After about 15 minutes of searching the internet, the ALSA site, clinic sites, Pinterest, and various other ALS sites, I couldn’t find a downloadable letterboard, so I made my own. This thing has saved the day several times for us. If your loved one with ALS can no longer mouth words (which for us happened in the space of about 14 days), you need a way to quickly communicate words or phrases through blinks.
DOWNLOAD THE BOARD HERE (it’s free, no obligations or weird stuff–we just hope this helps you in some way): letterboard.pdf
The way this board works to communicate through blinks:
- Print it double sided, using the “flip on short edge” setting.
- Place the “board” (really, the sheet of paper you just printed) in a good reading position for the ALS patient. The numbers should go in order for the patient (left to right, as one normally reads in English).
- The back of the board should be facing you. That way, as the patient’s eyes go around the board, you can see exactly what the patient is seeing because the back of the board mirrors the front of the board. (That’s why your numbers go backward from left to right.)
- Once the board is in position, you ask “Is the first letter in column 1? Column 2? etc.” You go through the columns until the patient blinks.
Okay so now you know what column the first letter is in. Let’s say the patient blinked at column 2.
- Then you read down the letters in the column, in this example, column 2. “Is it F? G? H? I? etc.” until the patient blinks.
Now you know what the first letter of the word is. Let’s say the patient blinked at “F”. (You might want to write down this first letter on a nearby notepad, at least the first few times you use the letterboard–until you get used to remembering the letters.)
- You repeat steps 4 and 5 to get to the second letter in the word. Let’s say it’s “E”.
In our case, “FE” would be enough to know that the patient is trying to tell us something about his feet. Typically it’s that he wants the foot flexers put on.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. I check in about once per week. And while we hope this helps you, we are also saddened that you have to. Please know our hearts are with you every step of this journey.