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Sunday, September 8, 2019

What a Difference a Morpheme Makes

You know what a morpheme is, don’t you?  It is defined as the smallest unit of speech that carries meaning.  According to dictionary.com, it is “any of the minimal grammatical units of a language, each constituting a word or meaningful part of a word, that cannot be divided into smaller independent grammatical parts, as the, write, or the -ed of waited.”

So when I say I want to talk about facilitating communication today, don’t mistake my message for ‘facilitated communication.’  There is a very big difference between those two, determined by the ending morphemes.



Facilitated communication is supported typing, using hand-over-hand to help the nonspeaking individual type their message.  This technique has been discredited many times over in the literature and is not at all what I’m referring to.

Facilitating communication, on the other hand, is what we do daily with our AAC users to help them acquire language and communication skills.  In order to facilitate communication, we:

  1.    Provide access to the aac system - it needs to be available all of the time. This is how this child “talks” and (s)he needs to know that communication is valued enough to be there whenever it is needed 
  2.    Provide AAC models - use aided language stimulation as much as possible. When asking questions during an activity, highlight key words by using the aac system
  3.    Provide opportunities for the child to take a turn - i.e. by pausing after each turn you take. Don’t be the only one “talking”
  4.    Pause/expectant delay - give the child time to process, time to formulate a response. Looking expectant while pausing lets the child know you expect a response
  5.    Ask open-ended questions - and wait for the answer before you provide it; if necessary, you can answer the question then provide a prompt for the child to imitate the answer. Asking Wh-questions instead of yes/no questions allows the child to learn higher-level responses.
  6.    Prompt those responses - providing verbal prompts lets the child know what they are supposed to do.

 Begin with routine activities. Many routine activities have a set beginning - middle - end that are predictable, use words that are predictable. This makes it easier for the child.
Other activities are a little less predictable but can easily provide communication opportunities.

Start using ALgS (Aided Language Stimulation) with one activity. When you’re comfortable, add another activity/time.  Keep adding activities throughout the day until the strategies are used all of the time.  This helps keep the overwhelmed feeling down. Just take one step at a time.  Soon, you’ll be off and running.

In case you don't already have a copy, grab my free Being a Good Partner to an AAC User handout here.

In the meantime, keep on talking!





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