Bec Shelton, Speech Pathologist, shares her top tips for getting the most out of AAC in play.
When first starting out with AAC, it can be a bit overwhelming to know what to do and where to start, especially when thinking about using AAC in play.
The golden rule in AAC; model, model, model. Just like children who communicate verbally, children who use AAC need models of language so that they can learn new language, and build on their existing language.
Modelling in AAC (also known as Aided Language Stimulation) is the shared use of a communication device to model language to the learner. For example, a child may use an AAC system, and their parent will model language for them using this AAC system. Models may be of new vocabulary, grammatical structures, or to expand on something the learner has already said.
Here is a short video of Bec and Mr E playing bubbles in a therapy session. In this video you can see Bec model different phrases to Mr E, expand on Mr E’s phrases (e.g. expand ‘bubbles’ to ‘more bubbles’), and see Mr E complete a phrase for Bec of ‘more bubbles’. Mr E also uses multi modal communication in this clip, in this case, a combination of Key Word Sign and Proloquo2Go.
Build on their language
Your child can’t be expected to use 2 or more symbols together to make a sentence straight away, but they may be able to use one symbol that you can then show them how they might use this in a longer phrase.
For example, when playing with bubbles, your child might indicate ‘bubble’, you could then expand on this by adding ‘more’, ‘pop’, ‘big’ or ‘lots’ to make 2 word phrases.
Use Aided Language Stimulation techniques to expand on what your child is saying by 1 to 2 symbols e.g. “balloon” may be expanded to “blow balloon” or “blow big balloon”. Remember that your child does not have to copy these models straight away, and it is okay for them to watch you model without expanding their own message.
Think about the language
Communication is not always about requesting, so, when playing with AAC, think about all of the different types of phrases and comments you could make.
For example, when playing with pop up pirate and using our vocab board, we could model a range of phrases such as:
- Requests – ‘I want blue sword’
- Comments – ‘not go pop’, ‘watch out pirate pop’, ‘my turn red sword’
- Directions – ‘push sword’, ‘sword there’, ‘pirate in barrel’
Do you have pop up pirate? Download this core vocabulary board to play with at home.Pop-Up-Pirate-Vocab-Board
When first starting with AAC it may be helpful to brainstorm before you start an activity and develop a list of different combinations of words that you can model with your child. This blog from AssistiveWare has some fabulous examples of language to model for a range of common household toys.
Important Things to Remember
- It’s ok to make mistakes when modelling! Making mistakes with AAC shows your child that it’s okay to make mistakes when they’re learning, and that others are willing to learn with them.
- Be flexible and follow your child’s lead! If your child decides to change the topic, follow their lead and continue to model using language that is appropriate to the change in topic.
- Don’t forget to model!