Let’s Talk AAC Blog: Communicators in Action

PRC Ambassadors are real people who share their stories of everyday life as a person using AAC.

My First Love

Posted May 17, 2017 in Communicators in Action

_By Chester R. Cheesman, PRC Blogger _

Chester

My name is Chester R. Cheesman. I wanted to give you a little background about the ways I communicate. Up until age 7 I lived at home with my family. When I was 5 I started at the Bordentown Public Schools. Communication was difficult. I was unable to speak. The doctors wanted to fix my voice box but my Mom said “No” (my Dad said “Yes”). I remember using sign language with my Mom, Dad, and one of my sisters. I remember using language boards with my Mom. I came to Matheny just after my 7th bday.

Up until I was 13 I used manual language boards for communicating. I started with picture-based symbol boards and later began using a language board with words and phrases on it. At about that time, on my birthday, I was able to start saying some words, however I would have to say them multiple times for my Mom to understand.

When I was about 13 I got my first AAC device from Prentke-Romich called the Touch Talker. It made me really happy! I was no longer limited in what I wanted to say.

My next device was the Light Talker. After that I had a Liberator. I loved the Liberator because not only could I use it to speak, it made music. I went on vacation with the Liberator. It was my best friend! When I heard my Liberator was broken I cried. I was told I would be getting a new communication device, but I didn’t want it. I wanted to fix my Liberator, but my speech-language pathologist said “No”.

At that time I got a Pathfinder. I didn’t like it as much as the Liberator - first it couldn’t play music, and it took a little time getting used to. Then seven years ago I got an ECO2. The Pathfinder got put in a box on top of the cabinet, like Woody from Toy Story, who gets tossed away when Buzz Lightyear enters into the picture. I like that the ECO2 serves not only as a communication device but also has Windows. But it’s still not my first love - the Liberator. In today’s day and age, communication is not solely through speaking. Most people today also communicate through social media. I use the ECO2 to stay in touch with family and friends through Facebook, Messenger, Video Chat and email. Unfortunately my ECO2 (and my main means of communication) has been out of commission lately. I’m waiting to hear if I’ll be approved for a new device. When the ECO2 isn’t working, sometimes my Pathfinder (“Woody”) comes off the shelf and out of the box for a period of time.

While I have alternate ways of communicating when my ECO2 isn’t operational, it is very frustrating to have to rely on my manual language board which is limited to the words and phrases that are on it. Or to go back to my Pathfinder which no longer holds it’s charge, no longer mounts on my wheelchair, and does not have Windows functionality. I miss using my ECO. However using it also had some frustrations.

In the beginning it was great! I used it for communicating verbally, for emailing friends and family, for playing games against friends, and for doing homework for my online class. As Facebook became popular it gave me a way to be in touch with family and friends on a daily basis, as well as to video chat with friends and family. I also used the ECO to perform my lines in a college theater class over the summer. However, as years went by, the technology was aging and the XP operating system was no longer supported. This became frustrating because everything ran very slowly or did not run at all.

At that time, I had a newer Samsung tablet that allowed me to accomplish some of my computer needs at a faster pace, however on that tablet I no longer had the ability to communicate verbally. At that point I almost wanted to give up on the ECO because it really was only useful to me for verbal communication, and was only a huge frustration when trying to communicate through social media. From my perspective, times have changed. In the year 2017, there are many ways people communicate. I love being able to take advantage of staying in touch with friends and family that I only get to see on special occasions by using social media. However, using social media on old technology is no good. When determining whether or not an individual is going to be approved for a new device, all types of communication should be considered - verbal communication is just one of those types.

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