Nikola Communicates Without Words
Smiling, playful and curious – these are the three words that best describe Nikola, says his mother Miranda. He is also very stubborn and persistent, which can sometimes lead to common family quarrels. Although Nikola cannot speak, his mother says we would be surprised to see how well Nikola can quarrel with her without using a single word, letting her know that we will just not do as he is told. “A typical 5-year old”, says Miranda.
"Since Nikola does not speak, assistive communication is a way in which he can show what he wants and how he feels."
Nikola’s primary illness is a mild form of Menkes disease. It is a condition which prevents his organism to distribute necessary copper from food. The consequence is extreme relaxation of muscles, due to which he cannot fully control his head movements, cannot sit on his own, does not walk, has difficulties using his hands and problems with chewing and swallowing food, which is why he eats mushy food.
Although he does not speak, Nikola communicates – with his eyes, his smile, yells, cough, pointing and reaching out with his hands, turning his head, and of course, all of the aids we use in assistive communication – explains his mum Miranda.
"Now, when different forms of assistive communication have been included, I can ask him ‘Are you hungry?’, and he can answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and even choose what he wants to eat among the options offered, by showing me that on the tablet."
Assistive communication, for which they use a tablet with special applications, has been making everyday communication for Nikola and his family much easier for more than two years now.
“We use special applications to announce certain actions, for instance to choose food for lunch, or select toys, to tell stories, or talk about things which happen during the day. The e-gallery is particularly useful for that. We also have a iTalk2 communicator device, which enables Nikola to answer questions with ‘yes or ‘no’ much faster. It has two big buttons – the red means ‘no’, the yellow means ‘yes’ – and this enables us to get the answers to specific questions much easier and faster”.
The family started using the tablet with special applications as advised by the speech therapist. This makes common family situations much easier. Since Nikola does not speak, assistive communication is a way for him to show what he wants and how he feels. As the child grows, and his communication needs become bigger, the potential for frustrating situations is enormous if he cannot use words to express his feelings and needs.
Assistive communication means a lot to Nikola and his family. It is much easier for his wishes, thoughts and feelings to find a way to reach other family members and other people around him. Nikola is happier, more satisfied, and full of confidence.
Assistive communication helps people with developmental difficulties to integrate in society, gives them the opportunity to express themselves, say what they want and feel, and show that despite not using words, they definitely have a lot to say.