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Occupational Therapist, Carly Starnes, has joined our team!

We are very excited to announce that Occupational Therapist, Carly Starnes, has joined our team! Carly is a tremendous asset to S.M.I.LE.S. and will be as well to each of our clients. She’s incredibly passionate, dedicated, motivated, innovative and positive. Carly will start OT services on Monday, February 12th.

Pros and Cons of the Proloquo2Go AAC App

Proloquo2Go AAC App

Proloquo2Go AAC App

There are many AAC devices and apps out in the market now to choose from. It can be overwhelming to decide what might be the best for a particular person. I recently completed the online training for Proloquo2go and wanted to share what I believe to be the pros and cons of this app.

PROS of Proloquo2go AAC App

  1. Vocabulary: Proloquo2go has a large customizable vocabulary system that is folder based. There’s vocabulary set up on the main page that are core words, with fringe folders to go to in order to add more specific vocabulary to your sentence.
    • Organized with modified Fitzgerald Key for easier word finding:
      • People-orange
      • verbs-pink
      • prepositions-green
      • folders-black
      • nouns-yellow
      • adjectives-blue
      • question words-black
  2. Advanced grammar option allows you to easily conjugate verbs, or add plural or possessive markers.
  3. The clues folder allows a user to learn to describe an object and talk around a word that may not be programmed in his/her device. This folder is a great way to expand expressive language and describing skills as well as repair communication break downs when a word is not easily accessible. In the clues folder you can tell a person:
    • it is not on my device
    • ask me a question about it
    • I don’t know
    • you are way off, getting close etc.
    • the word is part of ___
    • the word is the opposite of ___
    • it is in ___ category
    • ask a yes/no question
  4. Action words are divided into groups for easier navigation:
    • helpers: auxiliary verbs
    • thinking verbs
    • feelings
    • sensing verbs: words that deal with our five senses
    • telling verbs: words that deal with communication
    • thing: actions you do to an object
    • body: actions you do to a body
    • having: possession verbs
    • making: action words that create
    • place: travel or location verbs
  5. Adjectives are divided into groups for easier navigation:
    • positive
    • negative
    • feelings
    • looks
    • sounds
    • smells
    • tastes
    • feels
  6. There’s a variety of access methods: Proloquo2go can be accessed using direct selection (touching the iPad with your finger to make a button speak) or by using the iPad as a switch or an external switch. In addition there are different scanning options you can adjust depending on a person’s physical limitations to make it as easy as possible to use desired words.
  7. It’s easy to edit: Proloquo2go is very easy to edit. You can change the location of vocabulary to fit your needs. You can easily add or delete words. You can move words that are more frequently used to more primary pages and less frequently used words to secondary pages. You can also choose how many buttons are available on the screen at a time to decrease visual distractions.
  8. It’s kid proof: You can set a password so that a child cannot get in to the editing and accidentally create or delete buttons.
  9. A variety of resources are available: There is a users manual on the AssistiveWare website as well as videos and FAQs. In addition there are Facebook groups for users to get questions answered from the developer or other users.
  10. Supports social sharing capability: A user can email, Facebook, Twitter or copy and paste a message created in Proloquo2go so that they are able to communicate with peers with social media.
  11. It’s easy to save, transfer and restore data: Using an iTunes, Dropbox or wifi connection, you can save any editing you completed so that if something happens to the iPad or app, you have all of your user preferences backed up and don’t have to start from square one.
  12. Recents view: A recent view allows you to see what buttons have been activated in the last 15 min., 30 min., day etc. This feature allows you to go back to say phrases you say frequently without completely retyping the phrase. It also can give you an idea of what vocabulary the user is using to track what vocabulary may need to be taught.
  13. Macros buttons: Macros buttons change over time allowing you to have buttons that do things such as tell you the correct day of the week, time, battery charge level, year etc.
  14. Expressive power: This is a great feature that allows users to express themselves in a more natural tone of voice. It uses the many programmed voices to provide natural expressions such as excitement, frustration, boredom etc through change of intonation and pitch of the voice.

CONS of Proloquo2go

  1. Can be difficult to navigate: Vocabulary in a folder based system can be difficult to navigate if a person does not have the language understanding of what categories an object should be found in. In addition this app allows for words to be found in multiple places so it can become confusing as to where the word is and what is the easiest route to retrieve a word.
  2. Unused and unnecessary vocabulary: Easy editing can mean easily adding many fringe words that are not used frequently by the user. This can mean bogging down a system with vocabulary that may be only used in a certain situation or even only once or twice by a person before the word is abandoned. This may not be as efficient as talking around a word or using core vocabulary to describe.
  3. This app may not be easily used by people with motor planning difficulties: People who have difficulty motor planning benefit from an app that has static buttons that are always in the same place so that they can learn the motor plan to find a word. When words are found in multiple places it is difficult to build solid motor plans. In addition some words may be found a few folders deep making it not the most efficient way to get a word out if a person has trouble with motor movements.
  4. Vocabulary does not stay in the same place: When going from the basic user to the core vocabulary user, vocabulary can move and shift slightly making it somewhat difficult to find words. In addition a slight shift in words may be seen when increasing the number of buttons viewed on a page. This may become frustrating for a user if they are always searching for vocabulary.
  5. Scrolling may become a hindrance to quick communication: If scrolling is turned on a child may visually stim on scrolling words. If it is turned off then they may be slowed by having to press an extra “page up” or “page down” button to find a word they are looking for.
  6. Can be overwhelming and inefficient: A user could possibly become overwhelmed by the vocabulary being in different places, navigating through a variety of buttons to find a word, scrolling through pages for words, and not having consistency with pulling language from the same place every time. If a person has a lot of language programmed in proloquo2go, but that language takes multiple button hits to get to they may become frustrated with the lack of ease of use in which they are able to express themselves.

No AAC application is one size fits all. It is important to talk with a speech pathologist about the pros and cons of any AAC app and to find one that meets your individual needs. This article is intended to be a reference as to features that Proloquo2go contains that may be helpful for successful AAC use.

Summer Therapy Camp with a Zoo Theme

Therapy Camp 2015

Register for Therapy Camp!

Come join us for a fun summer therapy camp to work on social skills as well as OT and language needs. Summer camp will be conducted by our certified OT and SLP and participants will learn and play as we transform our OT room into a “zoo”. We will practice motor movements as we become the animals of the jungle. We will work on taking turns and following directions in zoo related activities as well as provide proprioceptive and vestibular needs.

Why do Camp?
Camp is a wonderful way to increase peer interaction while receiving extra therapy time during the summer. Conducted in a very fun setting, camp gives an opportunity to work on social, gross and fine motor skills in a themed environment.

When will it be?
Camp will run in 2 hour blocks for 8 sessions and sessions will be held once a week for 8 Consecutive weeks. Once we have 3-6 participants per group, we will set the date for sometime in June/July/August that will best accommodate participant schedules.

Who is Camp for?
All children ages 2-21 are welcome. Groups will consist of 3-6 children who have similar skill sets.

What will We do?
Camp will work on motor skills, social skills and language skills in a fun, themed environment.

Example Activities for Younger Group (All activities will be age appropriate):

  • Teach/model sensory modulation by exploring active vs. quiet animals movements (fast vs. slow)
  • Parachute game with balloons and/or stuffed animals
  • Delivering “mail” to different animals game
  • Healthy snack — weave in the topic of what animals eat
  • Fingerprint animal art — proprioceptive fine motor work
  • Animal bath — put animal figures through shaving cream on a tray and rinse in water
  • Animal story at end with movements learned along the way

Call Terri @ (513) 583-8333 to reserve your spot!

Registration ends May 20th, 2015, so don’t delay!

Bubble Bash 5k — Fundraiser

Building Blocks for Kids—5K Bubble Bash

Come Join Us!

Building Blocks for Kids is having their 8th Annual 5K Event! This year’s event will be a little different than in past years—it will be a Bubble Bash! It’s a non-timed, 5K run, walk, roll, skip or jump course traveling through 5 stations of colored bubbles. The event includes music, games, prizes, food, and of course, BUBBLES!!!

The Building Blocks for Kids’ (BB4K) mission is to improve the quality of life for children with health-related needs that are not being met due to a lack of insurance, government funding, and/or family resources. BB4K assists families by finding alternative resources for them and/or by providing financial assistance for their needs.

Since 2003, BB4K has assisted more than 350 children with a variety of needs including therapy, therapy equipment, hearing aids, communication devices, home modifications, vans with wheelchair lifts, special beds, displacement costs when needing to see a specialist in another city, adaptive bikes, adaptive strollers, seizure dogs, and so much more!

You can help us in meeting our fundraising goal for BB4K by either joining our team or sponsoring us! We’re looking forward to participating in the Bubble Bash 5K and we hope to see you there!

When: Saturday September 20, 2014

Where: Corwin Nixon Park, Mason

Schedule of Events:
8:00 am – Registration Begins
8:30 am – Vendor Fair Begins
10:00 am – 5K Bubble Bash Begins
11:00 am – Awards, Presentation
11:15 am – Kids Fun Run
11:30 am – Picnic, Games, Music

2014 Walk Now for Autism Speaks: Cincinnati

We’re excited to participate in the 2014 Walk Now for Autism Speaks! We hope you’ll join us for this fun filled, family event!

When: Saturday, May 17th, 2014
Where: Coney Island Amusement Park

Registration will begin at 8AM, with the Walk starting at 10AM, so be sure to get there early. Visit the official event page for more details and registration.

5 Things to Think About When Choosing an AAC App

There are many AAC (augmentation and alternative communication) applications out there to choose from these days making communication more accessible than it ever has been before. However, with so many choices, one must ask, “are they all high quality, and which is the best choice?” Here are some things to think about when looking for a high quality AAC app.

  1. Does it allow you to communicate as quickly and easily as possible?
    There are many functions that are added to apps to make sure that communication can happen as quickly and functionally as possible including:
    • Core vocabulary: Common words that make up approximately 80% of what we say. Core words are usually buttons on the first page of a device so that a child has easy access to the most common words to make sentences quickly. Apps with core vocabulary allow a user to quickly generate sentences using core words.
    • Keyboard: An easy way to type out words so that they can be voiced. This is usually used for less common words that are not used frequently enough to take up space in the app by programming a button for the specific word. Apps with keyboards allow a quick way for spontaneous production of words through spelling without needing to take the time to program a word into a device.
    • Motor planning: Some applications are based on motor planning of movements so that a person will learn where buttons are by building consistent motor plans. Having built in motor plans for words will make communication faster as the person does not have to think to navigate where a word would be once the motor plan is built.
  2. Does it allow you to communicate a variety of communication functions?
    Many times when just starting out with an AAC device the main concern of caregivers is making sure the person can make requests to obtain their wants and needs. However communication goes well beyond requesting. A person who utilizes AAC should be able to comment on their likes, dislikes and views of the world. They should be able to ask for clarification when they do not understand. They need to be able to ask questions to gain information to learn about their world and answer questions to demonstrate their knowledge. They should be able to verbally refuse or give directions as well as these types of communication allow an individual to have power in their world and manipulate their environment.
  3. Does it allow room for growth?
    Apps can be made to express a variety of language from very simple language for one specific event to a very complex language system that has unlimited vocabulary and a keyboard for spontaneous novel word generation. Every time you switch AAC systems the user must learn how to utilize the system efficiently. For many AAC users it may be easier to stick with the same system from just starting out with communication to functional everyday conversational communication. There are apps out there that allow for growth to occur in the same app from first word to complete conversational sentence generation. This limits excess learning needed to learn a new system once one system is outgrown.
  4. Is it easy to edit?
    Since AAC is so personal to each individual it is important that it is easy to edit to allow for the personalization of the app. Things to take into account are ease of button addition, deletion and modification, as well as space for fringe (specific personal vocabulary that one person may use frequently but another may not use at all) vocabulary.
  5. Is it easy to learn and navigate?
    AAC does no one any good if it is sitting on the shelf or the app is on the iPad, but no one is using it. It is important to trial apps to see if the child is able to learn it quickly and easily. Some apps have search buttons to help you find vocabulary. Most have vocabulary organized in some fashion (categories, abc order etc.). It is important to take a look at individual apps to see if the organization of it makes sense to the user and if the user is able to easily learn how to functionally communicate independently.

It is important to trial any AAC option to see if it is right for you, as everyone is different and AAC choices should be based on your individual needs. It is a good idea to discuss AAC options with a speech language pathologist who is knowledgeable in language development and current AAC technologies. It is also important to remember that no AAC device will be successful without appropriate language intervention. Feel free to contact us for more information regarding AAC evaluation and therapy.

Top 10 Things About the “Speak for Yourself” App

I recently found a great new AAC app called “Speak for Yourself”, and I’m loving it! I thought I would share the top ten reasons it is such a great AAC app.

  1. To say ANY word in speak for yourself you have to press a maximum of two buttons. In a fast paced world it is important for AAC users to be able to keep up with communication. This is done by being able to say what they want with a device as quickly and succinctly as possible. When you only have to press up to two buttons to get a word you are going to be able to save a lot of time.
  2. There is a search feature. When numerous people are usually involved in programming a device it seems that even when people try to stay on the same page it is hard for everyone to know what has been programmed in the device and where it is located. It is also hard for everyone to learn the device to effectively model it. With a search for vocabulary feature anyone can see where a word is located. If the word isn’t on the device yet it can be added and then will show up in the search feature if someone else looks for the same word. No more having the same word five different places and trying to remember where it is located!
  3. Words can be opened and closed. This app has the easiest way I have ever seen to open and close words so that you can have a way to systematically teach vocabulary and language skills. You can start with a blank slate and add words as needed as quickly or as slowly as you need to.
  4. There is a babble feature. While it’s great to be able to control what words are open when teaching language, it is also great to have access to all the language we hear. The babble feature allows you to toggle back and forth between a screen with systematically opened vocabulary to a screen with all the vocabulary available so your child can practice babbling with the device just as they would with verbal language.
  5. There is a history feature. The history feature allows you to see how the device has been used. It can help you track what words and phrases have been used and how often. It’s a great way to gain data to see how language has developed and see how the device is being used.
  6. It has a hold that thought button. A great way to increase the ease of communication is to store frequently used phrases in the hold that thought button. It is easy to create phrases to store and easy to retrieve them.
  7. It is easy to edit. Even for the non-techy person it is easy to add and modify buttons. Just press the edit button and the button you want to edit and enter the information you would like.
  8. You can lock editing. For all those kids who like to edit their own programs, you can easily lock editing from inside the program. In order to unlock editing you must go out of the app and into the Ipad settings. This will make sure that buttons are not “accidentally” edited by little hands.
  9. It provides a great base of core vocabulary with plenty of room to grow. The main page has core vocabulary words that make up the majority of what we need to say. Most of the core words link to a secondary page where there are more fringe words related to the core word. The app is built on motor planning principles so that once you learn where a word is you will be able to quickly retrieve it through motor memory. There is also a keyboard built in for you to be able to say any fringe words that you don’t say enough to have the button programmed into the device. This app can truly grow with a child from their first word to conversational language.
  10. The developers are speech pathologists. It’s great to see an AAC app developed by someone who has an understanding of speech and language development as well as motor planning skills. They are also very available to answer questions and helpful in providing ideas in how to utilize the app for functional communication in all environments. A couple bonus perks also include a key guard available to help anyone who has trouble with finger isolation access the small buttons, availability on both android and apple tablets, and an active Facebook group full of parents and professionals who are a wealth of information about use of the app.

As with any AAC device speak for yourself may not work for everyone and should be trialed to see if it would be the best fit for your child. Once it is determined the best fit, the child will need to be trained on how to utilize the app through modeling and expansion of language. Feel free to contact us if you would like to trial speak for yourself to see if it would work for your needs.

Meet and Greet Our New Occupational Therapist Michele DiCristoforo

Come Say Hello!

Come Say Hello!

Come join us in welcoming our newest team member and Occupational Therapist, Michele DiCristoforo. We are very excited to be offering Occupational Therapy services and can’t wait for you to meet her!

If you don’t have childcare, then please bring your child. Don’t let this interfere with your coming out to welcome Michele! So stop by and say hello, ask your questions, and get to know how Michele can help your kids through her wide range of OT specialties.

When: Friday, March 14, 2014
Time: 5:30pm – 7:00pm
Where: Our Therapy center

*We’ll be serving light hors doeuvres.

Help Them Bring Her Home

Martini Family

Help Them Bring Her Home

Our wonderful clients, Craig & Viviane Martini, need your help. You have a chance to help them bring home their third child from Eastern Europe by bidding on any of the 33 items available in their adoption auction. We’re donating our services as one of the auction items.

Register for Upcoming PROMPT Therapy Training Classes

If you’re interested in learning the PROMPT Therapy technique or you’re ready to better your skills as a PROMPT Therapist, be sure to register for the Introduction to PROMPT or Bridging PROMPT classes this Spring. Tara will be  an instructor for the Introduction to PROMPT class in Chicago, Illinois. These classes will fill up quickly so be sure to register soon! For more information, check out our PROMPT Training page. Hope to see you there!