When Julian turned four years old, I remember thinking to myself,
What if he never talks?
So we decided to try another method of communication. Our family has been using Proloquo2Go (P2G) for the past four months, and it has been a game-changer! I want to share our journey so that it may help one of you.
I’ll start with a brief history. Feel free to skip down to Getting the Device if you only want to read about Julian’s progress with P2G.
A little background… We tried everything!
Julian and his twin brother, Dominic, have always been delayed. They were premature, so we anticipated some setbacks.
As soon as they came home from their six-week stay in the NICU, we immediately enrolled them in early intervention and began speech and occupational therapies.
When the twins were babies, I tried to teach them simple sign language to help them communicate. That’s something I did with my older son when he was a baby, and it was very helpful.
But after months of modeling, they didn’t catch on. I didn’t know it yet, but they were both struggling with motor planning. Even simple signs, like more and all done, were hard for them to perform.
As the months went by, their motor planning deficits became more and more apparent. So we kept trucking along with speech and occupational therapies.
At two years old, neither of them had any words. In addition to expressive language, they also displayed major deficits in receptive language. They didn’t seem to understand anything.
At this time, we enrolled them in special education preschool through the public school system and continued their therapies.
At 2.5 years old, Dominic said his first word! (I can’t remember what it was, but I’m sure it was something inappropriate.) Soon after that, we started the boys on an online speech program called Gemiini. With the help of that program, Dominic quickly soared from just a handful of words, to hundreds!
Julian also loved using Gemiini. I think it really helped his receptive language. And even though he would occasionally approximate words, Julian didn’t continue to progress like Dominic did.
At three years old, Julian was diagnosed with autism. We continued with preschool and enrolled them in gymnastics and a running club to help with motor planning. It was really cute!
While Dominic’s language continued to progress into full sentences, Julian remained nonverbal. Speech therapy wasn’t working for him. Preschool wasn’t working. We even tried PECS (a picture board), but it just wasn’t enough…
And then they turned four.
Julian was frustrated. He cried a lot. He screamed a lot. He had a hard time with transitions. He had a hard time in the car when we went somewhere. He had a hard time in preschool. He was just having a hard time overall.
And why wouldn’t he? He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t voice his opinions. And he didn’t understand the majority of what we were saying. I’d be crying, too!
Getting the device…
Julian’s amazing doctor referred him to our local children’s hospital for an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device assessment. The team would test him on all sorts of devices to figure out which one would be best for him.
I was worried that he wouldn’t test well because of his motor planning issues. But once I told the team that he could use my phone and his own tablet to watch YouTube, play games, and watch Netflix, they skipped a few tests and went right to the Proloquo2Go app (P2G). We were in and out in less than an hour!
To read more about our process of getting insurance to approve Julian’s device, click here.
Our journey so far with P2G…
We started using the app as soon as we unpacked it. It’s really user friendly. We also had a crash course with the school’s SLP, and went to weekly training with a speech therapist.
Within the first two weeks, Julian could navigate one of the most advanced setting on Proloquo2Go (P2G). With 96 buttons and category folders, his screen looked similar to this.
Of course, I was concerned he wouldn’t be able to find everything. It looked complicated! But as usual, Julian surprised us all.
It took him ONE DAY to learn where the food folder was, so he could tell us what he wanted to eat. It was a breeze for me to add his preferred foods and take off the foods he never eats.
We also created a “Fun” folder for his therapy sessions, so he could tell her what toys he wanted to use. That was pretty painless to set up. One of my online friends helped me through it.
By the end of two weeks, he could tell us more and all done with ease.
Within one month, WE WERE ALREADY ARGUING! Can you imagine how wonderful it feels to argue with your child… when he’s never even spoken a word??? It filled my heart!
Julian can finally express his opinions. He wants to go to the beach. He wants to see his Nana. And he WANTS TO GO TO McDONALD’S!!! (Yes, there’s a button for that. And your child WILL find it.)
By this time, Julian took his device everywhere. He felt more at ease when he knew he could talk if he wanted. He even took it into gymnastics with him. He would hand it to me when it was his turn to tumble, and grab it back as soon as he was finished.
He wasn’t crying as much. He could finally get his point across without melting down or screaming.
After two months, Julian was teaching us! He taught us that he knows his colors, and could identify shapes. And he could connect those concepts with real-life experiences.
One night when I was cooking dinner, he brought me a cob of corn and TOLD ME IT WAS YELLOW! Spontaneously… without being asked… he just offered up that information… and then he took a bite (first time ever).
We are currently four months in. Julian is already working on using two-word phrases such as go outside, want balloon, and eat banana.
We’re also continuously working on what I like to call “assertive phrases.” Those include my turn, yes, no, and Stop. I want him to be able to express himself the way any other child can. And that includes telling people NO!
Did I mention how much his expressive and receptive language has improved?
Over the past 4 months, Julian has started approximating words with definite intent. He calls his Nana, Dada. He says Uh-oh perfectly. Many of the words he says can only be understood by our closest family members, but who cares??? That’s progress!
Receptively, Julian continues to understand more and more words and phrases. He goes to get his shoes when it’s time to go outside. He puts things in the trash. He cleans up when we ask. I’ve even started to spell out Nana, beach, and playground because he can pick up on those words now.
If Julian speaks in pictures, and we speak in words, P2G has been our translator. And it’s helping all of us understand each other better.
Stay tuned for another update. And follow our journey on Facebook. I continuously post videos of Julian and Dominic’s progress (and silliness).
And feel free to leave a question in the comment section. I’d be happy to answer if I can… Or help you find someone who knows more than me.