One of the most important factors in the successful implementation of any child’s AAC speech therapy protocol is the team that surrounds them on a regular basis. Once a comprehensive assessment has been made and an appropriate AAC system is in place, it is up to the team to ensure that effective communication is encouraged and maintained moving forward.
Since AAC is just one facet of your child’s daily care, the overall team may include other family members, friends, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, teachers, school administrators, medical doctors, nurses, recreational specialists and more.
No two children have precisely the same needs. A highly individualized approach to AAC means that everyone needs to be on board to get the best results.
Here are some useful tips on how to involve your child’s entire team in AAC:
The first step in formulating a plan for success is to ensure every team member understands the goal and is willing to do their part. For every member of the team to be involved in the solution, they must be familiar with the AAC device your child is using. Take the time to explain the ins and outs of the system to each member of the team so they are comfortable with it and understand how it works. Share your methods of modeling language on the device and regularly update your team on what vocabulary you are focusing on for the week or month.
Establish a set of words to focus on teaching and highlighting each month. These words should consist mostly of high frequency core words that can be used in a variety of situations, that way, each team member can ensure use of those words in their respective activities. Here is a list of top 100 most frequently used core words. Parents should use the AAC device as a model for the child so he or she becomes familiar with how to use it and be encouraged to use it. Every team member should use the device with the child to the extent possible, even if that just means saying “hi” and “bye” with the device.
Bonus points if team members can incorporate words of the month into their time spent with the child!
For example, if one of the words of the month is “in”, perhaps your child’s physical therapist could model and encourage saying “in” on the AAC device whenever your child puts another piece in the puzzle after a set of exercises!
Empowerment and involvement go a long way when it comes to keeping a team engaged and willing to participate. Ask for input and feedback from each member of the team and involve them in developing and adapting your child’s vocabulary. Since each team member spends time with the child in a different setting, they can offer a unique perspective that will help further the process along. Asking for their advice on a regular basis will encourage them to remain actively engaged.
Your child’s device must be present during every activity of his or her day, regardless of what stage of communication he or she is at — even if you are simply modeling use of the device. Parents continue to talk to their young infants despite their inability to talk, thus providing a rich language environment. This same theory applies to parents of AAC users. We must provide a rich language environment by modeling use of AAC regardless of if they are using it independently or not. Keep in mind that the AAC device is his or her voice and should never be left behind.