I think I have mentioned before that Emily was on the waiting list for a communication device evaluation. We figured that would happen in September, at the earliest. Well, I received a call the first week of August letting me know that there was a cancellation and Emily could have the appointment. Of course, I didn't even hesitate! I jumped at the chance to get the evaluation done. Getting a communication device is no easy task. It takes a long time to work through all of the red tape with insurance so the sooner we can start that process, the sooner Emily will have her own device.
The evaluation was done at Children's, through the same department that runs Emily's therapeutic preschool program. So they were already familiar with the work that she has done with the communication device during therapy. The speech therapist that was doing the evaluation, was the therapist that worked with Emily during the last school year. The speech therapist mostly worked with Emily, while an occupational therapist talked with me about each of the devices. She showed me how to program each of them, we talked about the pros and cons of each device and about the requirements needed for insurance. Apparently our secondary insurance requires at least 4 weeks of use before they will even consider paying for a communication device. Well, Emily has already met that requirement through her therapeutic preschool program. So that is a good thing!
We talked about different access methods for each device. All of the devices can be accessed by touching the screen, using a switch, using a head mouse and some use eye gaze technology. We decided that head mouse would be the best option for Emily right now. She has been using this method already, so she is familiar with how it works. They put a small dot sticker on her forehead and the computer "reads" that dot to determine where the cursor should be. So, she has to move her head in the direction of the icon she wants to choose and then the device says it for her. We also discussed eye gaze technology, but decided that it would not be a good choice for Emily right now. The system has to be calibrated to your eyes and then you can just move your eyes to make your selection. The problem is, your head and body have to remain pretty still while doing it. That is very difficult for Emily. We could not even get the systems calibrated for her to give her the chance to try it out. So that may be something we explore as she gets older. The device we get now has to last 5 years, so maybe we can explore eye gaze with her next device.
The appointment lasted 2 hours. I was given so much information, that I can barely remember it all, but overall the appointment went very well. Emily had a blast doing all of the things she was asked to do. She got to play with a computer, choose and listen to music, play with Polly Pockets and of course, use the different devices. The final result of the appointment is this: I have to choose between 2 different devices (we all decided that these 2 are the best fit for her right now). Once I make that decision, they will get the ball rolling with insurance. I am debating between the following:
Vanguard Plus: http://store.prentrom.com/product_info.php/cPath/11/products_id/18
I am pretty sure that I will pick the ECO at this point. I just need to verify a few things with my insurance company first.
I am so excited to be starting this process! The communication devices are amazing. There is so much that can be customized for Emily to make them her own. I love the idea of Emily being able to express herself. She is very motivated to use the device these days, so I have a feeling she has a lot to say! The idea of being able to hear her thoughts, is super exciting. I can barely express what this means to me. I have spent the last 4 years talking to her and trying to guess her thoughts. I cannot wait until she can express herself and I don't have to guess anymore. What an amazing opportunity!