The communication journey of each Avaz AAC user is unique. But the common theme among all stories is the persistence of parents, the expertise of professionals, and their collaborative efforts. Not to forget the communicators themselves who have interesting things to say and seize the opportunity to express themselves when given the right support.
We are grateful to Juhi Saxena for sharing the Avaz journey of her brilliant and cheerful daughter, Tanisha.
Here’s the Guest Post by Ms. Juhi Saxena –
My daughter was diagnosed to be on the Autism spectrum at the age of 3 and like all special needs families, we went through the process of never ending therapies, running from one therapy centre to another. Needless to say, it was traumatic and exhausting in the beginning. However, this soon became our daily routine – juggling our time between therapists and doctor visits . After nearly 3 years of vigorous therapies, we achieved very little development in her speech and language. We could see that our daughter had potential and how badly she wanted to communicate with everybody. But being unable to communicate only led to frustration and behaviour issues. Thankfully, we got introduced to Avaz AAC app through Ms.Vandana at the Sunrise Learning Centre. And how the app has changed our lives!!! My family was instantly fascinated by the idea of an app that would enable us to communicate with our child. We were excited about the prospect of our daughter expressing her needs and feelings to us.
Building Communication, Language, Life Skills, and Literacy
We started with lots of pictures of all the preferred items of my daughter to build her interest. My daughter accepted Avaz wholeheartedly as she felt empowered by being able to communicate her needs by simply selecting a picture from the folder. Avaz had made communication easier for her. It was a happy moment for the entire family when Tanisha chose to communicate through images rather than crying or screaming.
We proceeded to make schedules with Avaz to help manage her anxieties. The app made our lives simpler in many ways. We didn’t need to carry our visual cards everywhere, as we had a system which was more practical and we could explain many things to her on the go. My husband is a Merchant Navy officer and we travelled with him on the ship. Being onboard a ship involves many challenges with frequently changing weather, variations in time zones, and long days between ports. Separation from family members for a longer duration of time only added to the emotional struggles. Avaz became a medium for us to explain what is happening around her to our daughter and why it is happening. This includes the dining etiquette, different parts of the ship, when we will reach the next port, when we will be back home, and many more things which were previously next to impossible to explain to her.
Avaz AAC app helped to form a bridge between our daughter and my whole family. It allowed us to use our specific customised pictures and audio modulations which helped in teaching generalization and improving comprehension. We also use Avaz to develop her life skills by focussing on ADLs. Avaz has also helped build her literacy skills because she was a good visual learner.
Avaz During Lock down
When lockdown happened, there were major changes in her routine. Since she can’t go to school and has minimum social interaction, Avaz has helped Tanisha to communicate with her grandparents and other family members. She tells them what food she ate, what activities she did ,and whether she liked them or not. She also tells them that she loves and misses them a lot 💜.
We have been modelling, and just now Tanisha is trying to communicate better with us (still with prompt ). But it has become a little easier for us to understand where she is feeling pain and she is trying to understand what are we doing to help her. She is also sending WhatsApp messages about her health to her grandparents and Mamu (Uncle).
While the lock down has brought many challenges, it has also given us more time and opportunities to interact with her. We involve her in day to day activities such as deciding what meals are cooked where Tanisha uses the app to tell her choice to us. We are also using Avaz to give her a picture breakdown of steps involved in completing each task. This has helped her immensely in developing life skills.
Avaz is aptly named – it has become my daughter’s voice and every communication attempt is a step forward to more communication. (‘Avaz’ in Hindi means ‘Voice’ 😊)
We’d love to hear more from parents about the creative ways in which they use Avaz. Sharing ideas is one way that you can help other parents stay motivated and positive. Send in your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or share your experiences in the comment section below.