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My Child Started Using AAC…Now What?

What is AAC?

So what is AAC? AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, which are all the different ways to communicate besides using verbal speech. This ranges from no tech options, such as gestures and facial expressions to high tech options, like using a speech generating device or an application on an iPad. AAC encompasses various ways to communicate (Writing/typing, sign language, drawing, pointing to pictures, to name a few more). Now that you understand what AAC is, let’s talk more about verbal speech and how your SLP uses both.

 

 If my SLP is introducing AAC, have they given up on the possibility of verbal speech? 

Not necessarily! As SLPs, we want your child to talk just as much as you do!

Let’s think about how verbal speakers communicate. We don’t just use verbal speech ALL of the time right? Sometimes you communicate using a gesture, a device like your phone or computer, or maybe the look on your face is enough to send a clear message. Just as you use various modes of communication, SLPs want the same for your child. The use of AAC empowers individuals to  communicate and express themselves if they are unable to communicate verbally or if their speech is severely unintelligible. Why is this important to you?  If your child is equipped with using AAC to communicate, this can reduce frustration for you as a parent and help your child to communicate better with family, friends and teachers.  Better communication leads to better relationships and a better quality of life for your child.  Additionally, research tells us that AAC can have positive effects on speech and language and increase speech production in some children (see article  here).

Why Isn’t My Child Using AAC Yet?

Maybe you are beginning to use a communication device or board at home with your child. Your child is saying “more” when you ask if he wants another cookie but  why isn’t he saying more words?  Why isn’t he using 3-4 word sentences to have a conversation with you yet? Perhaps it’s been 3 months and your child is still not really communicating using his AAC method. Let’s think about how a verbal child learns language. A young child learning how to talk has verbal models to learn language from the adults, siblings, and peers who speak to him.

It takes years before that young child begins to use words and starts speaking in complete sentences. Unfortunately, for children with complex communication needs, learning language in this way is not enough for them to start speaking. This is a reason why SLPs introduce AAC, to encourage more communication. However, just like it takes time for a verbal child to learn language, it is very similar for a child who uses AAC. Also, similar to verbal speakers who learn language through verbal models (listening to those around him speak), an individual learning how to use his AAC system requires modeling too. This is called  Aided Language Stimulation (ALS).  ALS is an approach where the communication partner points out picture symbols on the same device the child is using while speaking. This means that you, as the communication partner, are also using the language system to communicate. This not only helps your child learn how to use their device (i.e. where certain words are, the meanings of those words, etc.,) but this also helps you become familiar with the device too!

Collaboration with a speech therapist and team of related professionals is beneficial in supporting your child’s communication needs.

 

If you have additional questions or want to explore alternative communication methods,  call 410-274-0041  to book a speech-language evaluation for your child. And  stay tuned for more AAC strategies and tips! 

 

 

By: Amira Crockett- Speech Language Pathologist at Kid Connections.