How to model AAC at home
If you have a child who has just started using their AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device, you might feel unsure at sometimes regarding how to use your child’s AAC device. Sometimes, it can be quite overwhelming as well. There is a lot to learn when it comes to AAC devices. With time, practice and patience, you will be able to help your child reach their maximum potential. Modelling AAC at home is one of the important processes that you would need to implement at home. The more you model, the better your child will be able to understand the AAC device and how to communicate by using it.
In this blog, you will understand how to model and implement AAC at home.
There are a few things that you will need to remember before using the AAC device:
- Presume competence
- Be persistent and consistent with using the AAC device
- Be patient and allow some time
- Make sure the AAC device is always available
- Create opportunities to use AAC at home
- Encourage and motivate any attempts to use the AAC device
- Have realistic expectations
- Get family members on board to use the AAC device
Let’s get started!
What is modelling and how can I do it?
In simple terms, modelling means pointing or pressing the words or pictures on your child’s AAC device as you speak or say it aloud. It is also known as ‘aided language stimulation. For your child to learn words using the AAC, you will have to model it. For example, if you want to teach your child the word ‘ball’. Hold a picture of a ball or play a game with a ball. Talk about different things you can do with it. And every time you say ‘ball’, point to the icon of the ball on the AAC device.
Example: (Bobby and his parents are playing with a ball)
Bobby’s mother: “Oh look at this ball! (Point towards the icon of the ball on AAC)”. “I have a big red ball (Point again)”. “I am passing the ball (Point again) to daddy”. “Catch the ball (Point again)”.
Bobby’s father: “Yay! I have the ball (Point again)”.
Expect your child to imitate you. Give them time. If they don’t imitate, continue modelling.
Which words can I choose to start modelling?
You need to use a balanced vocabulary to model AAC. There are two main categories: core words and fringe words. Core words are those that form the major components (approx. 80%) of our speech. They include everything except nouns. Core words include verbs, conjunctions, prepositions, adjectives etc. Some examples include: go, here, more, and, cook, on, you etc. You must model core words as they are versatile and am be used in different contexts. For example, the word ‘eat’ can be used in various contexts.
“I eat eggs for breakfast”
“The elephant didn’t eat the potato”
“We must eat our veggies every day”
Fringe words are nouns. These include names, places, things and animals. Some examples are bottle, chocolate, chips, cup etc.
If you are just starting to model AAC, choose some fringe words and some core words. Pick communication motivators. For example, if your child has favourite toys- blocks, trains, buckets etc., or food items- apples, chocolates, pasta etc., choose and model these words. These words act as communication motivators and motivate your child to use the AAC device. Once your child starts using these words, add more items to increase their vocabulary.
How many words can I use to model?
Model the AAC one or two words more than the present level of your child. If your child is new to AAC, start off by using single words. For example, if you want to teach them the concept of ‘ball’. You can model ‘ball’ till your child is able to use the word by themselves. Once they achieve this, you can model two words together, ‘big ball’, ‘red ball’, ‘want ball’ etc. By modelling sentences, you can help your child use sentences using their AAC device. Keep modelling more words together as your child progresses.
Are there any activities to model AAC at home?
Yes! You can create endless opportunities at home! You don’t need to have fancy games or expensive toys to model AAC. Use everyday activities like eating lunch, playing with blocks etc. Use these routine opportunities to model AAC at home. Before beginning the activity, choose the words you will model. Refer to Bobby’s example. The chosen word for modelling was ‘ball’. You can select as many words as per your child’s level. Model and wait for your child to imitate you. If they don’t imitate, continue modelling.
My child doesn’t imitate even after modelling. What can I do to help?
This is one of the most common questions asked by parents. When you model AAC, it will require a lot of patience. And a lot of modelling. Typically approx… 100 times or even more. If your child doesn’t imitate, model again. And continue to do so till they can imitate correctly.
Learning how to use an AAC device takes time. You will have to be patient and practice consistently. Along the way, you may have a lot of questions about how to model or use the AAC device. Remember to always consult your child’s speech language pathologist for any concerns.
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