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.
As adults, daily experiences in the world have become mundane. However, every mundane thing is new and exciting for children. Playing with children helps parents break up the monotony of daily life and it’s a great way to teach children about the world around them and how to communicate using an AAC system. After all, children learn by playing.
During play, parents can use AAC devices to model requests for specific items, expand children’s expressive vocabulary, and narrate actions performed while playing.
One popular activity to try is blowing bubbles. As you blow bubbles, you might pause and wait a moment to see if the child is interested. If the child is interested, they may show this by smiling or vocalizing to indicate that they want you to blow more bubbles. You may then model the request, “more,” using the child’s AAC device and then return to blowing bubbles. By doing this, the child learns the concept of cause and effect and over time, you can encourage the child to independently make requests for more bubbles using the device.
Another way of incorporating an AAC device during playtime is by using the device to make choices. Start by presenting two highly preferred toys that the child typically plays with. Show the child both toys at the same time and ask them which toy they want to play with. As they reach for, or select one of the toys using another method, model their selection on their device, then immediately give them to toy requested.