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Talking the Talk with AAC

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You have your preferred AAC system at hand. You are convinced that you should use this to communicate all the time, or at least as often as possible. Yes, you are completely on board with all that the experts say. But… What do you talk about? This week, resident Avaz SLP Nayantara gets down to giving you some pointers about this common question.

Getting Started!

As parents and caregivers new to AAC, you are getting started with using the AAC device and communicating with your loved one. One recommendation you will hear at this time is to talk with AAC so that your AAC user can learn how to use AAC. But what does one talk about?

This article breaks down the 2 types of conversations you need to start having with your AAC user. These conversations will involve you narrating what the AAC user is doing and narrating what you are doing.  

parents getting started with AAC system with their child
Talking the Talk with AAC

1. What the AAC user is doing

Think of yourself as a sports commentator and the sports match you are reporting on, is your AAC user using their device. Things you need to prepare for the commentary are

1) a good view of them 

2) keep their device at an accessible location for both them and you 

And finally wait and look, and be ready to make a comment. 

Some Practical Scenarios

Let’s see some examples to understand the type of commentary you could be doing. 

Scenario 1- 

A song is playing in the background on the TV and your AAC user is listening to this. He suddenly looks upset and is now shouting, crying and closing his ears. Now it’s your turn to talk. You can say: 

“I can see you are upset. I think you don’t like this song and you want to stop this song”. Then pick up the AAC device and model while saying, “I think you DON’T LIKE this song, let’s STOP playing it”.  *to note – words in CAPS are the words modelled on the device

So you can talk about what you see and then make a guess about what they might want to say by using words like ‘I think’ or ‘maybe’. It is important to not assume that we know what they want to say and speak on behalf of them but rather, support them with the words that they could use to communicate. 

Sometimes the AAC user’s reaction to the situation may be very subtle so you also need to be a good observer. 

Scenario 2- 

You and your AAC user have just finished reading a story book together and now they look outside to the garden repeatedly. Parents, it’s time to talk, gear up. 

You can say:

“Ah I can see you are looking outside, I think you want to go outside”. Now pick up the AAC device and model while saying, “Hmm maybe you want to GO outside”. This way we show them the word they can use if they want to respond and say “GO”. 

Now moving on to the second type of talking we can be doing with our AAC users. 

2. What YOU are Doing

In this type of narration you can talk about the steps of navigating and using the different functions (e.g. delete, go back) in the AAC device. 

Here are some examples of how you can do that.

Scenario 1- 

So you are going to model I WANT CHIPS. You can say: 

“So I am going to the Advanced folder and then am going to tap on I and then look for WANT, (scanning the page) hm…. Oh here is WANT and then I am to go into the Eat folder and then go into the Snacks folder and then look for chips, (tap on) CHIPS, okay now I will tap on the message box I WANT CHIPS (message is spoken out loud).” 

We need to show our wins like we just did but also the moments where we struggle while using the AAC device. 

Scenario 2- 

You are going to model typing I AM FRUSTRATED. You can say: 

“I am going to type I, then space, then AN oops, let me delete that and try again, AM and then space and then FRUS, um I don’t remember the spelling of the word, let me look at the predicted words (model looking at the predicted words and choosing the right option), there we go FRUSTRATED and then I will tap the message box I AM FRUSTRATED (message is spoken out loud)”. 

As you narrate the path that you take when you are talking with the AAC device, the AAC user is listening, watching and eventually learning from you. 

How This Helps the AAC User

This type of narration is helpful for two reasons. One, the user is listening to the names of the folders and getting aware of the process of navigation. Secondly, the user sees you, the adult, struggling to find a word, or typing the spelling incorrectly. They see you make mistakes and also see how you fix them. This reassures them that using the AAC device is difficult and even the adults find it challenging. 

In summary, talking with AAC may seem like a lot to do and a lot to remember as a parent new to AAC, but once you start, it will become a habit and it will come easily to you. 

So let’s get started on talking with AAC!

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