Communication Device

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 Matthew is a 7-year-old student at Trellis School.  I’ve been working with Matthew as his speech-language pathologist at the school for about 2 ½ years.   When I started with Matthew, his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) had speech production goals that I targeted for the better part of a year.   At that time, verbal imitation and speech production skills were not progressing. 

Our educational team decided we wanted to implement another mode of primary, functional communication so we started with the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).  Matthew progressed with that system and within a year was independently communicating with the sentence strip.  

The team, including his parents, agreed that it seemed Matthew was “longing” to be audibly heard.  We also thought the dynamic and audible qualities that high tech AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) devices provide would really motivate Matthew to independently communicate.   We worked with the AAC department of Matthew’s home county school system to evaluate, identify, and provide Matthew with the appropriate high tech AAC device.

I remember the first day the assistive technology consultant from Matthew’s school system introduced him to the Vantage Lite (the particular voice output device that Matthew uses).  He grinned from ear to ear when the device spoke “popcorn” out loud to request a favorite snack for the first time.  Of course his instructor and I had tears in our eyes as he continued to beam and request his snacks in that very first trial.  Since he has started using the device, now approximately 9 months ago, Matthew can use “core” vocabulary words (e.g., “eat”, “drink”, “go”, “stop”, “play”, “like”, “turn”) and some “fringe” vocabulary words (e.g., “popcorn”, “pop-tart”, “music”) to communicate.  The dynamic nature of the device helps us to add and subtract pictures as needed.  At Trellis school, the device is available to Matthew at all times and he readily and independently carries it with him wherever he goes.

We’re excited to see where Matthew will take communication with his device this school year!

Sara Beth Shoff

Speech-Language Pathologist

Trellis School


“Our Son”

Matthew is the happiest nonverbal child we know.  He was officially diagnosed with autism at age two.  Matthew was not one of those children who regressed… he never had words. He has been in therapy since he was 18 months old. Currently, he attends Trellis School.    

At the height of his therapy he had about forty hours a week of speech therapy, occupational therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and behavior intervention.  We learned early that if we gave Matthew a way to communicate his less desirable behaviors decreased.  We started off with basic sign language, then Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and currently we have a Vantage Lite Assistive Technology Device.

Trellis invited parents in for training alongside teachers which was great for consistency.  Matthew has far exceeded our expectations with the device.  Once he realized that his parents could understand what he needs or wants if he says it on the device… he asks for everything.  As a family of five his siblings encourage him to use the device to say “stop”, “no”, “computer on” ,“music” “go bathroom”, and “eat pop tart”.

Our hope always is to maximize Matthew’s potential.  He is a blessing to our family and we need to do what we can to give him the tools to succeed and function in the community.  The device gives Matthew a voice that he can use, not only to communicate with us, but also with people outside the family. People always assume that because Matthew is nonverbal that he doesn’t understand things but as his five year old sister says “Mommy, Matt can’t talk but he understands.”

Frissell & Marlo Lemon                                                                                                                                                                        Proud parents of Joshua, Matthew and Victoria

13 Responses to Communication Device

  1. This is such a helpful and encouraging video. Congratulations to the Lemon family and the folks at Trellis who are working to help all children communicate. And thanks to Real Look Autism for showing the world what can be done.

  2. Trish Breidenbaugh says:

    So happy to hear of Matthew’s progress!! My daughter Katie, who is also non-verbal and has Autism, was a former classmate of Matthew’s in a program at KKK (Kennedy Krieiger Institute). We are thrilled for the whole Lemon family and wish Mathew continued success in the future!

  3. Marlo, This is a fabulous video. Thank you for sharing this with Jean and I at the Resource Center for Families and Schools. I wished this could be shared with all the schools. Matthew is doing such a great job, your family and school must me be very proud. You are all doing a wonderful job! 🙂

  4. Marlo, This is a fabulous video. Thank you for sharing this with Jean and I at the Resource Center for Families and Schools. I wished this could be shared with all the schools. Matthew is doing such a great job, your family and school must be very proud. You are all doing a wonderful job! 🙂

  5. Debbie says:

    Wow~ thank you for this video~ I have sent it to my Nephews mother. My Nephew is 5 and Nonverbal as well. Just the portability….I am amazed and excited:):)

  6. Aimee Conner says:

    “Just because he’s non-verbal doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a lot to say”. BEAUTIFUL. Thank you for sharing Matthew with us.

  7. judy kidwell says:

    where can i get a chatter box for my autistic son?

    • mbmarsden says:

      Hi Judy,
      This family got their assistive communcation device from their school system. I think the devices are pretty expensive and your son needs certain skills to use one. Best of luck to you!!
      -Real Look Autism

    • diapersaway says:

      Hi Judy,
      My students talk with the same device you see Matthew using in the video. Your 1st step is to look at this website On the homepage you will see a link to find a consultant in your area. Also, there is a wealth of information on this site that will inspire and encourage you! I have had a lot of experience helping parents who have been discouraged by those who say it is not possible, However, as you can see, it is possible! Please contact me by e-mail immediately. I have some information concerning funding and free training on these devices. Also, to explain my unusual username, I help parents to teach their children toileting skills.

  8. Candace says:

    I would like to say that I think this could help alot of kids with autisum. I would like to know how much this device cost . My son will be grad in june 2012 and uses a go talk . this device is better and i would like more info on it. after he grad the school won’t buy anything for him and his go talk stays at the school . please let me know . thanks

    • mbmarsden says:

      Hi Candace,
      This system is called a Vantage Lite. Matthew’s family was able to get it through their school system and have it written onto the IEP. There is a website for Vantage Lite and I believe they run close to seven thousand dollars, but it could be slightly less. Best of luck to you and I hope this helps.
      -Mary Beth

  9. Yvonne says:

    Hi, I am looking for Ipad2 for my friend’s son who have autism and deaf and vision, need some help asap. I dont know where can I find that for him to communcation. Thanks~

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