Top 3 Tips for Using AAC at Home

We often hear from parents that they don’t use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) at home because they know what their child is saying. Parents know their child best – there is no doubt! However, we can’t assume our AAC users don’t have more to say! Using AAC at home also gives our users more practice with their system, so they can use it more independently and with other people who are less familiar with them and might not know what they are saying. These tips are intended for individuals who are in still learning their AAC system and are not yet independent communicators. Below are our top 3 tips for using AAC at home:

1. Always Have It Available

  • Where is your AAC device at home?
  • It’s important to give your AAC user access to an AAC system all the time. That means that it’s charged, within reach or always in the same place.

2. Model, Model, Model

  • As we know, children learn to talk by hearing their parents and other people around them speak. The same goes for AAC learners! They also need to see what using an AAC system looks like when communicating with others. There is sometimes a misconception that AAC is “magic”, and a student should be able to use it fluently right away but that is far from the truth. Students need to be taught how to use their systems. We cannot expect them to learn to use AAC without being shown how to use it.
  • You can model their system by pointing to words as you talk with your AAC user. Modeling using AAC is sometimes called Aided Language Stimulation (ALS) and is one of the most valuable tools when learning AAC!
  • Being a caregiver that knows your child best is extremely valuable when learning AAC! Why? You can interpret your child’s communication better than anyone else and model language for them that fits that situation.
  • Start by modelling the most important or core words, you do not need to model every single word you say. Always model at or slightly above your AAC user’s language level.
  • AAC users with Down syndrome especially benefit from repetition when learning their system. Modeling AAC within routines will provide them with multiple opportunities to see AAC being used. You can model the same words in different routines or model different words in the same routine. It totally depends on your level of comfortability and your AAC user. The main takeaway here is to make sure to provide them with multiple models of words so they can learn them and use them when they are ready. Which brings me to my next tip…

3. Find opportunities to use it in your day!

  • Once you feel comfortable modeling, find natural opportunities to use it in your daily routine! Your AAC user will learn their device faster, the more you build in opportunities for them to use it. And what better way to build in natural opportunities, than at home! Think about all the different words you could model!
  • The more opportunities they get to practice, the more likely they will generalize their language skills with different activities and people!

Talk About:

  • What or who you see
  • Whose turn it is
  • What happened
  • What you want or must do
  • What you are doing
  • Where to put things
  • you like / Don’t like
  • Feelings and emotions
  • Categories of words like animals, clothing, food, etc.
  • Action words like see, want, go, put, have, stop, play etc.
  • Location words like up, down, in, out, on, under, etc.
  • Description words like fast, slow, big, small, colours, etc.
  • If you want to continue (more/again) or not (all-done)

The opportunities are truly endless!