AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - For Luke Herm, the ability to communicate freely is still fairly new, but with help from alternative and augmentative communication or AAC devices, Luke now has a voice.
"It's called 'Lamp Words for Life,'" said Turn Center Therapist, Landon Brown. "Lamp stands for 'language acquisition through motor planning,' so he learns the motor plan just like you and I learn the motor plan of texting and typing. He learns the motor plan of where all these different words are.
The AAC device gives Luke the voice he's never had and allows him to benefit from the power of communication.
"Communication is essential. Everybody deserves to have a voice. Very rarely do we even go ten minutes without communicating in some form or fashion, whether it's on our phone or talking with a friend or family member," said Brown. "Luke, went the first thirteen years of his life without the ability to communicate certain things. Once you put yourself in their shoes, you realize how valuable it is."
Diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, Kim and Fred Herm knew Luke's journey would always be an uphill climb.
"You sit there and you think well this is not well, my kid doesn't have autism, they probably got it wrong." said father Fred Herm. "After we got past that, you know that stage of finally accepting this is Luke and this is who he's going to be. We're going to give him every opportunity. We're going to find all the help we can and that's why we went to the Turn Center."
After recognizing 50 of their patients had minimal or no communication at all, the Turn Center began trying out different ways for each patient to experience the power behind a voice.
"We've yet to be unsuccessful," said Brown. "We've found some form of communication for every one of the patients we've trialed with right now. Whether it's a speech generating device like this that has the voice output or it's a low tech device and a book, but we've found some way to be successful and allow them to have some communication.
Not only has Luke learned a new form of communicating, the AAC device has also taught his parents a thing or two along the way.
"I cant imagine going through one day without being able to speak and everything," said mother Kim Herm. "So, I'm just thankful he can pick this device up and talk to us.
"It's just how powerful a voice can be," said Fred Herm. "I mean, without your voice it's so difficult to express your feelings, how your day's going, if you're having a rough morning. If you don't have that voice like Luke had in the past, it came through in emotions and behaviors.
Since he's started using the device, Luke has not shied way from sharing his personality with the world.
"It's nice to see the personality come out and that's the biggest thing," said Brown. "When we give them a voice we start to really see the personality come out."
Despite any obstacles ahead of them, the Herm family is confident Luke will continue to discover his voice.
"It's something we are going to continue to work with on him and incorporate, you know, he doesn't use his device all the time, but we think hes going to start pulling it in more into his daily routine," said Fred Herm. "I mean, he's already gone this fast with it. I cant imagine where he'll be this time next year."