Communication happens when we are engaged and interested. Interaction allows real communication to happen. This is true whether we speak to communicate or use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Look at strengths and interests. Find opportunities to engage and build language.
AAC is not a test
Unfortunately, many AAC users are given fewer opportunities to learn with their AAC. Especially in engaging and fun moments that will allow them to build language. Instead, AAC learners are tested using their AAC system. They are asked questions to show what they know or don’t know. They are asked meaningless questions. AAC users are made to use their AAC system to prove themselves.
AAC is not a test. AAC should not be used this way. Don't use AAC for boring and repetitive drill exercises. This may make an AAC user hate their AAC system, rather than see the value and strength in it.
Engage and motivate
Instead, we need to engage our AAC users. To do this, we find common ground and build on their strengths and interests. Choose interesting and engaging activities. Have real conversations. Give the AAC user the motivation to communicate real messages.
Every AAC user is different. There are many different ideas and activities that may interest them. Work with the AAC user and the team to find engaging ideas that give opportunities to build language.
Create real reasons to communicate
We need to create real reasons to communicate. Look for opportunities to show how to use words on AAC systems. Show how to communicate something interesting and fun.
Doing interesting activities will create reasons to make comments and ask questions. Keep a list of things that the user likes or does not like. Keep a box of motivating books, objects and activities ready to go at any time. Try new things all the time. Hunt out fun activities wherever you go. Play games. Watch YouTube videos together if that's what is most interesting!
Always be age respectful. Choose activities, games and books that are similar what other people their age would do and enjoy.
Sometimes, we can be a little creative and sabotage situations so that communication may happen.
Here are few examples, each of which may create opportunities for communication:
- Giving an incorrect item (e.g. give someone a fork to eat yogurt, etc.)
- Be mischievous (e.g. do pranks and tricks, put bugs on Dad’s pillow, put a whoopee cushion on sister’s chair, etc.)
- Make mistakes (e.g. put a shoe on your head, get salt to put in coffee, etc.)
Use these strategies with caution and respect to the AAC user.