Using AAC at home with children with speech impediments

Communication does not stop at home or at school. Successful communication happens when people with communication difficulties can use their augmentative and alternative communication system in all environments. Find strategies for using AAC at home to work around speech problems in children.

Does communication stop when you get home from work or school? No!

Should AAC only happen at work or school? No!

Successful communication happens when people with communication difficulties can use their Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) system in all environments. And families are so important in this process. 

In this blog post you will find some general strategies for getting AAC happening at home, as well as some practical ideas to try out and get you started.

From speech impediments to communication at home

Your home is a busy active place, with many comings and goings. But two things need to stay consistent for your child who uses AAC. Firstly, your child needs to have easy access to their AAC system. And secondly, your child needs to see their AAC system being used by people at home to communicate real messages in real situations (aka “modeling”).

We use AAC when it's always there, ready to be used

Is your home set up for AAC? Can you grab the AAC system ready to communicate quickly and easily? Can your child access their AAC system independently? It’s important to give your child access to an AAC system all the time. It needs to be in easy reach and/or always in the same place. 

If your child uses a high-tech AAC system (such as an AAC app on an iPad), it can be a great idea to have light-tech (or paper-based) version of it in places around the house. Could you stick laminated boards to places such as the mirror in the bathroom, cupboard doors or table tops? This means that the AAC can be grabbed and used easily! Having a light-tech or paper based backup of the AAC system is also useful if something happens to the AAC device. You can make a paper communication book to help your child with a speech impediment or disorder.

AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom

The Proloquo2Go Crescendo core word boards are available in the AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom. The Core Word Classroom offers a large collection of learning resources, which are designed to support implementation of any AAC system that is based on core words. Learn more about the AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom.

Hand holding a Core Word Board, a help for speech impediments

Modeling: teach your child with speech impediments and communication problems

Right… you have your house set up for AAC, with the AAC easily available - now you can MODEL!

Kids learn how to speak by hearing their parents, teachers, siblings and other people around them speak all the time. Similarly, AAC learners also need to see what it looks like to communicate using their AAC systems in real conversations. So how do you do this?

You need to model words and sentences on the AAC system regularly. Never heard of modeling before? The idea is to use the AAC system, by pointing to words, when you talk with your child. You don't need to model every single word you say. Instead, model the core words - the most important words. Make sure you model one step above your child’s level. Learn more about modeling.

Here's a quick video for how you could model during playing bubbles with your child:

Amanda modelling the word Look on a large core word board to child with speech impediments

Practical activities for encouraging communication at home

Once you have the AAC system in place and you’re modeling as much as you can, provide fun and motivating reasons for your child to use their AAC system.

The more often you build in opportunities to model AAC with your child in natural and fun ways, the more easily your child will learn to use AAC. These ideas and activities are easy and engaging ways to interact with your child using their AAC system:

Look at a family photo album. Talk about the pictures, the people, what happened, what you like, what you see.
Read through junk mail, catalogues or magazines. Talk about things to buy, birthday wish lists, gift ideas, stories about celebrities.
Arts and Crafts. Talk about what to make, how to make it, describe the colours and what you see, what to use. You can also talk about art projects brought home from school
Watch a TV program or movie. Talk about what happened, who's your favorite character, which part you like most, is it scary or exciting?
Cook together. Talk about what you have to do, the ingredients, the taste, what you like or dislike about it, etc.
Read a book together. Talk about the pictures, the characters, what happened. You don't always need to read the words! Model the core words on the AAC system
Play hide and seek or action games with toys. Talk about the game while you take turns. Make the toy do all kinds of fun actions. Model WHERE words like: in, on and under, and ACTION words like jump, sleep, etc.
Tidy up and put things away. Talk about what you have to do. EG folding and putting laundry away, discuss where socks and other clothing goes. Or putting away the groceries and talk about what goes in the fridge and what in the cupboard.
Discuss routines. Talk about what you are doing during everyday routines like brushing hair, bath time, getting dressed, etc.
Mirror play. Talk about things when you are looking in the mirror and pulling funny faces and making funny sounds.
Listen to music and sing. Talk about favorite music and songs, sing and listen and play! And model words like: more, loud, quiet, nice, like, go, stop and much more!
Give the wrong item, like a fork to eat yogurt or give them paper for drawing but no pencils. Talk about what they need and want, why the item you have given does not work.
Play with favorite toys and games. Talk about the toys and games, take turns and model words like: more, play, on, off, like, all done and much more.
Symbols © 2016 SymbolStix, LLC.

But I know what my child is trying to say….

Without a doubt, no-one knows your child better than you. And in many cases you may be able to guess what he/she is attempting to tell you, without their AAC system. But beware - it is important to not always assume that you know what your kid is trying to tell you! They might have SO MUCH MORE to say! And we want to give them every chance to SAY it!

Here is a very powerful blog from a parent of an AAC user, who does a great job at putting into words what can happen when we think we always know what our kids are trying to say! 

Look at every conversation and every interaction as an opportunity to model and build language and communication with your child.

Start improving nonverbal communication today!

These are just some examples to get you started. It’s easy to create opportunities for your child to communicate by being a little creative! Think about your daily schedule and things you do with your child every day. Can you find ways to build some AAC modeling into those activities?

You may wish to talk to your teacher about how the words your child is working on at school can be used in these home activities too.

Have fun with AAC at home! Start today!

Note: A lot of you expressed interest on the core word posters shown in this blog. We’re thrilled to announce that our core word posters are now for sale on our Zazzle store! These displays are available in English (US/UK and AU), Spanish, and French.