My child has an AAC system...now what?

We will go into more detailed information in future blogs, but here are some basics about implementing AAC.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary is an important consideration.  When we consider AAC we think about core and fringe vocabulary.  Core vocabulary is a small set of 300 words that makes up 80% of what we say, including verbs, pronouns, prepositions, describing words and question words.  Fringe vocabulary makes up 20% of what we say and is comprised mostly of nouns.

MODEL, MODEL, MODEL

It is essential that communication partners use the child's device to talk to the child, modeling key words for a variety of communicative functions.  Below is a quote from SLP Jane Korsten that illustrates the importance of this...

Korsten quote

Start by modeling single words, but verbally say the whole sentence.  For example, "Let's go EAT lunch now," or "I LIKE that song."

Attribute meaning to what your child does.  If your child reaches for a toy, say something like "oh, you want to PLAY with that," modeling the key word on the device.

Prompting

When we work with AAC users, we want o be sure not to use hand over hand support to prompt.  The goal of communication is not to teach kids to say what the adult wants them to say.  The goal is autonomous communication.  We should be teaching kids how to say what they want to say, when and how they want to say it.  We should also be teaching communication in the context of meaningful activities and interactions.

Invite communication, don't require

When I was consulting in schools in Massachusetts, I had a preschool teacher tell me that one of the struggles was that a student wouldn't ask for the glue stick during art.  I asked her if he enjoyed art, and her response was no.  My question..."why would he ask for the glue stick if he doesn't want it?"  Let's teach this child how to say what HE wanted to say, which may be things like, "this is boring," "I don't want to," "I don't like this" etc.  We all need to be motivated to communicate.  We need to see a purpose for communicating, and we need to make things internally motivating for our kids to want to communicate.  By showing them ways to communicate what their body language and facial expressions are expressing, we are teaching them to communicate about what they are thinking and feeling.

AAC implementation can feel overwhelming and challenging, but is so essential for teaching our kids communication.  With the right supports and methodology, it is rewarding and FUN!!


Tanya Keller

Meet Tanya, our pediatric speech language pathologist and AAC specialist. Tanya moved from Boston to San Diego. She earned her Master's degree from Emerson College in Boston, in Communication Disorders in 2004 and a second master's degree in Assistive Technology from Simmons College in Boston, in 2012. Tanya has provided speech and language services for children who have complex communication needs, using low and/or high tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with varying diagnoses. Tanya has been mentored by experts in Rett Syndrome and complex communication needs. She is PODD trained and attends the yearly assistive technology conferences. She has experience using a variety of AAC devices and working with alternative access, including eye gaze and switch use. In her free time, Tanya enjoys exploring San Diego, going to the beach and spending time with her dog.

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