Another abbreviation that parents who have a child diagnosed with ASD is probably familiar with. Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices enable a child that might be pre-verbal to communicate using an iPad or iPhone.
Why do we use AAC devices?
Some of our children struggle to speak verbally. There are a variety of reasons for this and also some unknown factors involved too. It might be that they struggle with the motor planning of what they want to say and physically forming the sounds. Some adults on the spectrum have mentioned that they knew exactly what they had to say or wanted to say, but when they tried to formulate the sounds to create the word or sentence, something else came out. This must be extremely frustrating as therapists might do repeated “trials” to practice sounds or words. These children will most probably become frustrated and some challenging behaviors might surface – I mean wouldn’t you throw a punch if someone requested you to do something over and over, which you physically can’t. Other autism advocates have compared not being able to speak expressively to a person landing in a new country and having to speak the local language, which they have never even heard. Close your eyes and travel to a country like Russia. The culture is different, the weather, the people and then they have long conversations with you in a language that you are unfamiliar with. Now imagine one Russian lady asking you to say a specific word that you can’t pronounce and holding a tiny little piece of a cookie in front of you to “motivate” you to try for the 100th time. I really do understand why some children become aggressive.
If your child is pre-verbal and you notice that they struggle to formulate sounds, you should speak to a professional that will be able to determine if your child has apraxia. Another reason why some children are not speaking verbally might be that he or she is communicating in different ways to you. Remember to look out for these ways of communicating – he or she might be using their art or movement, playing with water or sand, gesturing to items or pulling your hand. These are all forms of communication.
To make it easier for your child to communicate, you can introduce an AAC device. There are many programs that you can load that might be “free” from the app store, but we have our favourite. First thing would be to buy an iPad or use a smartphone. We understand that these devices are expensive, but it’s a lifelong investment. That’s if you get a protective cover that is ideally waterproof 🙂
Then, go to your app store and download a program. The one we suggest to parents is called Proloquo2go and there is a once off fee. The reason we love Proloquo2go is that you can add real photos and it’s extremely user-friendly. Here are a few articles that give alternative suggestions:
It’s important to keep the introduction of an AAC program and device simple. You want your child to associate the icon (real photos do work better) with the word beneath it to the actual item or activity. Choose 3-5 highly motivating items or activities that you know your child would want. Take photos of these items and add it on the homescreen of the app you are using. When you see your child looking at an item, show them how to push the icon on the device (there will be a speech output programmed that will say the word), repeat the word clearly and then hand him or her the item. You need to create many opportunities for your child to request via their AAC device. It’s important to keep these requests fun and functional. One thing we at AIMS Global can’t stand is therapists who give a child a tiny little bit of what they asked for and then request the child to ask for it again and again. For example, when your child asks to “eat”, don’t break their food in a million pieces and ask them over and over to request the same thing! Who does that in real life?!
The way in which you implement the next phase of communication via an AAC device really depends on how well your child is taking to this new way of communicating. We know we can’t be everywhere, oh wait – we actually can as our therapists are placed all over the world! The point is though that you might need someone to guide you with the next steps. If you feel like you have all the support you need, but might just want to schedule a consultation for a specific question – possibly relating to your child’s AAC device and how to move forward, let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy chatting to your child! We can’t wait to hear about the topics you have discovered together.