When a parent or caregiver is first starting out with their child’s communication device, they may find it complicated and overwhelming. Adding to this challenge is the fact that many speech-language pathologists do not see caregivers as often as we would like. Many SLPs provide services exclusively in daycares, preschools, and K-12 schools; we may only directly see families during IEP or evaluation meetings. Therefore, it’s important that SLPs go over the basics when caregivers first obtain their child’s AAC device. Below are some great ideas on how to teach families the basics about their child’s AAC device.
ZOOM It: Screen Sharing AAC Navigation
In an ideal world, we would be teaching all of this information in-person to families and across multiple home visits. Yet for those of us who do not provide in-home services, a ZOOM or other virtual meetup platform can allow us to share our device’s screen and demonstrate how AAC works.
AAC APP Youtube Tutorials
Another good idea is to email or text families some short youtube tutorials on the specific device and/or system the child is using. There are tutorials for systems including TouchChat, TDSnap/SnapCore, Proloquo2go, and Speak4Yourself among others. TPT Handouts such as this set also provide clear examples of how to model requests, comments, protests, descriptions, and other communicative functions on the child’s AAC device.
Vocabulary: Core & Fringe
Go over the main page sets. While parents have a manual for the device, this manual can be thick and families can’t always make the time to read the entire book. Make sure they know how to locate the core words, common actions, names, pronouns, foods, toys, and where specific interests of the child are within the AAC device.
Search Function Use
Teach caregivers how to use the search function. The search function is in pretty much every AAC system and helps parent & caregivers find words they think the child wants to say. It can be difficult to navigate every page looking for one specific word so the search is very helpful! And sometimes when a search yields no results, that means a parent or family member must custom add that vocabulary into the device.
Adding and Customizing New Vocabulary
Teach how to add new vocabulary that is not already in the system or alternatively to add existing vocabulary into an additional relevant location. Because each AAC user is different, they will most definitely want and/or need to add words or phrases to their device.
Password, Apps, & Guided Access
Explain and make decisions about password protection, access to other apps like Youtube, and whether the family would like to set up guided access. To password protect the device and therefore prevent other folks for using it, the AAC user will obviously need to know the password.
The decision on whether the device would include other apps really depends on the child’s communication style, the parent philosophy, and the rules of the setting in which the device would be used (for instance, many schools may not allow a child to have Youtube open in class). While video apps may be deemed distractions by some, others hold that many nonspeaking children communicate via video clips- particularly gestalt language processors.
Guided Access keeps an AAC user exclusively in the communication app unless a specific password is input. This may be a way for families to allow part-time or partial access to other apps like Youtube but prevent these apps from being used excessively or at times in which the apps are not permitted. Guided Access can also be helpful for AAC users who frequently kick themselves out of the AAC app by accident. All adults working with the AAC user should know the password for guided access, but the student should not know it.
Well, this about sums about the basics of explaining a high-tech AAC device to parents and caregivers. If you have trouble communicating with your families who utilize AAC, this is definitely the year to “up your game” and provide clarity to the learning and modeling AAC process.