Congratulations! Your child received their dedicated AAC system and a new journey to communication is now underway. As with any other system of language (e.g. speaking/signing/writing etc.), when beginning to teach a child how to use an AAC system, it is best done when you use it in front of them without placing any expectations of use on the child. This is called modeling.
Just as we model spoken language when we’re playing, eating, and reading, we can use AAC devices to model communication using an alternative system while doing the same activities. By providing frequent opportunities to participate, as well as highly motivating and rewarding activities, parents can use various activities to model and teach the use of a new AAC system in everyday activities. Below we offer a few activities and strategies to implement AAC in daily life for young children.
Reading is a fun activity that captures children’s attention, encourages language development, and readily offers itself to modeling the use of an AAC device is reading. Reading provides many opportunities for parents to help increase their child’s vocabulary, model descriptive language, and model the natural back and forth format of conversation. Beyond this, daily reading with your child also facilitates other early childhood development skills.
Begin by choosing stories that are short, offer vibrant images, and use appropriate vocabulary for the child’s developmental level. When reading with your child, set the device aside in a place where it is within reach and within the line of vision of you and your child. As you read, you may use the device to label the activity itself, “read,” or to label any actions that are illustrated on the pages. It is also helpful to use the device to model actions associated with reading as an activity, “open,” “turn the page,” “close.” To increase your child’s vocabulary, use the device to label various images as they are illustrated within the book.
As with playing and eating, you want to focus on modeling the device without placing any expectations of independence on the child for a few weeks following the initial introduction of the AAC system. However, if you find that your child is not particularly motivated to read, you may try having the child select a book to read, using the child’s name in place of the story’s main character’s name, and using lots of voices and silly faces to capture their attention.