by Kylee Osowski, MA, CCC-SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist); NWACS Contributor
Let’s face it. Getting everyone on board when it comes to aided language stimulation (also known as aided language input) can be a challenge. For some, AAC can seem daunting. I’ve heard things like:
“He just plays on it so we put it away.”
“By the time she gets home from school, the battery is dead.”
“She just drags my hands towards what she needs so we don’t use it.”
“I put it in his backpack so it’s not a distraction.”
Regardless of the reason, it is our job to promote communication everywhere. In order to set our clients up for success, we need to also support their caregivers. Below are three steps I’ve found to be convenient and simple when asking caregivers to provide aided language stimulation.
1. Find a routine and stick to it.
Incorporating aided language into a routine is an easy way for caregivers to regularly model without needing reminders among hectic schedules. Some good examples are:
- Walking the dog
- Grocery shopping
- Folding laundry
- Taking a bath
- Getting ready for bed
- Making dinner/setting the table
The client’s attention, interest, and age should be a factor when choosing a routine. If the child has an affinity for food, grocery shopping may be the best time.
2. Create a list
Once you’ve helped the caregiver choose a routine, brainstorm some (core) vocabulary to model during that activity. For example, if the caregiver wants to model AAC while grocery shopping, choose vocabulary like: that, it, push, grab, find, in, cold.
Below is an example of how these words could be modeled:
Caregiver: Grab that watermelon.
Caregiver: Find the milk.
Caregiver: It is cold!
Caregiver: Thanks! Put it in the cart.
Caregiver: Can you push it?
Remind caregivers to:
- Speak their message out loud while modeling on the child’s AAC device. It is important to hear both forms of communication.
- Model the words on the list. Do not worry about searching for watermelon or grocery cart on the child’s AAC. Focus on teaching the chosen core vocabulary and demonstrating all the ways these words are used.
3. Check in
Aided language stimulation takes practice and patience. Scheduled check-ins create accountability between both parties, optimizing our client’s success with their device. Set a scheduled time via phone or in person to discuss progress. Prior to your check-in, I would encourage parents or caregivers to prepare questions/concerns they have. Topics to discuss can include:
Routine/Location: Maybe this caregiver is having a difficult time modeling while walking the dog. Help create alternatives (e.g., bringing a sibling to hold the dog leash, purchasing a carrying case/strap).
Vocabulary: It’s possible the list created feels too large. Maybe the word list does not reflect what the caregiver wants to communicate. Be sure to ask caregivers to provide some examples of sentences they’ve been modeling to provide feedback and support.
Client participation: Although modeling is the main focus, the end goal is to have our clients be initiating a variety of communicative intents. Check in to see if the caregiver is allowing opportunities for the client to communicate. Go over ways to model and wait. Remind caregivers that this is a process and is similar to learning a new language. It takes time.
How do you encourage aided language stimulation outside of the therapy room?