Month: April 2015

Personalize it

There are so many resources you can find online when looking for ideas on what to include in a communication book. One of my favorite resources has been PrAACtical AAC ( which has TONS of articles and videos to sift through. However, it’s also important to recognize that the communication book can and should be customized and tailored to the individual’s specific needs. This book will serve as his voice so it’s important to continually ask, “What would he want to say?” or better yet, involve him in the process.

The next section of my grandpa’s communication book is Common Phrases which is a highly individualized section because it is what he would commonly say to communicate with his family, the nursing staff, or his friends. For example, “I need a shave” is a phrase my grandpa needed to tell my mom so she knew when to shave him. Before the book, she would just ask him every once in a while if he needed one. Now, he had a means to request for one himself. For any adult, getting back the power to initiate communication is so invaluable and not feeling like their wants and needs are continually being anticipated.

Another example of a common phrase my grandpa used was “Get my handicap parking placard.” Every time we took him out, he made sure we didn’t forget to bring it. Often he would just grunt before we left as his way of saying to get it. And although this form of communication worked for him, having it included in his book allowed him to communicate this to unfamiliar communication partners and made him feel like he got his voice back rather than having to resort to grunting.

I used Google to find most of the images I included in the book but if you have an actual picture of the particular object or of the person doing the action (such as the picture of my grandpa getting a shave), that’s even better. The more personalized the book, the more meaningful it will be, and the more likely the person is to use it.

"I need a shave" IMG_0680

Bon Appetit!

Food is important to a lot of people and my grandpa is no exception. When he first came to the U.S., he actually owned and worked in a Chinese restaurant in Pasadena. Some of his favorite stories and people’s favorite stories about him revolved around food so naturally, it was an important section to include in his communication book. Now that I work with a lot of adults with dysphagia, I am so thankful my grandpa didn’t have any difficulties swallowing so that he could enjoy eating. His assisted living facility didn’t have an immense selection of meals however, his children would often bring him something that they cooked or picked up at one of his favorite restaurants. Although they would often assume what he wanted to eat, he now had a means to request for something in particular.

Food Page Sample1 IMG_0675 IMG_0677 IMG_0678

Keep Your Eyes on the Ball

Golf page Boxing pageFootball page

The next section in my grandpa’s communication book is TV Shows which for him, really only meant sports. He spent the majority of his days watching TV so it was an important section to include, especially when the guys in the family asked if he caught a particular game. He only expressed two emotions when asked what he thought about the game: frustrated (when his team lost) and happy (when his team won) which is why those icons are consistent on every page. As I was working with my grandpa to decide what to include in his book, I was surprised to find out he watched boxing. He gestured boxing fists to indicate he wanted that included in his book. It made me realize how important it is to include the person in the process of creating their communication book instead of assuming what they want included.

An Alternate Ending

On Sunday, March 8th, my grandfather suffered a massive stroke. Two days later, he passed away peacefully. Although I am saddened to have lost a grandparent, I am so glad I had this project to share with him during his last months on earth.

At his memorial service, many friends and family shared their favorite memories of my grandfather. It brought tears to my eyes getting to hear how he affected so many lives and stories about him – from his first few years in America to the kind of father/grandfather he was. One common theme in everyone’s sharing was the fact that my grandfather loved to talk. Prior to his stroke, family members shared how he would often call them on the phone and could talk for hours about anything and everything. He loved to offer advice – some sound and some not so sound 🙂 It made me realize how much he lost after his stroke – I’m sure he felt like a huge part of him was gone by not getting to speak. I was reminded of the hope and light a communication book can bring to someone’s life by providing the means for them to connect with others again. So though this project will have a different ending that I had originally anticipated, I plan to finish the communication book based on what I know my grandfather wanted included while blogging about the process here. After talking with Dr. Montgomery today about my revised project, I’m excited that the book will serve as a model for future clinicians and clients at Chapman University’s “Learning Lab” Adult Clinic. It’s always helpful to see a sample of what has been done, especially for spouses and family members who don’t have a background in this field but want to get involved in creating the book. My hope is that this project will have a lasting impact and positive contribution long after I graduate. So stay tuned!

It's rare to get all the grandchildren together in one picture but we were able to take this Christmas day last year.

It’s rare to get all the grandchildren together in one picture but we were able to take this Christmas day last year.