Strategy of the Month Strategy of the Month using Aided Language Input to Build Communication Opportunities

Published on January 27th, 2014 | by Robin Parker

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Using Aided Language Input to Build Communication Opportunities!

 Using Aided Language Input to Build Communication Opportunities!

We can not write, speak or do enough Aided Language Input (ALI).  If we expect learners to speak AAC, we must speak AAC to them. It is difficult enough to learn a language and imagine if no one spoke it to you in the language you were expected to speak…But there are so many more reasons to do ALI.

Aided Language Input (ALI) belongs in the context of communication opportunities.  It is modeling AAC style.  Once we model a target language concept AAC style, then add the wait and signal strategy, the learner then knows it is their communicative turn.  Especially if you wait with the raised eye brow signal. They often will take their turn expressively. But, if they do not take the communicative opportunity to take their turn, there are gestural, visual, verbal, and physical prompts that can be implemented.  In other words, they can make use of the communication opportunity with prompts. With prAACtice, it becomes a turn taking format of modeling, opportunity, wait and signal, and expressive communication by the learner. Ultimately, this dyadic communication is a form of conversation. 

Aided Language Input (ALI) serves as models of many language targets. Building in a wait and signal strategy sets up clear communication opportunities. By using ALI as communication opportunities, you are showing learners that they can communicate in response to others language. You do not need to ask a question to obtain expressive language from a learner. The facilitator can model AAC style and then wait and signal and then expect a truly spontaneous comment or request from the learner. This is using ALI as a communication opportunity. 

Here are some samples of ways to use Aided Language Input (ALI) and Wait & Signal:

Target Language Concept & Context Aided Language Input Language Facilitation Strategy Possible Prompt
3 Word Comment-Playing with small balls that the learner loves. Bouncing the balls on the floor and against the wall. Say & access (point to/activate) communication display with “This is fun” while bouncing balls Then> Wait & Signal If learner does not respond, move the communication display closer, Use a gesture to the communication display to ‘remind’ the learner it is their turn. Once learner responds smile, laugh, respond to prompt
2 word Request- Playing with miniature sea creatures that are in closed clear plastic jar Say & access communication display with “open it”, or “give me”, or “want one” Then> Wait & Signal If learner does not respond, Shake jar, give tightly closed jar to child, gesture to communication display. Once learner responds, immediately open jar and give 1 sea creature.
1 word Protest- Bringing out non-preferred boring activities. Do 2-4 non-preferred for every preferred depending upon learner’s frustration level. Say & access communication display with “no”, “stop Wait & SignalThink Aloud If learner does not respond, quickly model “no” again and take item away and use ALI to say “no stop”, give something good” and bring out preferred activity. Show the power of the protest. Once the learner gets the idea, they usually don’t mind saying no many times until the preferred activity is introduced.
Use ‘AND’ to conjoin sentences- Eating Snack Say & access communication display with “I want goldfish AND pretzel” or Give me this one and that one” Wait & Signal If the learner does not use “and”, use a visual prompt to point to “and” on the communication display.

 Aided Language Input (ALI) serves as communication opporutnities but it also encompasses way more: 

Rationales & Advantages of Aided Language Input

  • Helps Serve as a Communication Opportunity
  • Helps AAC Facilitators Slow Language Down. In general, using AAC is a slower process than just speaking and by the process of looking for vocabulary gives the learner a little longer to process and see the language as they learn it. One of the great things about ALI is that it slows things down and we are always pleasantly surprised when the learners can not wait and find a word before us.
  • Helps AAC Facilitators Become Competent with AAC system. This is the fastest way to become competent with an AAC user’s AAC system. When we are competent with the language we are teaching, we can model and prompt the target communication and language concepts.
  • There is good research showing the effectiveness of ALI. See studies by Kathryn DragerCathy Binger and Janice LightJennifer Kent-WalshShakila Dada.
  • Helps Show Importance of Using AAC System. If we are using the AAC system, it means it is important. It becomes motivating for the learner to use it back. It is great when a learner ‘helps’ us get to the target vocabulary faster.
  • Helps Teach Language. How can someone learn a language if no one speaks it to them. ALI is speaking AAC to an AAC learner.
 We love ALI so much, here are some of our past posts:

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About the Author

Robin Parker

Robin Parker Robin Parker is a professor of speech language pathology who has loved supporting the communication and language of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders for more than 20 years. One of her professional passions is spreading the word about PrAACtical AAC. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." Helen Keller



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