May is Better Speech and Hearing Month and we can’t think of a more appropriate time to raise awareness about communication disorders, and the game-changing impact of augmentative and alternative (AAC) communication devices.
According to the folks at CommunicationsMatters.org, AAC describes the “various methods of communication that are used to get around problems with ordinary speech. AAC includes simple systems such as pictures, gestures and pointing, as well as more complex techniques involving powerful computer technology.” These systems and technologies enable individuals with a variety of disabilities to communicate their needs, thoughts and feelings. In other words, they play an extremely important role in enhancing the quality of life!
For optimal results, AAC should be used at home, in school, at work and everywhere else. Yet, for a variety of reasons, some people with speech and language disorders don’t use their AAC systems consistently enough. The following strategies are designed to make access to AAC devices a regular part of your classroom or home life.
Learn to use devices and or technologies
If you’re a parent or teacher of a student with a speech disability, it’s essential that you understand how his AAC device works. Speech and Language Kids.com recommends that teachers and families be trained to use and program the devices being used. “Just as a family that speaks only Chinese would have a hard time teaching their children English, the child you’re working with will have a hard time learning to use his AAC device if you don’t know how to use it either.”
Practice conversing with AAC
To help your child or student get comfortable using her AAC device, model its use for her. As Speech and Language Kids.com suggests: “Use the system when you are talking to the child, talking to other adults, talking to other children, etc.” so that she wants to try it too.
Make the AAC device accessible
AAC device users should have access to a device wherever they are. Enabling Devices sells many portable communicators such as the Hip Talk series, the Clip talk and the Wearable Talker. Or, hang our Put-Em-Arounds all around your classroom or home so they’re always nearby.
Don’t expect immediate fluency
Depending on the child’s developmental level as well as the difficulty of the device he is learning to use, achieving fluency on an AAC device can take time. Make sure that AAC practice sessions are positive experiences. Says the Center for AAC and Autism: “Briefly encourage device use during activities while they are meaningful and enjoyable but quit while it’s going well. There is a danger in pushing too hard and too fast in that the child will see the device as something that makes his life harder.”
Don’t believe myths about AAC
AAC devices help to build and improve communication skills, yet some mistakenly believe that AAC use will decrease the user’s motivation toward natural speech. Research does not support this idea. On the contrary, Millar, Light, & Schlosser found AAC use can help to “improve natural speech when therapy focuses simultaneously on natural speech development and use of AAC in a multimodal approach.”