Young woman with Down Syndrome finds her communicative independence

Elysha and her niece Sophie
 
Elysha lives with her mother Aileen in Sydney, Australia. She loves to muck around with her sister, or cooking with her little niece Sophie - something they do every Tuesday, when Sophie usually eats more than she decorates.
 
Diagnosed with Down Syndrome and moderate/severe hearing loss, Elysha has used a combination of sign and voice all her life. Even though she’s fluent in sign language, Elysha felt isolated because only a few people also master sign. Often she would give up rather than try to repeat herself over and over, and so became more withdrawn.

Looking for a way to communicate

As she neared the end of school, her family started to look at what she could use out in the community. At the AGOSCI Conference they discovered Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) apps Proloquo2Go and Proloquo4Text. Now Elysha uses Proloquo4Text on an iPad Mini with bluetooth speaker, just in case she’s in a noisy environment. Lisa is her voice of choice because she likes the way it sounds; she’s female, adult and has an Aussie accent!
 
At home, where she mostly has used voice and sign, she is now choosing to use Proloquo4Text when she wants to ask for something in particular or to discuss something more in-depth. Short statements have become conversations as she works out exactly what she wants to say. 

Confident and independent

Even when she is asking for help with spelling, she is looking for the word herself and will move on once she's found it. She often raises her hand to get people to stop helping and then continues working on her message.
 
Her mom Aileen explains, "If I try to anticipate or she asks me to spell a word for her and I think I know what she is planning to say, I try to jump in to save her time, but she has made it abundantly clear she is not interested in this response and will tell me to wait. I am learning not to anticipate because most of the time I am wrong."
 
Elysha is becoming more independent as her confidence grows, knowing that everyone will understand her through Proloquo4Text. She goes to stores and asks for help finding items listed for meals, solving her own problems instead of making others do it for her.
 
“I like my voice, people understand me that good,” Elysha said.
 
At home, her family sees evidence of her independence through her logical explanations and conversations. After her DVD player stopped working, she went to her mom with, “Can I have your new DVD player for my TV my old one not working because you don't watched DVD”. Her mom was stunned: "[She] had the logic of why all sorted!" 

Overcoming prejudices

People have always prejudged Elysha's abilities based on her looks, never taking the time to listen to what she had to say. Even in the Deaf community, it took a while to get past the preconceived idea that someone with a moderate developmental delay couldn't learn to communicate properly and fluently in sign. Now that's changing. Using the app has been a positive experience for Elysha and the community around her.

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Comments on
"Young woman with Down Syndrome finds her communicative independence"

Kristi Sproates's picture

Well done Elysha and all that support her to use mainstream technology to get her communication needs met. Thanks also to assistiveware to advertise a story from Sydney, Australia.
Kristi, NSW, Australia

Aileen Ryan's picture

Thank you so much Kristi for your positive comments. I passed your comment on to Elysha and she said 'you welcome'. It has truly been a game changer for her.

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