Boy With Down Syndrome Gets A Boost With Language Learning App And Community Support

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TRURO, NS –

TRURO – Child who is still learning to pronounce words but has no problem communicating affection gets a boost with language learning app and iPad purchased by family and friends community.

Seven-year-old Colby Stevens has Down syndrome and has been attending speech therapy for as long as he can remember. Proloquo2Go, an AssistantWare application for people who have difficulty speaking, will help Colby learn and communicate.

“If you can’t express how you were feeling and tell that person what’s going on, like what’s wrong, that’s hard, isn’t it?” Said her mother, Jiselle Finnamore. “So I can’t imagine what he’s going through because sometimes he can’t really articulate what’s wrong, so we know something’s wrong, but he can’t really tell us. feel like this app will do wonders for him.

Learning and communication tool

At school, the grade 1 student uses communication boards with pictures of words posted around the room, running towards each. Her speech continues to improve with the support of speech-language pathologist Kerry Chisholm at Truro Elementary and her family at home, even during the lockdown with Zoom calls.

“He’s come such a long way in a year with his sounds and some of the words he’s spoken,” his mother said. “So yeah, we’re pretty excited.”

Colby’s parents, grandparents and extended family were all involved in the purchase of the iPad, and Kerry wrote to the Truro and District Lions club to explain their plans and how the $ 350 l app. ‘would help to learn and communicate at all times.

Bucky Daye, chairman of the Lions’ Youth Services committee, said the club had “no hesitation” in helping the boy, adding that they had also helped other children like Colby in recent years with buying tools. assistance.

Daye visited the family, who expressed gratitude for the support. He said Colby was beaming and approached him like they had known each other for years.

“He was such a fantastic little boy, I really enjoyed that,” Daye said. “It was really heartwarming to help a kid like that. It really opens my eyes to see what other kids are like.”

The words are organized in folders with pictures. As of now, the footage includes the basics of important parts of Colby’s life, such as members of his family – including older sister Kylie Stevens and dad Chris Stevens – places of community, school and food. And there is a lot more to add, like his classmates, because Colby has a “busy and huge life.”

Kylie and Colby Stevens with their dad, Chris Stevens, and mom, Jiselle Finnamore, on their plane trip to Dimitri Neonakis
Kylie and Colby Stevens with their father, Chris Stevens, and mother, Jiselle Finnamore, on their trip on Dimitri Neonakis’ “Dream Wings” plane. – Contributed

“The idea is that as he becomes more comfortable, we can add more records, we can add more words,” Chisholm said. “We hope this is something Colby will use throughout his schooling, so it will follow him.”

Colby signs letter sounds and a few words, using a mix of his own gestures and sign language, as well as what he can speak and read to communicate.

“We want him to use all forms of communication,” Chisholm said. “So it’s just great that Colby now has one more option to help him.”

The little boy and his older sister were super excited to see “Miss Kerry” on the video call while on vacation, just one morning after she helped them set up the app at home. Colby enthusiastically surprises her with a message, searching with his finger for the right icons.


“We don’t want kids to just use the tablet, we want it to use all forms of communication. So it’s just great that Colby now has one more option to help him.

– Kerry Chisholm


“I’m going to the bathroom,” the app reads.

“He learns so fast that just seeing him tell us he went to the bathroom using his app he just learned that in one day – it was amazing! Said Chisholm.

That morning he used the app to say “thank you” for the breakfast his mother had made. Over time, she knows he will understand that the iPad is only for learning on the app.

“We don’t want kids to just use the tablet, we want it to use all forms of communication,” Chisholm said. “So it’s just great that Colby now has one more option to help him.”

Colby Stevens waves to his teacher during a video call.  -Chelsey Gould
Colby Stevens waves to his teacher during a video call. -Chelsey Gould

Right now Colby is working on individual names and practicing some of the trickier sounds. Right now, he wants to pronounce “phone” with a “d”, making it sound like “dome”. Chisholm emphasizes the “f” sound and imitates it.

“We just teach each individual speech name so Colby can learn to say like his ‘k’, or ‘e’, ​​or ‘o’ sound, and then we finally start putting the sounds together to form words,” she mentioned. . “So he has a few words that he uses regularly that he can say quite clearly… if he wants to create a longer sentence to say, now he has the iPad to help him.”

‘Like everyone’

Colby’s mother admits there were issues. Colby underwent surgery at the age of three months for Hirschsprung’s disease, where missing nerve cells affect the ability to empty the gut, and was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, which is common in people with the condition. of Down syndrome.

Colby is a smiling, loving child with lots of hugs and kisses for his mother, who said he was a blessing in her life.

“He’s had a few health issues, but looking at him now you’ll never know,” said Finnamore, her eyes full of tears as her children kiss and comfort her. “He is very affectionate. I am delighted with both. My children.”

Colby works on his independence through skills such as dressing and going to the bathroom on his own, and has the support of his family in each of his mom and dad’s homes, who co-parent well.

“I am the luckiest mom ever. But sometimes I feel like it touches my heart, just, I guess, talking about it, because I don’t want anyone to think he’s different… Colby is special, just like his sister, she is. very special. He’s like everyone else. And it might take a little longer for him to do these things, but he’ll get it.


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