The Children's Institute Blog

Eddie's Story - Better Speech & Hearing Month

Posted: May 23, 2017 by The Children's Institute

An Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device, an electronic machine that reads aloud letters, words and phrases when prompted by a user, is helping Eddie Coltabaugh say words his parents thought they’d never hear from him.

During a recent therapy session, Eddie – who is four-years-old, has the rare DiGeorge Syndrome and is nonverbal – clicked through rows of buttons on his PRC Accent device and told his parents just what was on his mind. “Mom, Dad, want, ball,” Eddie’s machine said, after Eddie pressed a series of Clipart icons.

Eddie, who first came to The Children’s Institute in 2015 at age two, is being featured today as part of May’s Better Speech & Hearing Month.

Speech-language pathologist Inbal K. Vellucci said her first item on the agenda when meeting with Eddie was his response to demands.

“When I even asked him to sit, he would have a huge tantrum on the floor, screaming, and that wasn’t a good introduction,” Inbal said. “My first goal was to see if he could handle any demands. And AAC, honestly, was my window onto that.”

John, Eddie’s father, said he took to the AAC because he has a good comprehension of language. He makes some sounds, just cannot communicate with people unfamiliar with what those sounds mean. And AAC has provided an outlet for him.

“He knows the names of all the Paw Patrol [characters]. He knows his colors. He knows some letters,” John said. “He’s good with some technology so that’s why we’re happy he can get on the machine.”

Since Eddie was about two months old, when he aspirated and required CPR, he’s had an issue with his mouth, according to his father.

“He’s always been like, ‘No, stay away from my mouth!’ It was a struggle to brush his teeth. He didn’t put anything in his mouth,” John said.

Now, though Eddie supplements his diet with the nutrition shake Nourish, he’s also started to open up to food typical of his age group.

“Now, we had to put a lock on the fridge,” John laughed. “He’ll go to the fridge for pepperoni.”

When Kate Coltabaugh, Eddie’s mother, is asked for her thoughts on AAC, though, only one word comes to mind: “Amazing.”

“He’s gone to this machine like crazy,” Kate said. “He gets very frustrated when we don’t understand
him. Now, he has a language. He now gets his points across without getting frustrated.”

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