Let’s Talk AAC Blog: Stories and Strategies for Success

PRC consultants and other AAC Professionals share stories of strategies and success.

"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got" Mark Twain

Posted August 10, 2016 in Stories and Strategies for Success

Perhaps you are a speech pathologist reading this blog today? Perhaps you are a teacher? Or maybe a parent? Are you a nurse? No matter what role you may play, if you're reading this blog it means you are likely supporting an individual who uses a speech generating device as his or her main method of communication, and I have a challenge for you!

_ By Jennifer Monahan, M.A., CCC-SLP_

Jenny Monahan

Perhaps you are a speech pathologist reading this blog today? Perhaps you are a teacher? Or maybe a parent? Are you a nurse? No matter what role you may play, if you're reading this blog it means you are likely supporting an individual who uses a speech generating device as his or her main method of communication, and I have a challenge for you!Often when we first expose a young user to their communication device screen and vocabulary, we use the PRC vocabulary builder tool to slowly/gradually unlock word choices rather than exposing the user to ALL word choices on day one, which can be overwhelming and lead to frustration.If you're not yet familiar with the vocabulary builder approach I would like to suggest you view the following YouTube video before you read any further.

Here is an example of an 84 location screen setup with the LAMP vocabulary program and ALL keys exposed:

screenshot

Compared below to an example of the same 84 location vocabulary screen showing only two words (LITTLE and BIG) unlocked:

screenshot

While this approach certainly increases the success rate when first learning, and helps to build confidence with new words in isolation, one danger is that words aren't exposed at a rate that is fast enough to hold the interest of the child using the device. As a speech pathologist myself, I have always felt much more comfortable exposing words I knew the child understood and was familiar with first while waiting on words I felt might be more challenging for the child to learn. I still follow this approach today, but over time I have learned that there is always room for something "unknown". Something we may feel is just slightly out of reach. By using the vocabulary builder approach to help move a child forward, we must always remember to keep enticing the child to explore vocabulary. Therefore, I recommend keeping at least one "unknown" word exposed and ready to be explored at all times.

For example you may have unlocked the words EAT, DRINK, MORE and STOP on a child's device and you feel comfortable knowing that they are consistently being used and are understood by this child. What happens if we unlock an "unknown" word? A word such as "I" or a word such as "that"? What will happen if an unknown word is unlocked? I encourage you to try exposing at least one word for exploration on a consistent basis….and see what happens. I have been amazed at the way in which the new word almost begins to almost teach itself. Those in the child's world will find ways, naturally, to help the word take on meaning. They'll respond to it, and find ways to reinforce it. It's human nature. Just try and see!Finally, if you are in need of suggestions for the next "unknown" word to expose on someone's vocabulary, take a look at this list of the top 100 most frequently used words in our language.

You'll find the top 100 words and more in the Unity and LAMP vocabulary programs!