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Art has been an integral part of Lila’s life for quite some time.

A gifted artist, her multi-layered images have earned the praise of anyone who has seen them. Her art has also provided Lila with an important tool to share her thoughts and feelings with others, something she is unable to do verbally.

Lila recently experienced a personal breakthrough when it comes to communicating with others. Last year she began working with a speech language pathologist to explore different tools and methods that would allow her to better express herself.

One of those tools was a GoTalk 9+, a simple, low-tech tablet that can record up to 45 words or messages. The 9 X 12-inch Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device has been available for about a decade and has changed the lives of people with disabilities around the world by literally giving them a voice to speak their mind.

The GoTalk is simple to use. A friend, family member or support staff records messages for everything from daily activities such as “Can I have something to eat” to special occasions such as “happy birthday.” The messages can then be played by the user by pressing a corresponding image featured on one of five removable overlays. The device can be used for a variety of different activities, from initiating conversations to supporting daily activities.

Coordinator Carey Richards says the device has been “lifechanging” for Lila. Whereas she used to sometimes become frustrated when she was unable to share what she was feeling with others, she can now simply and effectively communicate her thoughts thanks to the tablet.

“She feels way less anxiety and stress now because she can be understood and has a way to communicate her needs to people,” Richards explains.

The tablet has been extremely helpful for Lila when it comes to communicating with staff, especially newer staff members who may not understand some of the visual cues that she often uses to express herself.

“Lila seems so much more at peace now because she’s better able to communicate her wants and needs,” Richards adds. “It’s been so cool for Lila to have this new way to communicate and be understood by the people around her.”

Prior to having the tablet, Lila often relied on hand signals or facial expressions to share her thoughts with staff and other people she interacted with. She also used a series of pictures posted on a large white board to indicate to staff what she wanted or how she was feeling. While those tools were somewhat effective, Disability Support Worker Rudy Antonio says they didn’t really allow Lila to share her thoughts in any great detail.

Now, thanks to the GoTalk, she can say what she means far more precisely. With the help of staff the device has been programmed to say everything from “I need space” or “I want a snack” to tuning the radio to her favourite station. Lila can also use it to communicate to staff what she wants to do on any given day including going for a walk at one of her favourite outdoor destinations such as FortWhyte Alive or Assiniboine Park.

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