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Tuesday 21 Nov 2017

Is augmentative communication obvious to the uninformed?

child using aac device

Article by Stephanie Ekis, MS, CCC-SLP

I saw a quote the other day and it said, “Nothing is obvious to the uninformed.” I love this quote as it can easily be applied to so many experiences that we encounter regarding using augmentative communication for children with autism. Dictionary.com defines obvious as:

ob•vi•ous [ob-vee-uh s] – adjective: easily seen, recognized, or understood; open to view or knowledge.

When a child receives their very first communication device (e.g., Xpress), the way in which the system works is probably not obvious to them. Sure, it is obvious that there are pictures, letters and words available on the screen. It is obviously technology. It is obvious that you should do something with it. But it is probably not obvious to the child how they are supposed to use it for functional communication, language development and literacy learning. That is where we (e.g., educators, parents, therapists, etc.) come in. If our children with autism are uninformed about communication opportunities – it might not be obvious. Many children have probably figured out other means of communication (sometimes appropriate, sometimes not) and it is not obvious that the augmentative communication system might be more effective at times. Appropriate teaching techniques (e.g., partner augmented input) and opportunities to practice (e.g., Selecting Activities) are key to helping your child understand how communication works.

When describing how AAC works, I often use a knitting analogy. It goes something like this…I can easily recognize yarn. I know what knitting needles are. I understand the concept of knitting. I even wear knitted articles of clothing. But if you sit a pair of knitting needles and some yarn in front of me and tell me to knit a scarf – well, it’s just isn’t going to happen. Same goes for a child and a communication device. Just because it is in front of them – doesn’t mean that they know what to do with it. If a child (or staff member, for that matter) is uninformed about how to use the communication device, then we as educators, parents and therapists must be the informant. If everyone on the team is new to augmentative communication, then we owe it to our children (and ourselves) to become informed. Take things one step at a time, and you will be well on your way to creating successful communication opportunities for your child, obviously.

If you would like to learn more about augmentative communication and how it can help your child, please review the Communication Solutions for Children with Autism brochure. If you would like to receive a demonstration of augmentative communication devices, click here to find your local DynaVox representative.

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