- This can be an exciting time for everyone involved in the life of the person getting the AAC device
- Along with excitement can be a hint of fear, the fear of failure
- You might also have concerns that the person will be confused
- Or you might have concerns that the person might be rough with it and cause it to break
- But if you leave it in the box, nothing will happen
- Take a deep breath, and make the decision to get started. Now, what do you do? Where do you start?
Tell the person the purpose of the device
- Start by saying something like, “I know talking is hard. This is to help you tell people what you want and show EVERYONE how smart you are.”
- If you just read that and thought, “The person won’t understand that. They have processing issues and won’t understand complex sentences” presume competence and try it anyway.
- The person will understand two very important things: (a) That you are directly talking to them and (b) That your tone is saying something positive.
Make sure the person can access the screen
- What you may think is comfortable, may not actually be comfortable for the person. Meet them where they are.
- If the person has fine motor difficulties, consider changing the angle and location of the device.
Set up the language
- Personalize the device with their own name, names of friends, favorites foods, activities, etc.
- Give access to comments, questions, and phrases on their favorite topics of interest.
- Give access to quick phrases and comments that will allow them to direct their own care or request preferred items when communicating with new caregivers.
- Allow their sense of humor to shine through when using their new language.
What to teach first
- The first minutes with a person who has never used AAC is all about getting them to engage and give attention.
- Once the person is engaged, attempt to teach the location of words relating to the activity that they are engaged in
- Begin to use the device yourself. The person will have no idea the device can be their voice unless they see it used by someone successfully to communicate.
- Develop stories about the device and its use
- These can be mini-books that help the person understand expected care and the changes in routines when using AAC
- They can be written on a tablet, computer, or on paper
- They can be shared over and over to help the person understand their communication device
- Be patient with yourself and the person that needs AAC –it’s a slow learning process for everyone
- Just keep at it
- Believe that they can do it!