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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Communication Everywhere?!

“Spring has sprung. The grass has ris.’  I wonder where the birdies is.”  You don’t hear that too often anymore, but “back in my day” (the Dark Ages, that is) you used to hear it all the time.   
Here in Southern California it’s almost always time to go outside, but I do remember those cold Massachusetts days hoping that Spring was coming soon.

Warm weather means walks through the neighborhood, picnics and beach trips, kite flying and playground fun, trips to the park and evenings on the porch.  

Do you know what else all of those things mean?  Great opportunities to expand your child’s communication skills.  Especially if you have a child who is using AAC (augmentative-alternative communication) and needs practice in finding and using the varied vocabulary that those experiences need.

Many kids with disabilities don’t get the same experiences as other children; thus they don’t acquire the background knowledge needed when these topics or experiences come up in conversations or books.  And they don’t learn the unique vocabulary of each of these experiences.

Our kids with significant communication needs really need for us to give them genuine communication opportunities in real-life situations.  So don’t go to the beach or the park, or even for a walk around the block, without their AAC system.

I recently took a walk around the block with a young man and his AAC system.  When we got to the end of the block, I pointed to the Stop sign and told him “We have to stop,” using both spoken words and core words in his AAC system.  I was also able to model use of describing words; such as bright, pretty, and broken.

Smarty Symbols; all rights reserved

One of my all-time favorite activities when my kids were little was going on a picnic.  Preparing the food was more fun than chore when the objective was a picnic.  Grab the toys, pack the blankets, and head outside.

We always had one or two favorite picnic spots.  When my son was really young we lived near a great little park with a pond and ducks, and one particularly mean goose.  Having a picnic invariably meant having lots of feathered friends around us, just waiting for the crumbs.

For your AAC user, this experience would have engendered the words careful, bite, loud, soft, run, eat, and even fight

If you have  an emerging communicator use these fun activities to have meaningful interactions with the child. Remember to model using relevant vocabulary, core words, and lots of comments.  What can you say when modeling?

Feeding the ducks (or, in one young man’s case, feeding the sea lion): hold it, throw it, they’re hungry, don’t fight, throw more, give it to him, need more?

Flying a kite: hold tight, pick it up, run, look, it’s flying, it’s high, uh oh, it fell down, try again

Blowing bubbles: blow, blow again, big bubbles, little bubbles, catch it, pop it, uh oh, all gone, do more

Taking a walk: go, stop, watch, watch out, look there, look at that, cross now, those are pretty,  see the dog/cat/bird?, walk slowly, go fast, don’t go, that’s a tall tree 
Walking the dog: let’s go, hold tight, walk slower, walk faster, not there, go here, look there, see that?, pretty flowers, that’s nice, I like this, don’t stop, let’s turn, big tree, look, home, all done, go in

Here is a topic-specific communication board to take with you on picnics.  (Just right click to download).
Remember that activity-based communication boards do not take the place of a robust AAC system, and should never be all that a child has to use.  But they can be useful in the midst of a specific activity - as long as you have ways for your user to talk about other things, or let you know that’s what he wants to do.

Have a great Spring and Summer!  Stay sunny, and Keep on Talking!

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