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Using Recordings to Understand Unclear Words
by Scott Bilker

This article is long overdue. My wife and I have been using a digital recorder to help our son, Brandon, with communication, specifically with our understanding him.

By using the digital recorder we get a clean sample of what he's trying to say. Then we can play it back over and over again until we recognize the words.

We did do this in the past using a regular microcassette recorder. It worked well but was a little cumbersome because of the constant rewinding.

One of our difficulties is that if we continue to ask Brandon to repeat words he starts to cry. He'll become frustrated and not answer anymore questions about what he's trying to say and simply walk away

Brandon can use words to describe what he wants however, sometimes just not clear enough to make out. Not even for his brother Grant, who is our best interpreter.

Not surprisingly he enjoys using the digital recorder. I play back the recordings and his crying eyes dry up and his face turns into a smile. Then I can say to him, "Brandon, can you understand what you said?" He'll just look at me and giggle. When he hears his words being played back, he knows they were not clear.

I believe that when he says the word, in his mind he may "hear" it clearly, but when I play it back, he can hear with his ears, that it's not quite right. That's just my own theory…when Brandon is older I'll ask him if I was right.

Once he hears that I have the recording he relaxes knowing that he won't be asked to continually repeat the word(s). This is a great relief. The next step is that we can start to ask him more about what he's saying like, "What letter does it begin with?" Many times we get the answer, "too hard." Then we'll ask, "Is it a movie? Is it food? Can you draw it?"

Below are some samples from the digital recorder that are posted so you can hear what going on. These recordings were not rehearsed: they are his real-time attempts to communicate an urgent message.

"Hi, what are you doing daddy?"
Click here to listen to that recording from 3/10/2000.

This was Brandon just testing the recorder. He wanted to say something, himself, and hear it. It was loud and clear from the first time he said it.

Click here to listen to that recording from 4/14/2000.

Brandon wanted a game for Nintendo 64. He wanted to go to Blockbuster to rent the game. We didn't understand what he was saying but thought it did have something to do with a game. But you see, the word is not a real game so that threw us off for a while because we were busy naming games.

He said it began with "B" but when we started naming games that began with "B" he just got upset. Eventually we asked him to draw a picture and he did just that…a video store with a sign that has a large "B" on it. He pointed to the picture and said, "game."

"I want to watch Survivor."
Click here to listen to that recording from 7/6/2000.

This was a real tough one, as you can hear. He was just going to bed when he said this. I taped the show earlier that evening but we didn't watch it and Brandon didn't forget, Brandon LOVES television and movies. He's better at identifying actors than I am.

We went through the usual routine and he indicated that it was a movie but Survivor is not a really a movie. Then we asked, "It is one with a case (purchased) or did we record it (no case)?" He was able to let us know that it was a recording. Well, we have maybe 100 of those! So I asked, "Are there any animals in it?" He said, "RAT." Then it was clear! For those of you who are not Survivor fans there was an episode where they were cooking, and eating, rats.

"Bun and Ketchup."
Click here to listen to that recording from 7/8/00.

I should have gotten this and when I played it for my wife she did get it right away. This is Brandon's main cuisine at family barbecues. At least it's easy to make…very short cooking time. ;)

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You can listen to many apraxic children speak here

You can hear more from Brandon here.

Sony IC Recorder ICD-35

The digital recorder solves that problem because it is random access. With the digital recording there are three folders to work with and you can select messages by number, e.g., folder A, message 2.

By the way, I'm not selling these nor do I receive anything from Sony. :)

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You can send Scott email at scott@debtsmart.com

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