Juul (11 years old) has recently discovered SCORE and he loves it! His mother Marleen Nulens-Zeeuwen elaborates: “He has been using a communication device since he was 6 years old and it was absolutely lovely. Finally, Juul could let us know what he wanted to say. Juul only speaks a limited number of words (like ‘mom’, ‘dad’, ‘bus’, ‘yes’ and ‘no’). For all other words, he uses the word ‘Peh’. A bit tricky to understand if you’re an outsider.
With the help of his communication device, he could tell us for example which movie he wanted to watch, who he wanted to watch, what he wanted to play, what he wanted to drink, where he had pain, etc. Also for the teacher, family, babysitter it was very pleasant. Juul could finally ask for something he wanted. He also felt much more understood and did not have to struggle for every word he wanted to say.”
From information exchange to language development
Until recently, the purpose of communication strategies was purely practical. For a long time, the emphasis was on communication and exchanging information. Thanks to ongoing research, there is now an eye for the provision of (complete) speech development. Research at the University of Cologne, shows that we have about 200 core words daily. These account for 80% of the spoken language. SCORE, a symbol based vocabulary with fixed keywords and expandable edge words, was developed from this.
SCORE users start with some core words “I”, “are”, “have”, “want”, “play” and a limited number of fringe words “ball”, “pop”. Over time, depending on the progress made, the vocabulary can be expanded. In other words, the vocabulary grows with the user.
In the past, a communication file was often gradually filled up with icons and photos of the immediate surroundings: favourite food, pets, family members, etc. The vocabulary of the user can be expanded to include the use of the words. For the selection, supervisors and family members based themselves on their own experiences with the AAC user and their environment. In addition, there is a lot of thinking and puzzling in the organisation of a communication file. Juul’s mother says: “Last year it turned out that the communication device was no longer sufficient. Juul wants to say so much… and I had to add everything to the communication board myself. Juul’s pattern of thinking is much faster and he develops so many words in his head that I can’t follow. Also, it sometimes takes a long time before we, as parents, find out what new word Juul means by ‘Peh’.”
Still, Juul would love to do things by himself, like paying for items in the store for example or tell something to his fellow boy scouts (Extension Scouting/Scoutlink) etc. he loves to work with language, he even wants to learn to write. He nearly ran into a wall and became very frustrated. Just think that you go on a school trip with your friends and on the way back everyone is happy to tell you what their day has been like and you can’t say anything. Or try going to the store to buy new shoes without being able to talk. Difficult… And of course, your parents can’t always know in advance what you want to say that day.
At a certain point, Juul preferred to isolate himself from everything, he no longer wanted to go to the boy scouts, to daycare nor to school. He always played alone and preferably at home. This grieved Juul’s parents endlessly and decided to contact Jabbla (where they had purchased the communication device) to raise this problem.
Together with the SLP at school, I went to Ghent in March 2018 with Juul and immediately it became clear that Juul needed the software Score. I had never heard of Score before and the first time I saw it I didn’t understand a thing. I think Juul was never going to be able to do this at 😊. But according to the school’s logo and Jabbla’s logo, it was going to be all right.
When looking at SCORE, vocabulary selection and organisation is based on scientific research and practical experience. The result is a language-rich and pragmatic solution that you can still personalise. For Juul, this turned out to be a big step in the right direction. “Juul loves letters (he hates numbers!) and with the help of SCORE he can ‘write’ words and make sentences himself, he is very interested in language. SCORE is such an elaborate communication file with which you can create all the language that someone needs.”
Juul’s parents took the plunge and… are over the moon! “It’s wonderful to see how well Juul is with SCORE! He searches everywhere for words, writes them on a piece of paper and types it in SCORE. His communication device then says it for him! Great! Juul can spend hours on SCORE. It’s such a boost for his self-confidence and speech development. He learns all the letters, words, spelling, etc. I attended the SCORE training with the school’s SLP (it’s fantastic that she puts so much effort in with us). At school, she now teaches the sentences and spelling, etc. I’m still looking for a therapist that will support Juul at home. Juul is very interested in it, he always picks up the communication device himself, so why not let him develop as much as he can? Every child has the right to communicate. I think that it’s a basic need in life, just as much as eating and drinking. You shouldn’t take away someone’s right to communicate. I don’t want to be involved with Juul like an SLP, I’m his mother. As parents, we would like to help Juul with SCORE in a playful way, but we are not speech therapists. He has to learn it the right way.”
Hopefully, Juul will master SCORE completely, he would be able to tell everything he wants! A new world could open up for him, the door is already ajar.
Interested in giving SCORE a try? Download the free demo.