Bibra Lake family grows closer to autistic daughter thanks to augmentative and alternative communication


Mikaela (9),  David and Olivia (6) Renton at The Variety Motor Mouth camp.
Mikaela (9), David and Olivia (6) Renton at The Variety Motor Mouth camp.

AUGMENTATIVE and alternative communication (AAC) aids have allowed a Bibra Lake family to grow closer.

Mikaela Renton (9) was diagnosed with global developmental delay at age one as well as autism and dyspraxia at age three, meaning she is unable to speak.

Despite her inability to verbally interact, Mikaela communicates using other technologies.

At three she learned to use a picture exchange communication system (PECS) which allowed her to communicate what she wanted via a digital image.

Today Mikaela uses an AAC aid called Nova Chat.

Mikaela’s mother Becky Renton said AAC has allowed their family to better connect with Mikaela.

“For us the really great thing about ACC is that (Mikaela) can do more than just request items,” she said.

“It is more about a whole person approach so she can comment on things, talk about her friends and ask for play dates.

“I think the real big thing for me is that (people misunderstand) you can be non-verbal and have a whole lot going on in your brain, and I think without this device its easy to immediately make an assumption about what (someone is capable of).”

With a recommendation for her speech therapist, Mikaela attended her first Variety Motor Mouth Camp this month.

Variety Motor Mouth is a four day camp that combines fun activities with intensive therapy and training for kids who live with communication difficulties.

The camp also contains workshops and activities for the families of participants.

This year Variety Motor Mouth also ran a new fundraiser, Variety Silence the CEO.

The inaugural event called on WA business leaders to live one day of silence, like many of the kids at the camp.

Variety WA chief executive Michael Pailthorpe said not being able to speak for a day may be difficult but is nothing compared to the challenges that kids living with complex communication needs face every day.

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