5 Great Ways to Help People with AAC Needs Develop Inner Speech

July 19, 2013 by - 3 Comments

5 Ways to Help Those with AAC Needs to Develop Inner Speech
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Inner speech is important. Recent research has strengthened our belief that developing inner speech is an important strategy for many people who use AAC and5 Great Ways to Help People with AAC Needs Develop Inner Speech are working to build their literacy, sensory, and language skills. 

But how do we teach someone to develop that inner voice? Here are some ideas.

1. Begin by using a ‘think aloud’ strategy to make your internal thought processes obvious to the person who uses AAC. Articulating your thoughts as you work through different communication and literacy learning processes gives the learner insight into what you are thinking. Once they are used to that, it is easier to introduce the concept of private/inner speech.
2. Use explicit instruction. “Say it to yourself.” “Say it in your head.” Using natural gestures, like tapping your temple, can be helpful as well. We’ve found that this allows us to reduce the prompting over time. Fade the verbal prompt and continue the gestural one, until that is no longer needed. (Some of our friends who use AAC even self-cue to use their inner speech with that gesture.)
3. Consider online books where the text is spoken aloud for some of the person’s reading experiences. This isn’t something we’d want to do all of the time, but some of it may help build that inner voice.
4. Talking word processing programs, like Write Outloud, can also support this effort.
5. Try setting the SGD to speak each word aloud as the AAC user inputs it, rather than just speaking the whole message when it is complete. We’ve worked with many older children and adults who are now competent communicators and can tell us about the role that their inner speech played in developing their language and reading skills. A few of them have asked for this setting in their SGDs for just that reason.
References- Inner Speech

Association for Psychological Science (2013, July 16). Inner speech speaks volumes about the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 17, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/07/130716080028.htm

Durham University (2012, January 24). Learning to ‘talk things through in your head’ may help people with autism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 17, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2012/01/120124200103.htm

M. Scott. Corollary Discharge Provides the Sensory Content of Inner Speech. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613478614

Wallace, G.L., Silvers, J.A., Martin, A., & Kenworthy, L.E.  (December, 2009).  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders Volume 39, Issue 12, pp 1735-1739.

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This post was written by Robin Parker


  • Rose-Marie says:

    Thanks for posting this update, Robin. I am eager to look up the references you cited.

    Dr. Karen Erickson from UNC-Chapel Hill is HUGE on directly encouraging AAC users to apply their inner voice when learning to read. This is such an important skill not only for decoding unfamiliar words but for developing comprehension as well. Your suggestions are a good complement to her recommendation.

    I like SGDs to speak each word as feedback that the child has selected their intended target (or not), but had never thought of it as a way to promote inner speech. How great that one technique can accomplish multiple goals!

    • Avatar photo Robin Parker says:

      Thanks so much for your comments. We love Dr. Erickson’s work and use many of her resources as well as the information learned from her research. Great point about 1 strategy promoting multiple goals.

  • Anne Mahoney says:

    This article dovetails with an NPR.org story, Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious. Skills. In the story, Alix Spiegel writes that imaginative play. Helps kids learn to “speak to themselves” and how that speech promotes self regulation behavior in children. So many skills are so interrelated.

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