Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices are an assistive technology that can help with communication and improve independence.
For children with speech difficulties, AAC devices provide an alternative method of communication. Whether your child is using a low-tech or high-tech device, their speech therapist is your main resource to help develop their AAC skills. But there is plenty you can do at home as well.
Here are some great AAC tips from our friends at Source Kids to help you and your child at home.
Keep the device around at all times.
Ensure your child’s device is within reach at all times. And keep it charged! Bring it to the dinner table, have it next to them on the sofa, prop it on a chair in the bathroom. If your child can physically access their device easily you’re on the right track to actually getting them to use it.
Get everyone involved.
Your child will most likely have one key communication partner (i.e. you!) but everyone in the household can model and respond to your child when they use the device. Chat to siblings about how they can respond, talk about the day and even integrate into games.
“We all want to be heard when we’re communicating.”
Respond to your child immediately when they use the device.
If your child doesn’t receive instant feedback when they are talking, they may lose motivation. We all want to be heard when we’re communicating. It’s important to acknowledge and encourage all attempts to use the device, even when wrong words are used.
Allow them to babble.
Your child may not use their AAC device meaningfully to start with – buttons may get pushed in a random way, ‘wrong’ things may be pointed to and there may be lots of repetition. This is totally fine. Your child will discover words and functions by ‘playing’. Verbal children aren’t discouraged from babbling and repeating words so let’s allow nonverbal kids to do the same.
Model, model, model.
Modelling speech with your child’s chosen device is key to helping them adopt usage themselves.
To model effectively, ensure you have your child’s attention before you start and say words aloud as you use the device. Keep in mind that you don’t have to model every word you say. Model the core words or the most important words in a sentence.
For example, if you want to say, ‘we are going to school now’, model the words ‘go’ (don’t worry about the correct tense) and ‘school’. Also, try to model at a level just above that of your child so if they are using a one word sentence, use two words instead – i.e. brown dog, instead of just dog.
“There are many ways you can incorporate speech with your child’s device into your day.”
Create opportunities to use the device together.
There are many ways you can incorporate speech with your child’s device into your day.
Here are a few ideas:
- Read a simple picture book: Spot the Dog books are a great option as they include lots of core words.
- Look at a family photo album together: Family photos are highly motivating for kids and provide lots of opportunities to chat. Look at what people are wearing, where they are, ages etc.
- Discuss daily routines: Take time out to talk about what’s coming up in the week ahead and what you need to do tomorrow, or spend five minutes chatting about the day.
- Cook together: Following a recipe together provides a chance to model simple instructions and core words. The same goes for an art and craft project.
Thanks to our friends at Source Kids for allowing us to share this useful information with the Leap in! community.