Many parents and professionals are concerned about using augmentative and alternative forms of communication (AAC) with young children because they are worried that the child will not talk if given the alternate form to use. Research is showing the opposite is true; using sign, pictures, or written words can help the child to become verbal. Children will naturally use the most effective and efficient way possible to get their communicative needs met. When we speak, words fly out of our mouths and disappear. By providing a visual representation of the word, children with language concerns have something to hold on to. Once they can hold on to the word and say it, they will not have the need for AAC.
Here are some ideas to help children learn to use AAC:
- Use puzzles that are category based (food, animals, ABCs, etc). Make a communication board with picture symbols that represent each piece. I scan the puzzle into a graphics program, then copy and crop my images. Make another board for yourself with picture symbols that represent your questions (Which puzzle? Need help? What piece?). Use your board to ask and use their board for the response.
- When reciting nursery rhymes and finger plays using picture symbols, leave off the ending picture symbol. Put all of the target ending pictures symbols on a board and and let the children pick a symbol to fill in the blanks. It doesn’t HAVE to be right! Use what they choose and have fun.
- Use classic stories (3 Little Pigs) or repetitive stories (Brown Bear, Brown Bear) and leave out key words. Let the children fill in the missing words with picture symbols.
- Turn the tables: Sit down and color in a coloring book! Ask the child to pass you the color crayons that you can’t reach using your symbols. Be sure and use picture symbols when asking.
- More colors….Cut large squares or circles out of different colors of colored cellophane wrap. Ask (using picture symbols) What color?. Whatever color the child chooses let him/her look through the color cellophane to see the world differently.