When five-year-old Ava talks, her eyes lead the way. The subject might be a field tfrip with her preschool class, the music she and her older sister Clara like, or a favorite book. Sometimes she wants to say she cannot wait until her dad comes home from work, or ask for ice cream or a beloved toy.
Though non-verbal, Ava is becoming more fluent in self-expression each day. Jennifer and Herman Facchinelli make sure their little girl is never without her Tobii Dynavox I-12 eye-tracking AAC device.
“Ava takes it everywhere,” Mrs. Facchinelli said. “Exposure is key.”
Mom, dad and Clara, 7, are always modeling use of the device so Ava, whose inability to speak results from Rett syndrome, learns by example.
“She has this family that has rallied around her like you wouldn’t believe,” said Susan Norwell, M.A., ATACP, an educational specialist well known for her AAC work in the Rett community who has been part of the Ava’s journey since her diagnosis at age two. “They’ve really embraced communication as just what they do.”
“They’ve really embraced communication as just what they do.”
Norwell recalled a visit to the Facchinelli home when Ava made spontaneous comments through the technology. “When you stay at someone’s house, they can’t fake it. That doesn’t happen by accident. I can’t speak highly enough of what the family has done.”
“Ava takes it everywhere. Exposure is key.”
Andrea Hatherell, Ava’s speech-language pathologist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, echoes the praise. While a favorite memory is when the Faccinellis shared that Ava used the I-12 to order her own sweet potato fries at a restaurant, Hatherell believes it’s just a taste of the communication success in store.
“They’ve really embraced AAC as a language that they have to learn.”