Using Proloquo2Go to talk about the coronavirus

4 minute read

Everyone is talking about the coronavirus. Everyone wants to know about it and how it will affect their life. Parent and educator, Erin, writes about how we can talk with AAC users, like her daughter Maggie.

My daughter Maggie uses Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). She is struggling to understand the impact of COVID-19. Her daily routine has changed by the closure of local schools. Her favorite weekend outings are cancelled. We are almost hibernating! I can see her anxiety in her behavior and hear it in the sounds she makes. How do I explain something as abstract as a virus to someone who uses just one or two symbols at a time to communicate?

Explaining COVID-19 with AAC

Maggie understands abstract ideas best when we explain them using her AAC. She needs these visual supports to understand new ideas. It’s tempting to create special pages in her AAC. I could add new symbols and pictures to represent all these new words we are hearing. But there are just so many new ones: quarantine, pandemic, social distancing, and many more.

Fortunately, I don’t need lots of new words. Maggie has a robust and balanced AAC system. The words that are already in her AAC are almost enough. For example, a pandemic is when “many people get sick at the same time.” COVID-19 is “a very small germ that can make us sick.” We are social distancing, or “staying home so we can help not get anyone sick.” If we get sick, we will quarantine to “keep the germs from getting others sick.”

I can use Maggie’s ordinary words to explain what is happening. When I do this, Maggie learns new ways to use common, familiar words. This is a powerful skill for someone who uses AAC. There will always be words missing from her AAC, but I can teach her to get the most out of the words she has.

Talk about coronavirus in different ways

This is also a good opportunity to show Maggie how to use her keyboard to spell words. I spell when it’s a word we aren’t likely to use much. Maggie is still learning letter names and sounds, so I just focus on the first letter: “COVID-19…I hear a C.” Spelling the missing word shows Maggie that her keyboard can be a powerful communication tool. For example, if I say, “the germ, ”C”, you can guess I mean “COVID-19” or “coronavirus.”

5 Ideas to talk about coronavirus

1. Talk about WHAT is happening.

There is a germ that is making people sick. The germ goes from person to person. We are staying home so the germ can not get on us and make us sick. We are washing our hands to wash the germs off. Many people are staying home, too. If we all stay home, we will all not get sick. If the germ gets on us and we get very sick, we will go the hospital. The doctors and nurses will help us.

Proloquo2 Go screen explaining corona
Proloquo2Go with a message about washing germs off for the coronavirus

2. Talk about what is the SAME.

We will stay home. We will sleep in our own beds. We will get dressed and take baths. We will cook good food. We will play with the cats.

3. Talk about what might be DIFFERENT.

We will not go to school. We will not go to the mall. We will not go see our friends. We will not ride the bus. I will not go to work. I will stay here with you.

4. Talk about WHEN this is happening.

We might need to stay home for a long time. We will be home today, and tomorrow. We will be home until we know it is safe. Then we will go back to school.

5. Talk about PAST EXPERIENCES.

We remember that the coronavirus is like some other times we have experienced. We remember when we stayed home during an ice storm and blizzard.

Watch this video about wearing Face Masks

Children may be experiencing confusion over people now wearing face masks. Amanda shares some ideas about how can talk about this in her video.

Facemasks thumbnail 2
Fun video to talk about wearing face masks

Talk about COVID-19 often

It isn’t enough to just talk about the virus once. With both my children, we have an ongoing conversation. Maggie seems to best understand complex ideas when we talk about them regularly over many days. It helps when we write down what we talked about so we can read the text together. We’ve found some great social stories online (linked below).

AssistiveWare is here to support

Our support team and online communities will be available to answer any questions and support you during these difficult and changing times. Please reach out to us.

Links: