Light Tech Can Be the Right Tech
Light Tech AAC can be the right solution in a number of different circumstances. It should not be seen as “less than” or less important than high tech AAC devices. For one thing, it is inexpensive. You need access to a color printer, scissors, paper, and perhaps a laminator. It is easy to make and you don’t have to start from scratch. Many vendors and app companies have free printables on their website. A lot of these links can be found on the AAC Community website. See the Resource List below.
Light tech core boards may be a good place to start with young communicators. They can be used to comment on play or participate in book reading, and so much more. It cannot hurt to use visuals to support communication, whether in therapy or the classroom. If you anticipate getting a particular AAC app or language system for the student, do what you can to make those systems match. Print out a matching board or flip book.
Indeed, for some people, light tech is the appropriate solution for long-term communication. If you have gone through an evaluation process and the light tech worked best, that is what you may choose. The team can always revisit speech generation down the line.
If your student already has a high tech system, a light tech backup can be a way to ensure that they maintain access to communication if their device breaks. It can take several weeks to send a device back for repairs. If you need an exact match to an customized ipad app, you can do this by taking screenshots of the device.
Having a backup also helps the school and staff stay in compliance with the student’s IEP. This, in turn, might help the school team feel more comfortable with listing specific AAC devices and strategies in the IEP.
How do we implement a light tech system? First, Make sure that you are providing access to core vocabulary. Without core, the student will not have a way to say new things. This will limit their participation in school and likely decrease their motivation for using their AAC. You may also want to add some “fringe” vocabulary for activities, places, and people that are especially motivating for the student. We all like to talk about our favorite things! If you use photos, make sure they aren’t too busy looking. They should clearly show their subject.
Whatever vocabulary you add, make sure that the words you have stay in the same place. We want to ensure consistent placement so that using AAC is easier. We all rely on motor plans to access routine activities. Imagine if your mechanic were to switch the gas pedal with the brake pedal in your car. That would be a disaster, even if you intellectually knew that they had changed.
When you introduce the light tech system, be sure to model AAC and make that system available across the school day! Our need to communicate doesn’t go away at lunch or recess. Model comments, greetings, and feelings (not just requests). And don’t demand a response! The child will learn by observing, even if they don’t appear engaged at the start.
One last tip. If the child is in a school setting, make them two light tech books, one for at school and one for home. That way, their voice never gets forgotten at home.