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An Amazing Model of Communication Progress!
My name is Susan M. Bashinski; I’ve been fortunate enough to know Jake and his mom, Dee, for nearly 10 years. Although I have interacted directly with Jake on only a limited number of occasions during these years, I have had frequent opportunities to ask questions about, and provide suggestions for, his communication programming.
I’m a teacher educator, who is primarily concerned with helping pre-service teachers learn skills for most effectively facilitating communication development with learners who experience complex communication needs. I’ve conducted research, written, and provided training about communication and language development for a long, long time.
From this perspective, I view Jake’s story as an amazing example of not only Jake’s family’s—but also, Jake’s own—persistence and commitment to his becoming a successful, versatile communicator!
I feel as though I’ve seen so many learners’ preschool / public school teams struggle with the debate between professionals who:
(1) believe communication programming should target only the level at which a learner is currently functioning (e.g., nonsymbolic or an object / topic board), and build “up” from that point—to see “how far a learner might progress,”
and those who:
(2) believe initial AAC intervention should aim very high and initiate communication programming with a dynamic, high-end, speech generating device (SGD)—and, if the team keeps working, “the learner’s skills will develop.”
It’s my personal opinion that one key contributor to Jake’s very successful communication and language development is the fact that his family did not limit their son’s programming to either one or the other of these two options. Jake’s success story illustrates the value of educational team members taking the best of each of these two options in combination, while always targeting higher skills, and not stalling themselves by trying to figure out which is “better.”
By not only acknowledging, but also appreciating all aspects of Jake’s initial communication efforts, even though those included some elements or forms unique only to Jake (e.g., watching clothes spin in a laundry drum; taking apart household items—which family members wished he wouldn’t!), the Steinbach family helped Jake learn the power of communication—in its many forms. Though early on he communicated primarily unconventionally, his family’s support of ALL forms and topics of communication helped Jake maintain the motivation to learn to communicate in a much more conventional way. The family, working with Jake’s educational teams, supplemented his unconventional communication forms with an SGD and gave him voice—even early in his communication development.
By pursuing the middle ground between the two options mentioned above, Jake is now, truly, an effective well-rounded communicator! As illustrated in the videos, he initiates communication interaction about a variety of topics, with a variety of partners, in a variety of settings, using conventional structures—through the assistance of an SGD.
Like others who have posted, I hope many other families will find encouragement in the Steinbach’s story—and Jake’s own perseverance! I broke into an absolutely huge smile when I read Nena Murphy-Herd’s comment that Jake’s mom recently needed to ask him to “stop talking, so that he could eat his dinner!” It’s my opinion that, had Dee been told 10-15 years ago she would find herself telling Jake this some day, she never would have believed it! What an inspiring story!
Check out Jakes Communication Page https://nationaldb.org/pages/show/meet-jake-steinbach/communication