• Ms. Susan

Be Brave! How to Model Augmentative-Assistive Communication like a Boss


It takes up to 150 models before a child will use a target word on his SGD independently.


It's a perilous task, right? Not only do you have to teach your child to communicate, but now you have this tablet to "help". It has so many options, so many features and buttons... it's overwhelming. How in the world are you going to learn this tool and be able to teach its function?


Deep breath. Stay in this moment; avoid jumping ahead to the anxious future. Take another deep breath. You got this.


The first thing I recommend when parents get a new speech generating device (also known as: SGD) is to open up the box and use it! Once it's set up with the assistance of your SLP or ATP, try and use it for a solid 2-6 hours per day. This will help familiarize you to both the shortcomings and benefits of the new device. You're improved fluency and ease with using the device will surely translate into better results. It's worth the time, trust me.


Think about how you learned to speak. Think about how other children you've watch grow up; how did they learn to "use their words"? Was it through someone directly telling them "Say apple! If you want the apple, you have to tell me 'apple',"? Or was it from being a little sponge, imitating the words and sounds around them, sometimes to the chagrin of her parents? Perhaps a mix of both?


When starting off with a new device, keep this typical pattern in mind. We refer to this as "aided input" or "aided communication". If your goal is a one-word utterance using the SGD, model just that single word while playing or working with your child.


Example with a car activity.

Parent: "I want to (go)! Vroom, Vroom!" and go is activated on the SGD while said verbally. Parent then pushes the car around and pauses for child to attempt stopping or taking the car. "You (want) car?" Again, want is the message activated on the SGD.

Child: "Want" on SGD. Parent gives the car to the child and watches him play with the car, while planning the next sabotage to gain more communication.

Parent: "(Stop)! Uh oh! There's a block in the way! We need to (go)!" Put a block and stop the car from going.

Child: Gets fussy with the challenge.

Parent:"(Go! Go!) Move outta the way! Beep, beep!" Stay playful! Take another car to line up behind, forming a mini traffic jam.

Child: "Go!" Parent now moves the blockade and lets the traffic jam pass.


Same example, but modeling 2 word phrases:

Parent: "I (want to (go)! Vroom, Vroom!" now want and go are activated on the SGD while said verbally. Parent then pushes the car around and pauses for child to attempt stopping or taking the car. "You (I want) car?" This part will get a little tricky. Your child is learning through modeling and imitation. You're verbally going to say "you want" but on the device activate I want to help build on the imitation process.

Child: "I Want" on SGD. Parent gives the car to the child and watches him play with the car, while planning the next sabotage to gain more communication.

Parent: "(Stop)! Uh oh! There's a block in the way! We (want) to (go)!" Put a block and stop the car from going.

Child: Gets fussy with the challenge.

Parent:"(Go! Go!) Move outta the way! Beep, beep!" Stay playful! Take another car to line up behind, forming a mini traffic jam.

Child: "Want go! Go!" Parent now moves the blockade and lets the traffic jam pass.


If your child happens to verbally say any of the target words, go ahead and honor that! Verbalizations, signs, gestures and SGD activations are all communication. Our goal here isn't to make sure your child knows where every word is on their device. Our goal is to build a communicator and a thinker. If she can communicate her message verbally, why not let this suffice? Verbal and signs are the quickest and most portable form of communication. An SGD is an important supplement to how your child is already communicating.


Through aided input, we give our children the power to understand their communication has many forms. By modeling device usage, we take away the stigma and hesitation the entire team may be facing. When learning our first, second, and for some third, languages, many of us probably found it was hard to use a flashcard and memorization approach. Say "hola!" this means "hello"; but that didn't give you the flexibility to understand the many other greets used in Spanish.


Keep your goals in mind; flexibility and problem solving. If you have trouble finding a word, use the word finder options while your child is watching as you talk about searching for the word, oh, it's on the tip of my tongue! Where is it? Ah ha! If you activate the wrong button, "Oops! Let me try that again!" We often say the wrong word or look for the right word in our conversations, why should AAC be any different?


Here is a great resource regarding AAC and aided input from Satillo, the makers of some awesome SGDs. If you're looking for help in implementing AAC in your daily lives, comment your questions below. I'll be happy to offer some professional insight.





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