How to Use an AAC System

How to Use an AAC System

Last time we talked to you about augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). We explained what it is, and how your child might benefit from using an AAC system.


Today we want to talk about how to use an AAC system.


How To Encourage Your Child to Use It


One thing many parents want to know is, “How can I encourage my child to use their AAC system at home?” The simple answer is that you show them how to use it. If you have an iPad device you will want to model using it. You can talk with your speech therapist about which words to model and how. Every time you use the AAC system at home you are showing your child that it is a valid way to communicate.


How You Can Model AAC For Your Child


You can model using an AAC in a variety of ways. You can use it in reading together, cooking together, playing with your child’s favorite toy, going through routines together—even watching TV!


For example, let’s say your therapist has told you that your child is working on WH questions. At home, perhaps you and your child are getting ready to go to the pool. You might open up your iPad AAC to the “places” buttons and ask “Where are we going to go?” while you also press the “where” and “go” buttons. Then your child will press the “where” and “go” to imitate you. You can then help them find the button for “pool” and show them that you are going to the pool. Then you let them imitate you by having them press the buttons for “go” and “swimming pool.”


After that, you might ask them, “Who is going with us?” Again, as you say the word “who” you press the button for “who,” and as you say the word “go” you press the button for “go.” Then your child will take his turn, choosing the buttons for “who” and “go,” and maybe adding the button for “family.”


Then you could ask them, “What are we going to take with us?” while pressing the “what” button. They can then choose the buttons for a variety of things, like a bathing suit or sandals. You would then model back to them, “Yes! We are taking our bathing suit and sandals.”


At Home


This a great way to model using AAC at home!


We also want to talk about something called core vocabulary. You can talk to your speech therapist for specifics on what to model, but core vocabulary is where we start with emerging communicators. Core vocabulary is words that you can use across many different contexts. When we were showing you how to model the AAC system we used the word “go” a lot. This is a word that can be used in many different contexts. Some other examples of core vocabulary are “up,” “down,” “open,” “more.” Your speech therapist can let you know the specific words they’re working on in therapy so that you can use them at home.

Terminology To Use


When you refer to your child’s communication device to your child or in front of other professionals, please consider using the word “voice” instead of “iPad.” For example, when your child leaves the room you might say, “Oh, don’t forget your voice!” This reinforces to the child that this is their way to communicate, and it’s valid and important. We also stress that it’s important that you have your communication device available for your child at all times, just like they would have their own voice. This is very important and it also helps them with the generalization of skills from one context to another.


Everyone deserves a voice and has something important to say. AAC is a great way to help your child communicate in their environment!

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