May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. Many students at Celebrate the Children school are expressing their voices through augmented communication in order to be heard. Our students feel empowered when using technology to communicate with others.
One of the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) implementation strategies is Aided Language Input or Modeling. When modeling, it is important to model one word beyond what the individual is able to communicate independently. For example, the child says, “SQUEEZES.” You could say, “You want MORE SQUEEZES?” and model this. You could also say, “You LIKE SQUEEZES.” The reason for this is that while the individual may be able to say a word verbally, they may not be able to combine words and use them in intelligible, connected speech verbally…but the communication device or app can give them that ability. The idea is to model and increase language use in order to move towards independent, generalized communication. Communication is the key to access all of the child’s other goals successfully…appropriate behavior, the ability to express cognition, academic progress, peer relationships, and independence. Communication is powerful and thus promotes self-esteem, confidence and empowers the individual to reach their highest potential.
When communicating with the child, it is helpful to focus on the intent of the social exchange, rather than on speech production. Some parents worry that using AAC will deter a child from speaking, however this is not the case. Utilizing AAC to combine words in order to better express thoughts and ideas reduces pressure in addition to strengthening foundational language skills. This allows children to experience successful communication, which boosts confidence and motivates them to communicate using both AAC and verbal language.
Once a child is able to communicate successfully, the next step is often supporting their ability to initiate social exchanges. This entails helping children learn the power of language. In order to realize this power, children should be provided with the ability to say the things they want to say. One fun way to achieve this is to program an attention-grabbing word, nonsense word or sound on the child’s AAC device. Oftentimes something silly like a “burp” sound, a line from a favorite song, or social “slang” phrase like “whatever!” creates the motivation needed to initiate an interaction. -Fiana Bezpalko and Amy Pinder, Speech Department, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.