May is Better Hearing & Speech Month!
To celebrate, we will be sharing some easily digestible tips and ideas throughout the month.
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Tip #1: Consider different functions of speech!
Don’t get stuck on requesting or “I want” phrases! While sometimes requesting and choice making can be a motivating place to start, think about all of the reasons we communicate throughout the day! Try to ensure that the AAC user has a way to label, greet, ask questions, share an opinion, initiate a conversation, complain, direct others, reject or protest, comment, express feelings, and share personal information-- and consider modeling those other functions too!
Tip #2: MODEL, MODEL, MODEL! … and then model some more 😉
Did you know that by the age of 18 months, babies have heard 4,380 hours of spoken language and yet, we don’t expect them to be fluent speakers yet. If AAC user only see the of use AAC twice weekly for 20-30 minutes, it will take 84 YEARS for them to have the same exposure to aided language as an 18 month old has to spoken language. This is why it is so important for not just speech therapists to model use of a device or system, but also parents, teachers, and other therapists! You might also hear this strategy referred to as Aided Language Stimulation or Input. Aided language stimulation simply means that a communication partner is helping to teach the meaning of the symbols on an AAC system by verbally saying the word(s) and selecting it on the AAC system.
Tip #3: Pause and wait!
Want to do one small thing that can make a big difference in encouraging use of AAC?—PAUSE.
We are naturally inclined to immediately cue or prompt. Instead, try to wait a few seconds after you initiate a conversation or ask a question and do it with an expectant look! By giving additional wait time, you are giving the AAC user some time to decide what they want to say, search for the symbol/button, and generate their message. You might be surprised at what happens next!
Tip #4: Provide access to Core Words!You may have seen this term thrown around in the world of AAC, but what is a “core word?” Core word vocabulary refers to words that are frequently used and can be used in a variety of contexts. They can easily be combined to form phrases and sentences. For example, some core words include go, like, want, play, more and not.
Tip #5: Add some fringe for flavor!Following up from Tip #4 about core words, it is also important to have at least some “fringe” words to provide detail! Fringe words tend to be specific nouns. For example, I might use core words like “want” or “more,” but without some fringe I wouldn’t be able to tell you that what I want is to watch “Moana” (fringe word) or that the thing I want more of is “coffee” (fringe word).
Tip #6: Consider motor planning.
As I type this, I am only occasionally glancing at the keyboard. The reason I am able to do that successfully is because I have a learned motor plan for where each key is! This concept can be applied to AAC use as well. For example, if the buttons on the page stay in a consistent place, it is easier for the AAC user to find them, even if they can’t yet read the label or text on that button or if they don’t recognize a more abstract symbol. For example, if you decide to put a “more” button on the bottom right hand side of a page, it is a good idea to put it in that same place on every page that has a “more” button.
Tip #7: Make AAC available at all times.
We have all been there… you walk out the door and are on your way to work, and suddenly your heart sinks as you realize you left your phone at home. Imagine that phone being your voice. AAC users should have access to their systems and a way to communicate at all times! Communication happens at recess, in the cafeteria, at the park, and everywhere in between! AAC systems should not be left at home, in a backpack, or on a shelf.
Tip #8: Ask for help if you need it!
Feeling overwhelmed? Not sure where to start? Don’t sweat - TTMT has your back. We provide ttmt360 service and support. Whether your team needs help determining the right access method or software, you would like training on how to program the device, or have questions about funding, we have you covered! Call our tech support or talk to one of our knowledgeable AAC consultants today.
Tip #9: Acknowledge communication attempts!
Whether button selections are intentional and completely appropriate to the context, or they are random or maybe even accidental, the communication attempts should be acknowledged with some kind of appropriate response. If it’s 7AM and you hear “cookie…cookie…cookie,” know that you don’t need to honor the request, but you should acknowledge it and respond appropriately. You might say, “It is almost time for breakfast, but maybe we can have a cookie after lunch!”