Personalizing AAC Activities
Like most learners, those with complex communication needs perk up when they see themselves, their family and friends, and their favorite things/places embedded into instruction or therapy. When we personalize materials and activities to each individual, we often see an increase in engagement and enjoyment. And those, in turn, lead to better outcomes. How can we put a personal spin on things we use in our AAC teaching? Here are a few ideas.
- Photos and videos of familiar people, places, and objects can be very impactful. Not all families are open to this and not all schools/agencies permit it. But when it IS an option, there’s nothing better to spark higher levels of engagement. We can substitute photos of family, friends, and favorite characters for generic photos/images in games, books, and learning materials to draw and retain their interest. We can talk about what they are doing and build language learning experiences to expand vocabulary, gain experience with core vocabulary use, and stretch sentences.
- When a student/client has a favorite character or is passionate about a particular subject, we can integrate that into AAC experiences by making them visible. LeShaun’s teacher put stickers with construction vehicles on his folders and independent work boxes so they could talk about something he’s passionate about before and after working on his school tasks. Kyra’s therapist decorated her writing journal with red furry fabric reminiscent of Elmo. Although she wasn’t a fan of writing, Kyra didn’t resist working with her journal because a brief Elmo-focused conversation got her in a positive frame of mind.
- Write a personalized version of a song or story. Take a familiar favorite from childhood and create a new version.
- “Down by the school, where the buses all go, there is a place that we don’t go. For if we do, Mr. Moya will say ‘Did you ever see a bear combing his hair, down by the school?’
- “Bella, Bella, what do you see? I see Ms. Mason looking at me. Mrs. Mason, Mrs. Mason, what do you see? I see Coco looking at me. Coco, what do you see? I see Eliana looking at me…”
Some important caveats: Be sure you are honoring the wishes of the individual and their families in planning these personal touches. Also, be aware of the policies that your school or agency has about taking, storing, and using student/client images.
Do you have favorite ways of personalizing things for the AAC learners in your life? We’d love to hear about them.
This post was written by Carole Zangari