Faces of AAC: Making It Work in A Busy Family
Each October, we like to share stories of people who use AAC throughout the day. to gain insight from those who have found a way to prioritize AAC despite their hectic and complicated lives. Today, Erin Compton shares some of the keys to making AAC a priority in her busy family. You can learn more about Erin and her family on their blog, Lotsacomptons and Room for More. In this post, Erin give us some tips on getting started in AAC and keeping up the momentum.
Our journey into the world of AAC began last year with the adoption of our two sons from China. Philip and Arthur both have cerebral palsy and developmental delays from years in an orphanage. Just recently they began using communication devices so we have jumped in feet first to all things AAC. We are already having great success so I’m here to share some of the things that helped us have a positive beginning.
Find community. It’s very likely that your child will be the only one in the neighborhood, church, classroom etc. using AAC. Support and wisdom from folks who have walked this path before is absolutely invaluable. Unfortunately, those wise souls aren’t often near enough to meet for coffee but many of them ARE available online. Find websites, blogs and Facebook groups, then join or follow them. The fact that you’re on PrAACtical AAC means you’re already doing this. Way to go!
Understand that YOU are the primary student in the beginning. Successful AAC implementation flows from regularly using it in front of your child. This is called modeling. In order to model AAC, you must first know how to use it yourself. Spend time exploring the communication system your child will use. Learn where some basic symbols are and how to navigate the pages. Often there are instructional videos available on YouTube so spend a little time there as well.
Just start. Once you have a rough understanding of the system you’re using then just…go! Start talking and pushing buttons or pointing to symbols. It’s really that easy! I felt a lot of hesitation about doing things “wrong” at first. Then I realized that it was more wrong to make my child wait until I felt ready. AAC proficiency is a gradual process. No one begins as a pro. We have a lifetime of opportunity to refine our skills but right now our kids just need some words.
Find what is motivating to your child. For us this was food. We used a few core words (want, like, more) and also created a menu page listing the food we were having at that particular meal. The menu page is a quick attention grabber with immediate rewards. As we eat we talk about the food and model the menu and core words as we go. Mealtime continues to be our favorite way to practice AAC skills.
Use AAC as often as possible. Like anything, you will get more out of it if you put more in. Don’t expect to see big progress if the only time AAC is used is at therapy or school. Make new habits by using AAC at predictable times each day. On busy days the best strategy may be simply letting your child explore and “babble” with their book or device while in the car. It’s not the same as a two-way conversation but independent exploration is valuable too.
Get the family involved. All of our children were naturally drawn to the cool, new talking tablets that arrived at our doorstep. From day one we allowed and encouraged them to test them out, make funny sounds, change the voices etc. Why? Because kids always want what their brothers and sisters have. By watching the other kids have fun with the devices our boys were highly motivated to try them out too. Peer modeling is an awesome thing!
In the beginning, the process can feel tedious and awkward. Keep in mind that this is normal and the messiness of it all doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It just means keep going. Remember:
“Everything is hard before it is easy.” (JW Goethe)
This post was written by Carole Zangari