Now that Joey and I have been back in person for over a month I wanted to take a look at his data and see how he is doing. While I feel like we still haven’t gotten back into the swing of the eye gaze, I am very aware that what I “feel” might not always be accurate. Sometimes I need to step back and look at what the data tells me.
For Joey’s use of the eye gaze device within ten minute time samplings, he is showing a slight decline since the winter. In January, February, and those few weeks we were able to meet in March Joey was using the device fluidly, with an average of 25 hits per ten minutes. However, in February he was down to around 16 hits per ten minutes, so his average of 21 hits in July is not that far off. (January was as high as 28).
Interestingly enough, his attempts at communicating orally have increased since we’ve been back. He is more likely to attempt to verbally produce a word, and his verbal attempts include more vowel sounds than they did before. I often find him matching a verbal utterance with a look towards what he wants, as though he is hoping to use social-eye-gaze referencing along with a verbal approximation to communicate. He often does that more than using his device unless I prompt him to do otherwise.
One element of the data that struck me was that within the last few weeks, Joey’s intentionality of using the device has balanced out. Last fall I began measuring how Joey uses the device to participate in communication exchanges. I looked at when Joey is:
- Responding to another person in a communication exchange
- Initiating a communication exchange
- Producing a word or phrase not intended to be a part of a communication exchange
- Producing a word by accident or “mishitting” a word on the device
- Reading a word in a text
There are times when Joey uses the device rapidly, but is not intending to communicate with anyone, and other times when Joey has many mistakes that interfere with his message. Lately, however, Joey’s been showing a balance between the amount he initiates and responds in a conversation – with a decrease in producing random words. This balance is ideal – we want Joey to be able to use the device as anyone would to communicate with their voice – to answer questions but also to share insights and advocate for ones’ own needs. In the beginning of last year we saw that Joey was primarily using the device to respond to questions, but was not initiating conversational exchanges at all. Now, Joey is as likely to make observations or share insights with his communication partner as he is to respond to a question.
We seem to be getting back on track. If his overall use of the device is decreasing but his purposeful use of it is increasing, we are doing even better than we were before. Who knows what this school year holds in store for Joey’s communication.