Empowering Independence: Tyler’s Journey with the AbleNet Tablet

August 24, 2023

Tyler using the AbleNet Tablet

Communication is an essential aspect of human interaction, allowing individuals to express their thoughts, needs, and desires. For Tyler, attempts at communicating often left him feeling frustrated as those around him struggled to understand his wants and needs. But a notable transformation began when he started using the AbleNet Tablet, specifically modified for his unique needs. Since August of last year, this freestyle speech device has become a powerful tool, empowering Tyler with enhanced communication skills and increasing his independence while reducing frustration levels.

Tyler’s journey to acquiring the AbleNet Tablet began years ago when his mother initiated the push for the device. As they began working with the insurance company, they realized obtaining the tablet would take time and persistence.

“He needed the tablet because more often than not, people could not understand him which increased his frustration levels,” says Assistant Home Supervisor Noland Elsaesser.

Tyler’s team at MOKA, including Noland, who has been supporting Tyler for seven years, began advocating for the tablet with Tyler’s doctor and they were able to get a prescription for a test communication board. With the support of Mary Free Bed, they began customizing the board to fit Tyler’s needs.

He had the test board for four months when he received a denial from the insurance company. Nevertheless, the teams at MOKA and Mary Free Bed diligently worked to ensure Tyler received the communication device he needed. They were able to demonstrate the remarkable growth Tyler had made in just a few short months and once all of the right people signed off on the communication device, Tyler received his AbleNet Tablet through the insurance company.

The tablet provides Tyler with a powerful means of communication, it features a wide range of pictures and symbols tailored to his specific needs. With the tablet’s home screen displaying his picture and photos representing the things he wants, Tyler can express himself more effectively by pressing the photos to create auditory sentences. From essential safety equipment like a helmet to personal connections with family members, favorite foods, and even emotions, the tablet offers Tyler a comprehensive and personalized vocabulary.

Noland has played a crucial role in fine-tuning the tablet to match Tyler’s unique communication style. By creating associations between objects and phrases, such as linking a tie to his dad, Tyler can now express himself more freely and easily, making his thoughts and needs more accessible.

“Noland is putting those connections together so that Tyler can freely talk to anyone he comes into contact with,” says Lynette VanDuine-VanVleet, MOKA Home Supervisor.

Prior to using the tablet, Tyler’s frustration levels were often high due to communication barriers. People around him struggled to understand him, and his attempts to communicate using objects were limited. Since the tablets introduction, Tyler’s frustration levels have decreased. The presence of the tablet now serves as a self-reminder that he can express himself and be understood.

“There is also just knowing Tyler, and when you watch him put sentences together of things that he wants, he will play it over and over and get this wonderful, glowing grin on his face because he is actually hearing what he wants to say,” says Noland, “his self-confidence has really come up since we started working with the tablet.”

With the AbleNet Tablet, Tyler’s world has expanded beyond his immediate surroundings and efforts are now underway to utilize the tablet in public areas. This is particularly useful for Tyler, who has a long list of food allergies. By linking specific items from various restaurants to the tablet, Tyler can confidently order what he wants, ensuring his safety and enjoyment. He has also started using the tablet to familiarize himself with different environments, learning about his surroundings through the visual and auditory feedback the device provides.

While the AbleNet Tablet is dedicated to communication, he currently has a separate tablet used for fun, the integration of other apps and functionalities into his AbleNet Tablet is being explored.

Tyler’s story showcases the transformative power of assistive technology in communication and independence. Through the AbleNet Tablet, he has not only improved his communication skills but also experienced a reduction in frustration levels. This device has supported him to express himself, interact with others, and navigate the world more confidently. As Tyler continues to grow and explore new possibilities, his journey serves as an inspiration for others with similar communication challenges.