A new device helps special needs children communicate through use of keyboard and touchscreen. Children like 7 year old Parker Stone who have physical and mental limitations are finding that electronic help makes breakthroughs possible.
Rio Rancho Public Schools is now using an electronic “talker” that helps Stone, who has autism, communicate better by helping him form complete sentences. The small Prentke Romich electronic devices have a touch screen and use the Language Acquisition through Motor Planning, or LAMP, technology.
The screen has pictures that students can touch with their own fingers to create a sentence. They can switch to a screen with a keyboard to type out words as well, creating sentences using both the pictures and by typing text.
Once they push enter, the device speaks the sentence. For example, they could spell out “I want to read a book.”
About 10 students districtwide use the Romich electronic devices, which cost about $8,400 each. They are purchased either by the district for use at school or by a student’s family, with the help of insurance, as was the case with Stone.
Stone’s special education teacher, Megan Garrigan, and his mother, Diana Stone, said the device has opened up the world for the Vista Grande Elementary first-grader.
“Parker is definitely changing,” Garrigan said. “Whereas in the past, he would run at you or yell, which are less socially acceptable behaviors, now he will use his talker.”
Diana Stone said Parker was born with congenital heart defects and has had other medical issues that have led to 15 surgeries. She said his autism, combined with his medical issues, have made it hard for him to communicate verbally.
She said not only has Parker used the device to speak for him, but also his own verbal skills are improving.
“His vocals are improving tremendously,” she said. “He’s started talking in complete sentences.”
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