On the road to communication

Most of the time I talk about therapies that work on physical abilities, and you hear very little about “communication”. There are 2 reasons for this: 1. The whole “communication” field is daunting and overwhelming to me! 2. Kids develop physical skills before they develop communication. I wanted to focus on physical abilities and gross motor development first as this is developmentally appropriate, and then focus on teaching him a way to communicate. So now Nathan is 3.5 and we’ve done as much as we can physically (although this is ongoing), so it’s now time to focus on communication.

On Friday we met with an augmentative communication specialist, Cindy Cottier:

Cynthia A. Cottier is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has been working in the field of Augmentative and Alternative, Communication (AAC) since 1980. She developed the AAC program for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) during a seven year stint, and went into private practice in 1992. She has extensive experience working directly with individuals ranging in age from 2 to 75+ years and of all disabilities. In addition, Ms. Cottier has vast knowledge of a wide variety of state-of-the-art augmentative and assistive systems, techniques and strategies.

This is a meeting I’d been waiting for, for a really long time, and it was worth the wait – it went really well!

Cindy started evaluating Nathan with scanning using her Dynavox. She attached a device to Nathan’s wheelchair making a switch very accessible to Nathan, and then had him making a choice between an elmo doll and play-doh, which he’s not really into. I was AMAZED that Nathan was able to WAIT for the program to scan and hit the switch exactly when the elmo lit up! Nathan dwasn’t able to understand the concept of switch scanning before, so I was blown away by the fact that he figured it out in one visit.

She did agree with me, however, that scanning is going to be very limiting for Nathan, so she wants to plan on setting up a communication program using the Dynavox with Eyemax.

And here’s the really cool part. Some of you guys may remember we were trialing a Dynavox and Nathan did well with it. However, it was not approved by his secondary insurance and we weren’t given a guarantee that his primary insurance was going to pay for the device. Cindy told us on Friday that she recently won a case where she got the school to pay for a Dynavox for a little girl that goes to Nathan’s school! After evaluating Nathan, she believes Nathan is a perfect candidate for a Dynavox with Eyemax and she is sure she can get the school to pay for one for him too!! AND the school will also pay for Cindy to set it up specifically for him, and to train his teachers on how to use it. So we are going to start this process right away.

Simultaneously, I am working with Nathan’s early intervention clinic so he can have Mrs. Nikki continue to see him at home, funded mostly by insurance. It will take some time to get this set up – but I think it’ll happen right around the time when Nathan will be back home from HBOT. So Cindy will develop the program and help the device get funded, and Mrs. Nikki will work with us at home on implementation.

Cindy is also going to help us with a communication notebook that is always available, so we can have both a high tech and a low tech communication method available.

My plan is to share our whole process on the blog so we can help other families with this process. It is a very daunting process and there are few specialists and a lot of opinions so hopefully our experience will help others.

Nathan is back in Irvine, working with George his suit therapist, right this minute. I’ve been spying on him (yes, I came to hang out with the boys today!) and he seems SO HAPPY with him and doing therapy! All is well in Nathanland!


  1. I agree on the communication bit. My sister and law is a SLP and teaches at one of our state colleges. She’s obviously been pushing communication for us but its hard to focus on when theres so much more going on. Glad to hear things are going well…

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