Meet Katya. She is a bright and vivacious 12-year-old girl. She spent the first six years of her life in a Ukrainian orphanage. The opinion of the orphanage staff was that she had “nothing in her head” and was therefore severely understimulated and necessary surgeries were neglected.
Katya came home to her forever family at the age of six and was loved deeply. She underwent surgeries and procedures to help her thrive and was enrolled in her local school system. While her school did a lot for her educational development, after three years her family was told it would still be “at least another year before she would be ready to try an AAC device.” Frustrated with Katya’s inability to communicate effectively, they transferred her to Bridgeway Academy.
At Bridgeway Academy we believe there are no prerequisites to trying an AAC device, so the first step in determining a client’s eligibility is simply trying the device. In this video, Katya tries a device for the first time. During the session, the therapists’ goals are to associate positive, meaningful reactions to Katya’s exploration of the device as well as provide aided language stimulation. Learning is errorless at this stage and Katya quickly learns new vocabulary, spells her name and even starts to take ownership of the device!
Katya’s amazingly supportive network of family and friends donated enough money for her to get an iPad, the Words for Life language program and a ChatWrap within 24 hours of our recommendation. Her mom told me “you should have seen the sharp, super alert look Katya got on her face when we told her that after awhile she will bring an iPad home and start using it to tell us what she thinks and feels here at home. She duly noted that.”
Over the next two years, Katya’s therapy remained fun but focused on developing her vocabulary and language skills. In this video, Katya directs her speech therapist in how to style her hair using an app called HairSalon Me by Toca Boca. In this activity she practices making sentences and learns new basic concept vocabulary.
With the increase in her language skills, Katya began to develop more friendships and communicate socially.
She even began to take control of mandating her own lexicon by learning to program new words!
Check out some more fun therapy videos of Katya pretending to sneeze, talking about a friend and learning to program her device on YouTube! Katya’s story is a daily reminder for us at Bridgeway Academy to presume competence in our children’s abilities.
Bonus: Katya dunking me in the dunk tank at the opening celebration of our Secondary School. She even wanted a big wet hug afterwards!