If you come in contact with young children these days, you’ve likely heard of the fictional “Arendelle,” the home of Elsa and Anna from Disney’s “Frozen” — a beautiful kingdom nestled in the fjords of the north. But did you know that Arendelle is based on the real-life Norwegian port city of Bergen, and its name takes after the city of Arendal, a port city in the south of Norway (perhaps not too far from Prince Hans’ “Southern Isles?”)
This month, we’d like to introduce you to a modern-day family from Arendal with a very special child of their own. Elias is nonverbal and on the Autism spectrum, and he and his family have been using SuperSpeak daily to interact and communicate with each other. Inger and Freddy, here is your turn in the spotlight!
First things first! Tell us about you.
We’re a family living in Arendal, Norway. Our 6-year-old son, Elias, was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old. He was also given an intellectual disability diagnosis earlier this year.
During these years our lives have been focused on how best to ensure a good life for Elias, to let him be himself and to give him the possibility to acquire skills based on his abilities to optimize his potential.
What communication and language challenges are you experiencing?
Elias doesn’t have functional communication skills and self-stimulates a lot. He knows some words and imitates a lot of sounds, but he expresses them on a small scale at his own initiative. He often gets frustrated as he has challenges expressing needs, wants and emotions, so he bites his arm as an alternative to verbal communication.
What other AAC tools and communication methods have you tried, and were you satisfied?
We have used PECS and PCS symbols.
However, Elias has to be met in the moment. He is a strong-willed and selective boy. This combined with problems communicating has been our main challenge. We haven’t been able to catch his interest enough with the other tools we’ve been trying out.
What need(s) were you addressing when looking for SuperSpeak and other technologies?
We wanted to give Elias a real opportunity to participate and make decisions in his own life in an effective and concrete way. We also wanted a tool that was easy to use, and which we could customize based on his progress and needs. These criteria were difficult to fulfill, but we feel that SuperSpeak covers them well.
How do you use SuperSpeak and, in your opinion, what is its most important feature and why?
We use SuperSpeak actively throughout the day. One challenge you meet with children with autism is that they often have narrow interests. This means that you must find the balance between a real choice and a controlled “freedom of choice”. This is solved easily by using SuperSpeak’s various functions and customization features. The main feature that we love is that you can add images directly into the app — whether by taking a picture on the spot with the iPad camera, or searching for photos on the Internet. This means that we adults don’t have to print, cut and laminate, which is very time consuming! Also, Elias understands the photos better when they come from his surroundings.
Can you describe some of the reactions you’ve seen from Elias when using SuperSpeak?
I see an impressive calmness and concentration when Elias is working with SuperSpeak’s PLAY function, when compared to other training sessions.
What are some of the best practices or tips you want to share with people who are struggling to communicate with a nonverbal child?
Work in a targeted manner. Get to know your child and find the methods that trigger and motivate your child. No matter how difficult it may seem, one must always believe that the language stimulation, repetition and visualization has an effect in the long and short term. Never give up!
Where have you seen the biggest improvement since you first started using SuperSpeak?
The biggest improvement so far has been the involvement Elias has shown in his own life to make choices, and he seems to thrive with this.
For example, now Elias reaches for his iPad to use SuperSpeak when he wants to ask for something. It’s been fantastic for us to see that he not only understands the concept, but also sees the value it gives him.
How would you describe your experience with SuperSpeak to another family?
Our experience has been rewarding! SuperSpeak is easy for the family to use and manage. This is a great tool that’s evolving and possible to adapt to each user. Products like this are unique! We’ve also experienced positive dialogue with Superplus and been impressed by their responsiveness to input on their product.
Meet Elias and his family here: