Success & News Stories

Josh Greiner

What's in a name – and a voice? Plenty, for a boy and his family
We often take opportunities to introduce ourselves for granted, but it was a huge deal for Amy and Taz Greiner when their six-year-old son said, "My name is Josh" for the first time.


"Pretty powerful," are the words Amy Greiner uses to describe it.

Their excitement had less to do with his young age than what it took for him to reach that milestone. Diagnosed with autism at age 3, the condition left Josh without a voice of his own and his parents concerned that it would be hard to get to know him. Efforts to communicate with their son through picture symbol cards and gestures yielded minimal success. Desired cards weren't always handy when needed and Josh's motor limitations prevented him from expressing himself succinctly through hand movements.

Long periods of silence and uncertainty in the Greiner household gradually melted into moments of meaningful dialogue beginning in the fall of 2007when Josh got a DynaVox V for use on a trial basis. He took well to the speech communication device and soon it began to play a key role in bridging gaps he experienced in relating to his world. Since Josh, now 7, got his own V in 2008, his communication successes have multiplied well beyond turning to the "greetings" page on the device and telling others his name. At school, he shares details of the fun that he and his brother Matthew, 4, have on weekends via digital pictures imported to the device. In turn, the "My Week at School" page displays messages that his teachers and speech therapists create on the device allow Josh to keep his family in the loop on his life away from home. The interactive "Five Little Monkeys" and "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" pages on his DynaVox V bring favorite songs to life.

When Josh brings his V to the "Music, Movement and More" group for children with conditions on the autism spectrum that he attends, his mother says it's as if an old friend is at his side, letting him rest assured of having a reliable voice. He stays actively engaged during the sessions with the help of visual cues that the V offers via its dynamic display screen and verbal prompts from Katie Harrill, MT-BC, the music therapist at Wesley Spectrum Services who conducts the group.

"He's being heard," Harrill said, noting a key parallel between the voice-output technology and a song as motivators for communication. "Music can speak when other things fail."

One activity Josh has mastered involves a fabric traffic light that Harrill uses as a prop to teach rules, colors and awareness of symbol meanings. Symbol buttons that his mom programmed on his V correspond with phrases relating to the respective green, yellow and red lights on the signal. Using the device, Josh can identify the symbols by associating them with their colors and the phrases that Harrill sings about each one. He shows that he can meet the associated expectations by sitting quietly, listening and paying attention upon hearing the words. Josh takes his turn to sing the song with the aid of the device.

"Despite language barriers, Josh actively participates," Harrill said. "He really seems to enjoy the success."

Before relaxation time as a group session winds down, Josh presses a "turn out lights" button on the V when it's his turn to perform that task. While selecting a "goodbye" button, he vocalizes a hard G sound as his way of telling other participants he'll see them next week.

Family and friends are pleased to see Josh make connections. His interactions vary from a few moments of eye contact while saying hello or farewell to prolonged smiles while showing off his weekend pages on the V, but all lend a real appreciation for the unique person he is.

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