Welcome to the AAC world
1. The iPad is no longer a toy.
The child may like to play games, watch videos or do other stuff on the iPad. Now, the AAC iPad should only have the AAC app installed, with unnecessary apps removed. If your family can afford it, get two tablets. It's useful for several reasons:
-Your child learns that the AAC iPad is their voice, not a toy.
-The AAC is still available if the child wants to use an app to play a game, watch a show, or do something else on the other tablet.
-You can limit the "fun" screen time without taking away your child's voice.
2. Tell the child about your plan.
Whether they understand every word you say or not, this shows them that you care enough to talk to them, and be positive with them.
For example, say, "I found this cool app that we can use to talk. I know talking is hard, so this can be something to do instead. Then you can tell us your thoughts! I bet you have a lot of cool stuff to say."
3. Make the AAC available everywhere.
It needs to become part of the daily routine. Keep it with the child everywhere. Work on remembering to take it wherever you go. This sends the message that AAC, and the child's voice, is important.
Make sure that charging cables are available so it can stay charged.
Don't let the AAC stay in a bag. Take it out.
Only leave the AAC behind if you're going to an unsuitable place for it (like somewhere with sand that would get stuck in a keyboard). Then see if you can bring a substitute, like laminated paper.
4. Start using AAC yourself.
Start using the AAC to talk to your child. For example, if you are going to give the child an apple, say "apple" using the AAC. The more you model the use of AAC, the more curious about it the child will become.
In the beginning months, a good goal is to have the child's caregivers use the AAC app as much as possible throughout the day.
You don't need to model every word. For example, you could say "Do you want water?" and just tap the words "want" and "water." It will be easier for the child to understand how to use the app.
5. Respond to babbling.
Babbling is when the child begins stimming or hitting random words.
Any time they use the AAC, respond to what they say, even if you suspect they're just playing with it. This might teach a new word to them. Also, it is important to help them understand that using AAC elicits a response.
For example, if your son is hitting his hands on his AAC device and presses "brother," you can say "Your brother is at school right now. He'll be home in about an hour."
Even accidental communication should be listened to. For example, if a child hits "ball" by accident, you can bring a ball or ask, "Do you want a ball?" This teaches them that using AAC has meaningful consequences.
6. Be prepared for some silliness.
It's normal for children to say ridiculous things.
If your child gives a "wrong" answer, it might be that they are making a joke. This is normal and okay; your child is simply messing around and being playful.
For example, if you ask "What did you eat for lunch?" your child might respond "Rocks, sticks." They are aware this didn't happen; they want to make a joke.
7. Praise them as they learn to use the app.
A little praise now and then can encourage them to keep putting forth their best effort.
You can praise them directly or tell another adult what a good job they did while the child can hear.
Some examples of praise include:
"Wow, you're so good at using your talker!"
"Thanks for asking me for dessert! That's so awesome!"
"Welcome home, Mommy. Nolan did a great job with his talker today! He asked me for all sorts of things."
"I remember how, when you were little, you didn't know how to use your app at all. Now you have used it so much today! You are getting to be so smart."
- Avoid hand-over-hand or forceful attempts to make the child use AAC. This might be intrusive to the child and may make them dislike the AAC. Or the child may become too dependent on prompts.
- Never take away a child's voice as a punishment. No matter how frustrated with them you feel, they need to be able to communicate.
- Keep in mind that all people make mistakes. You may sometimes misinterpret what the child says, or forget to respond to them. That doesn't mean you're a bad caregiver. Forgive yourself, and keep doing your best.
- Your goal isn't to be perfect, but to get more practice.
Make sure that the child can always access the AAC device.
Charge it at night, when the child is sleeping, and switch out batteries if needed.