Hitting the switches

Five-year-old student Jack Harter hits a switch in response to a question from speech-language pathologist Christine Mayercik.

Speech-language pathologists search tirelessly for ways in which non-verbal children can communicate. Thanks to a donation from The Friends of Matheny, Matheny’s auxiliary group, the Matheny School has been provided with a brand new supply of augmentative communication switches, which can be used by younger students to express themselves.

In a recent classroom session, senior speech-language pathologist Christine Mayercik showed how they work. She combined images on a DynaVox speech-generating device with the preschool game Uno Moo to help students match animal figures and colors and answer questions about both. “If we put a blue sheep on a blue farmer, what are we matching, animals or colors?” she asked. The students would hit one switch for animals and another switch for colors.

The additional switches have had a positive impact on the students’ ability to communicate, and the hope is that this ability will continue to improve and expand. The inability to communicate is particularly frustrating for those students who understand what is going on around them but lack the ability to express themselves.

As part of a collaborative team, speech-language pathologists such as Mayercik provide complete assessments of speech and language and develop and implement programs to meet each student’s individual needs.