Does your child use an Augmentative/Alternative communication (AAC) device to communicate?
If so, he or she probably receives speech therapy in order to teach skills necessary to facilitate appropriate and functional usage of the AAC device. It can sometimes be difficult to encourage your child to use a communication device in settings other than with a speech-language pathologist including in the classroom, home, or community, even if they’re nonverbal or their speech is highly unintelligible.
Maybe your child isn’t motivated to use the device, or maybe because you know them best, you often know what they’re communicating or requesting without using the device. Either way, it’s important to encourage your child to continue to develop their knowledge and skills in whatever form of device they use in order to increase successful communication in the future.
Here are some tips to encourage carryover of device usage outside of the therapy setting.
- Make sure that your child’s AAC device is used for just that-Augmentative/Alternative Communication. For example, an iPad with a communication app should ideally not have any other apps or games downloaded onto it. It’s important your child understands that this device is specifically to be used for communication.
- Praise your child for using the device by developing a reward system. For example, you could set a goal for your child to use the device 3 times per day to request an item. If that number is reached, they get a sticker on a chart. Five stickers can earn them a reward, such as a favorite treat or a trip to the park. This reward system will be specific to your child and what motivates them. You may also want to consult with your child’s speech therapist to determine how to incorporate AAC into the home environment, depending on you and your child’s goals, which brings me to my next tip……..
- Communicate with your child’s speech therapist. Open communication between therapist and parent is imperative to increase success in the use of your child’s AAC device. Discuss progress towards goals which could include what new buttons have been reviewed and what your child has found to be difficult and/or successful in learning to use their device.
- Use the device in functional settings. Depending on your child’s proficiency with their device, it is important that they begin to use the device in functional settings. For example, I would often encourage one of my middle school students who used an iPad with a communication app to use it at a restaurant to place an order. This was very functional for her as she and her mother stopped at this coffee shop often. It was an excellent opportunity to facilitate carryover of device usage and she was motivated to use it because she wanted her coffee!
Try using these strategies to assist in helping your child to use his or her AAC device successfully!
Written by Amanda Lockard, MEd., CCC-SLP