AAC Expert Panel: Tips for Beginners with Dedicated AAC Devices

Quick Overview

During the AAC Expert Panel at the 2018 FAST Educational Summit, Mary-Louise Bertram and Jane Farrall answered questions about using AAC devices for communication. They discussed strategies for familiarizing a child’s inner circle with modeling and use of the device, the benefits and challenges of using sign language, and ways to increase motivation for using AAC devices. They also provided advice on getting doctors and therapists on board with AAC and promoting inclusion in school settings. Additionally, they addressed concerns about hand-over-hand assistance and the use of hard copy pictures versus electronic devices. Overall, their recommendations emphasized the importance of modeling, finding motivation, and individualizing communication strategies for each child.

Are you a beginner with a dedicated Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device? Do you want to familiarize your child’s inner circle with modeling and the use of the device? In this talk, we will provide some expert tips and advice on how to effectively introduce AAC devices to your child’s family and friends.

Getting Started with Modeling

Modeling is a crucial aspect of AAC device use, as it helps the child understand how to use the device and encourages communication. Here are some tips for getting started with modeling:

  1. Interactive Speech Pathology: Visit the website Interactive Speech Pathology for example focus sheets that can be used to practice modeling with teams. These sheets can be emailed to everyone involved, and regular meetings can be scheduled to discuss the content and practice together.

  2. Install the App on Multiple Devices: If your child’s AAC device is an iPad app, consider installing the app on multiple iPads within your extended family. This way, everyone can have access to the app and practice using it.

  3. Share Your Vision: Sit down with your family and explain why you are using AAC for your child. Share your vision for their future, emphasizing the importance of communication and the benefits it will bring to their life. Share videos of your child using the device to help others understand its effectiveness.

Balancing Low-Tech and High-Tech Options

When it comes to choosing between low-tech and high-tech AAC options, it’s important to consider the child’s needs and preferences. Here are some tips for finding the right balance:

  1. Use Both Low-Tech and High-Tech: Every child needs both low-tech and high-tech AAC options. Low-tech options are useful for situations where the device may not be accessible, such as in the bath or during outdoor activities. High-tech options, on the other hand, provide more advanced communication capabilities.

  2. Start with Low-Tech: If you need to choose one option, it’s generally recommended to start with low-tech. This is because people often find it easier to model with low-tech devices. However, it’s important to work towards providing the child with both options for a comprehensive AAC system.

  3. Focus on Modeling: Regardless of the device chosen, the key is to focus on modeling. Model how the child could have said something using the AAC device, but never force them to use it. Provide opportunities for the child to initiate communication and model the next level of language when they do.

Sign Language and AAC

Sign language can be a useful tool for communication, but it’s important to consider the child’s motor skills and the potential limitations of sign language. Here are some tips for incorporating sign language into AAC:

  1. Consider Motor Skills: Some children with motor limitations may struggle to make the correct sign gestures. In such cases, it’s important to focus on a symbolic system of AAC that can be understood by a wider range of communication partners.

  2. Use Idiosyncratic Signs: If sign language is preferred by the child and they struggle with the traditional signs, consider using idiosyncratic signs that they can easily produce. These signs may not be recognized by the wider sign language community, but they can still be effective for communication within the child’s immediate circle.

  3. Combine AAC and Sign Language: It’s important to provide the child with a comprehensive AAC system that includes both symbols and sign language. This ensures that they have multiple options for communication and can effectively express their needs and desires.

Promoting AAC Use in Inclusive Settings

Inclusive settings, such as schools, can be challenging when it comes to promoting AAC use. Here are some tips for encouraging AAC use in inclusive settings:

  1. Peer Involvement: Encourage peers to use the child’s AAC system and make it a rewarding experience for them. For example, allow peers to use the AAC device during classroom activities as a reward for good behavior or academic performance.

  2. Modeling and Support: Ensure that teachers and support staff are consistently modeling AAC use and providing support to the child. Regularly discuss the child’s progress and provide feedback on how AAC use can be improved.

  3. Meet with AAC Specialists: If the school lacks expertise in AAC, consider meeting with AAC specialists who can provide guidance and support. They can help develop strategies for promoting AAC use in the classroom and ensure that the child’s communication needs are met.

Choosing Between Hard Copy and Electronic AAC Devices

Choosing between hard copy and electronic AAC devices can be a difficult decision. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Robust Vocabulary: Best practice suggests using a robust vocabulary of hundreds of words. Look for AAC systems that offer a wide range of vocabulary options to support effective communication.

  2. Modeling Opportunities: Electronic AAC devices provide more opportunities for modeling and feedback, making them more engaging for the child. However, hard copy options can still be effective if they are used consistently and modeled by communication partners.

  3. Consider Both Options: If possible, consider using both hard copy and electronic AAC devices. This allows for flexibility in different settings and ensures that the child has access to AAC at all times.

In conclusion, introducing AAC devices to a child’s inner circle requires consistent modeling, support, and a comprehensive approach. By following these tips and seeking guidance from AAC specialists, you can help your child effectively communicate and thrive in inclusive settings.

Talk details

  • Title: AAC Expert Panel
  • Author(s): Mary-Louise Bertram, Jane Farrall
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2019-01-10
  • Collection: 2018 FAST Educational Summit