communication system in a way that maximizes the use of their vision. In Southwestern Ontario you may want to explore involvement with:

Low Vision Clinics provide assessments of functional vision. They can often prescribe low vision adapted aids with funding support from the Assistive Device Program (A.D.P.).  They may also provide vision recommendations that can be applied when using an augmentative communication system.

The Sight Substitution Centre (in association with the W Ross MacDonald school for the visually impaired) can provide high tech vision aids for children who are blind.   High tech visual aids may include braille displays, braille embossers etc.

Vision Consultants can also help provide vision recommendations.  You may be involved with a vision consultant through your school board or through the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

What should I ask?
Although it's difficult to capture all the information that's needed, here is a general list to get you started. 

Sizing and Spacing
What size of symbol is ideal? _________________________________________
What is the minimum / maximum spacing between symbols?___________________
How many symbols can be presented at once?_____________________________

Symbol Libary
There are a variety of symbol libraries that are used in augmentative communication systems.  Is there a symbol system that is too challenging? Would photographs work well? Some popular symbol libraries include:
Picture Communication Symbols
by Mayer Johnston (Boardmaker Software)
 * Have a high contrast add on symbol set

Widgit Symbols
by Widgit (Communicate in Print Software)
* Have a symbol set for people with visual impairments

Symbol Stix
by N2Y (Online Symbol Library)

MinSpeak Symbols
by Prentke Romich Company
* Reduced number of symbols because combining symbols results in different meanings.

Colour and Contrast:  
Is there an ideal symbol background colour?  __________________________
Is there an ideal page background colour?  ___________________________
Is there an ideal symbol border colour? ______________________________
    Font Type and Size
    What font type and size is ideal for your child? _______________________

    What is ideal distance from face to present information?  ________________
    Is there an ideal height, angle, distance from midline?   __________________
    Does your child have a visual field preference? ________________________

    No Tech Solutions: Introduce concepts such as "far", "close", "left" and "right" to allow children with visual impairments to give you feedback about where they would like their symbols and/or device.

    Low Tech Solutions: Taction pads are specialty switches that can be attached to real objects and used with a Speech Generating Device (SGD).  Taction pads must be used with a LinkSwitch Controller when used with SGDs other than Adaptivation devices (e.g. VoicePals). 

    High Tech Solutions: There are a variety of features on high tech devices that may help people with visual impairments.  Consider some of the following:
    • Zoom: When each choice is presented, it is enlarged and sent to the front of the screen.
    • Auditory Scanning: This provides a verbal prompt for each message.  This can be used with or without visual support.
    I Can...be a Star!
    Kudos to the ACS Therapists who participated in the
    Forest City Road Race in support of
    Thames Valley Children's Centre!

    Upcoming Events:
    Save the Date! 
    August 13 - 17, 2012 
    Calling all TVCC clients who want a chance to shine on the stage with Original Kids Theatre Company! Setting the Stage and On With the Show are theatre camps where all of outstanding actors use a speech generating device to deliver their lines in 6 short plays.

    • Setting the Stage is a half-day morning camp (Monday through Friday, 9.00 a.m – 12.00) for younger children who are learning to use devices and who need lots of support.
    • On With the Show (afternoons, 1.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.) is for those who are more independent with device use.
    Contact your TVCC clinician if your child uses a speech-generating device and would enjoy the opportunity to act on stage with the Original Kids. For more information, please contact Sandra Ryall, Administrative Assistant in the Augmentative Communication Service at 519 685 8700 ext. 53478, or e-mail sandra.ryall@tvcc.on.ca