Advaith was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at the age of 2.4 years. At that time, he was non-verbal and would communicate by pulling my hand towards his desired objects. We started ABA when he was 2.5 years old. His ABA therapist introduced him to sign language. As I was a co-therapist for him, at home also I started practising sign language for communication. After one month of ABA, he started communicating for his needs like music, book, carry…independently. He started vocalising with first sounds while communicating. So his therapist asked me to fade signs and to focus on sounds. So we started to focus on words for communication. This put immense pressure on Advaith and the result was regression of speech and incessant crying during session time.
After 8 months of ABA, Advaith stopped cooperating with his therapist and was continuously crying. Even though they tried different techniques to keep his interest levels up, with reinforcers, it was not helping him. So we discontinued ABA from that centre and I started doing ABA at home with the help of a certified ABA therapist. Advaith was communicating with sign language at home. He was using 12 to 15 signs at that stage.
But when I enrolled him into Bubbles centre for Autism, I realised that no one is able to understand his signs at school. Around that time, I joined a course with KPAMRC (Special Education in Autism).
In Bubbles, they introduced PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). Simultaneously, I also introduced PECS at home. I created two picture cards of his favourite food (Kurkure, Cheese balls) and stuck them in front of my kitchen wall. In the beginning I was giving him hand to hand prompt to pick up cards and hand them over to me (or another communication partner). I would hide his favourite food items to use the cards effectively. Within a week, he started using those two cards independently for communicating.
Then I introduced other pictures like Milk, Juice, Music…one by one. When he started communicating with all the pictures from the strip, I fixed them in a big file in different pages. I was using his own pictures for making cards. In the left hand side of the file, I attached an ‘I want ‘strip. Again I taught him to pick the picture and use it with ‘I want’ strip. At that time, I was using only ten pictures. After a month, he started communicating using ‘I want’ strip. I am attaching that file here. He was trying to label words while communicating.
Then I introduced a small file with small-sized pictures. In that file, on the left side I attached, ’I want’ strip. I arranged Food items, toys, places to go, actions, feelings in different pages. Advaith was using that file for his communication with different people and in different places. With the help of his PECS file he started labelling also. I am attaching that file here.
Then I attended a workshop about ‘Avaz’ in Bubbles with Dr. Preeja Balan. By then, Advaith was able to use iPad for watching his favourite rhymes and for doing activities in Injini, Match it Up and Starfalls. So under Dr. Preeja’s guidance, I tried to start with Avaz Lite, that was a free version for 7 days. I added his PECS pictures for his better understanding, and I was showing him, how to communicate using that. Advaith was very happy to hear real voices on the IPad while using Avaz. The fact that someone was talking for him, served as motivation. After observing his interest, we decided to buy ‘Avaz India’. After buying, I clicked pictures from his PECS file. I began encouraging Advaith to use Avaz to fulfil his communication needs for requests like Juice, swimming, food, horse riding…. In the beginning, I was always with him to ensure that he uses it properly. In his mind, the communication concept was clear from sign language. So the only challenge was transition from PECS file to iPad. He was getting immediate responses from me when he communicated with Avaz. Also he was trying to label words like juice, upstairs, Kurkure, susu…. At present he uses Avaz for communicating his food requests (ordering food from restaurants also), actions like swimming, horse riding, skating, scooter ride and cycling, for his favourite rhymes, favourite places to go to, his toys, about himself including phone number. When he experiences a sensory overload, he asks for horse riding or scooter ride. Then I realised that those two activities help him to calm down.
You can see the video of Advaith using AVAZ in following link
Advantages of Avaz
- Everyone can understand what he is communicating. It works across various languages like English, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada….
- Communicating with voice, helps to stimulate speech.
- Anxiety reduced because he is able to express his feelings.
- Avaz helping him to communicate with everyone and behaviours reduced a lot.
- It is very easy to create folders and to put pictures. They have provided symbols for all nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions…We can use our own pictures also according to the kids’ understanding level.
- Avaz can be used to teach number concepts, typing, adjectives, prepositions and to build comprehension.
- Avaz can be used for verbal kids to improve their communication skills,to build more comprehension skills and to teach academics.