Written by Guest Blogger Julie Laurent
Country Manager, North America
Julie here! I am a French geek living in the Bay Area with over 15 years of communication and marketing experience. But more importantly, I am a mother to two extraordinary children with autism, and for the past two years I have had the great pleasure of being a stay at home mom. Now to bring more balance into our lives (and keep my sanity!) I have decided to go back to work, part time, and still remain fully involved with my family.
I had to find a meaningful job, because when you live every day with autism, and you see your kids work so hard just to be able to look at you or play with another kid, you see life with another perspective — you don’t want just any job!, It has got to be worth it. After hearing about how my business partner discovered his two-year-old was non-verbal, and how he created a tablet application so she could communicate with him, I knew I had found a place that I could call home.
As a parent of two girls with autism, I know how important structure and consistency is. There are plenty of rewarding benefits for both the child and parent when everyone is working toward a common goal. The key is finding ways to accommodate your lifestyle, as well as your children. So this is why we chose CommunicoTool 2. CommunicoTool 2 is a tablet application that includes a suite of 6 modules to help children with communication and/or developmental challenges. Each module focuses on language and communication. Doloris is a module that helps non-verbal children express pain and describe intensity through evaluation. The Feelings module allows the expression of emotions and needs through pictograms and icons, while other modules focus on sentence building, timed tasks, organization and the memorization of everyday words.
The module we use daily to schedule our routines is called Sequence. The sequence module helps create activity sequences with icons, images and timers. By we, I mean Sara age 5, Maia age 3, and myself. Sara is nearly non-verbal and has been diagnosed as severe on the autism spectrum. She understands a lot, but we need to talk to her in short sentences or we lose her. Maia, on the other hand, has some speech delays but talks and understands everything. She is highly functional and currently in preschool. So you can only imagine how hectic our mornings are, but we’ve managed to identify what works for us by using the app. The great thing about the app is the bilingual feature (French and English). At home we speak French but at school, Sara speaks English. So she brings her tablet with her and it makes everything easier.
As Sara is a visual learner, the use of pictures and pictograms are especially helpful to learn routines. She’s also been able to learn new words, become more independent, and most importantly, feel less anxious through the help of this module. It used to be a painful process to get Sara dressed in the mornings. Not only would it take an abundant amount of time, but she also needed a lot of prompting and patience on my part. A few months ago, we created a routine using the Sequence module hoping she would master it. Well, she did and brilliantly at that!!
Now, Sara can get ready within five minutes. She picks her own clothes out (she likes to have options, so she empties a drawer every morning). She starts with her underclothes, and finishes with her shoes all by herself. Trust me when I say it’s a beautiful thing to see. Here’s a short video of the “Getting dressed in the morning” routine. Instead of seeing the app as task-oriented interruption of our daily lives, we see CommunicoTool 2 as more of a “therapeutic” and helpful guide. It caters to the many forms of ASD and provides a more personalized learning experience.
Whether you’re a mother of the 1-in-68 children diagnosed with ASD or a mother who manages to breeze through their usual morning regimens with one hand tied behind your back, we are all apart of this great community of supporters, encouragers and fighters! So from one mother to another, Happy Mother’s Day!