Incorporating AAC is important because we want our students or clients to be able to express themselves across a variety of contexts. As Speech Language Pathologists, we are only with them for a specific amount of time. Therefore, we must rely on coaching parents, caregivers, teachers, and other professionals on how to incorporate AAC in order to generalize communication skills. Typically, we coach parents, caregivers, or teachers on incorporating AAC throughout daily activities such as snack and circle time, but now we are going to dive deeper by incorporating AAC throughout Thanksgiving! So, let’s break it down...
When kids think of this holiday, what do they think of? FOOD!
I love reading the Old Lady book series so I start by pulling out There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Turkey book! As I read the book, I’ll talk about all the different things the old lady eats while I model particular words such as eat, like, not, I, more, she, etc.
Example 1: I might say “She eats the turkey. I like to eat turkey.” as I touch the picture symbols on a low-tech communication board/high-tech communication device, speak in sign language, or etc.
Example 2: I might ask “Do you like turkey?” to give them an opportunity to respond.
If my students respond by shaking their head or saying “no”, I will say something like “No. You don’t like turkey.” while modeling on their board or device to expand their utterances.
Next, I will demonstrate to the teacher how to incorporate AAC throughout meals and snacks in their classroom
I will discuss which words could be modeled and how to model and expand their utterances.
Be sure to ask if they have any questions!
Then, I will coach parents and caregivers how to incorporate AAC at home!
If their child communicates using sign language, you can start by teaching the signs for eat, I, want, like, turkey, happy, Thanksgiving, don’t like, and drink. If they use picture symbols to communicate, you can show where eat, drink, pie, more, and don’t like are located on the low-tech or high-tech communication device. *Try to give them a few words to concentrate on as we don’t want to overwhelm them* It’s important that we are always modeling language the same way our students communicate. If they communicate using sign language, then you model in sign language!
You’ll want to explain that they’re going to be modeling what they are saying and to use short, complete sentences.
Remind them that it is okay if their child doesn’t repeat the utterance after them. We are exposing them to different ways to communicate! This might be new for them!
Teach them how to expand their child’s sentences by modeling longer utterances
Give examples of when they can incorporate AAC!
Example 1: As they are loading up the plates, they can say “Yummy! I like to eat mashed potatoes.” all while modeling.
Example 2: They can ask “Do you like mashed potatoes?”. This allows a time for them to respond naturally!
Example 3: At the end of the meal, they can say “I’m all done. That was yummy!” This is a natural way to model all done.
We know that repetition is key to learning so be sure to explain the importance of repetition!
After the holiday is over, reach out to the teachers, parents/caregivers, and other professionals to see how it went! Did their child start using the picture symbols for “I like …” and “I don’t like…”? Did they imitate the signs or verbally repeat the sentences that were being modeled? I don’t know about you, but I love to hear how they are communicating at home! My students are always different communication wise at home than they are at school with me! It is important to hear how they’re communicating in an everyday environment to be able to build upon those skills in upcoming therapy sessions. This is something that you can apply to many holidays coming up such as Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and more!