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Making AAC Motivational and fun

Making AAC Motivational and Fun for Kids and Families: Realistic Expectations, Tips, and Tricks 

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems play a vital role in enabling individuals with communication difficulties to express themselves effectively. While AAC can initially seem daunting, especially for children and their families, creating a motivating and enjoyable environment can make the learning process both effective and fun. The purpose of this post is to highlight effective strategies and provide simple examples for implementing AAC throughout every day routines. 

Strategy 1: Set Realistic Expectations: 

  • It’s important to understand that learning AAC is a gradual process that requires patience and practice. Most infants are exposed to nearly a year of verbal language before they begin producing single words. Similarly, for many young AAC users, especially those with shorter sustained attention, a year is a realistic time frame in order to provide sufficient models throughout daily activities and areas of interest.  
  • Activity Recommendations: 
  • Select one core word for the week and focus on modelling that word throughout daily activities throughout the week  
  • Increase device autonomy by encouraging you child/AAC user to carry his/her device from room to room. Make it fun! (dragging it across the ground, putting favorite stickers on the back, etc.) 

Strategy 2: Provide a Supportive Environment: 

  • Create a supportive environment that encourages and reinforces AAC use without pressuring of forcing communication. Surround children with positive reinforcement, praise their efforts, and celebrate their successes. Make sure all family members and caregivers are on board, actively engaging in AAC interactions. Consistency and a collaborative approach will enhance the child’s motivation and progress. Hand over hand (forcing a user to select an icon) is strongly discouraged, as this not only violates AAC users’s autonomy, but often results in negative attitudes toward one’s device and reduces overall motivation regarding AAC communication.  
  • Activity Recommendation: 
  • Choose one-to-two words in a short song (Super Simple is great) and spend one day simply modeling those words while you and your child enjoy listening to the song. The next day, after modeling those words several times, pause the song right before the modeled word. Look at your child and the device excitedly (~10 secs) to provide an opportunity for your child to imitate. If they don’t, (no worries!) simply select the word yourself and continue the song.  

Strategy 3: Make it Personalized: 

  • Personalize the AAC system to the child’s interests and preferences. Choose symbols or pictures that resonate with their daily life experiences, hobbies, and activities. Incorporate their favorite characters, toys, or pets into the AAC system to make it more relatable and engaging. When AAC reflects their world, children are more likely to be motivated to use it. 
  • Activity Recommendation: 
  • Make a songs/shows folder with pictures of their favorite songs or shows to increase opportunities to request 

Strategy 4: Make it Multimodal: 

  • AAC doesn’t have to be limited to a single mode of communication. Combine AAC with other forms of expression, such as gestures, facial expressions, and body language, to enhance the child’s overall communication skills. Encourage playfulness and creativity by using props, puppets, or role-playing to make communication sessions interactive and dynamic. 
  • Activity Recommendations: 
  • Model shaking/nodding for “yes” and “no”; waving for “hi” and “bye” 
  • Provide increased facial expressions while modeling feelings to match pictures provided 

Strategy 5: Incorporate Social Interaction: 

  • AAC should not be viewed as a solitary activity. Encourage social interaction and participation in group activities where the child can communicate with peers, siblings, or friends using AAC. Create opportunities for them to express themselves, share ideas, and engage in conversations. Social interactions help build confidence, foster friendships, and reinforce the importance of effective communication. 
  • Activity Recommendations: 
  • Provide positive reinforcement for peers or siblings demonstrating interest or curiosity around the device and use as an opportunity to model  a social greeting! 

Helpful Links regarding AAC and recommended activities:

Alleah Thompson, Speech- Language Pathologist. Cool Springs, TN