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Sunday, September 24, 2017

So, How Long Does it Take?

Almost every time I do an evaluation or consult with a family, they ask; “How long does this take? When will he be able to communicate?
Unfortunately, there is no answer to that question. To be blunt; it takes as long as it takes. Every child is different, every classroom is different, every family is different. And even if I knew someone was going to provide Aided Input /modeling consistency for X hours per day, I still couldn’t answer that question.

The truth is, none of us can predict the rate at which a child develops skills; particularly communication and language skills. Even neurotypical kids learn at different rates. And for the kids we’re working with, language is probably the most difficult thing we ask them to do.

We do know a few things, however, that influence the course of intervention.

1. Model: The more consistently we provide aided input, the faster our AAC users learn what the symbols mean, where to find them, and - most importantly - when and how to use them.
Use of Aided Language stimulation or Aided Input cannot be stressed enough.  It makes a huge difference.
And I know there are communication partners out there saying, "But I've been doing this, like, forever!" (note the Valley Girl whine in the tone of voice, here).

I wish I could say, "Do this for 6 months and all will be revealed." But it doesn't work that way, much as we'd like it to.
And I can honestly say I've had students who "get it" inside of a couple of weeks, and others who are still struggling after a couple of months - or years.  There are so many variables, as each student is unique unto himself.

2. Tempt and Sabotage:  There need to be sufficient opportunities in the student's day to both observe models and use the system.  Some say it takes 200 opportunities per day for an AAC user to become competent.  

Those 200 opportunities should be taking place inside of the naturally occurring situations or contexts of the student's day.  But sometimes the environment isn't stimulating enough, or the teacher talks too much, or the student just requires additional structured opportunities to communicate.

So, what can we do?  We can introduce communication temptations into their day.  Provide activities or items that are motivating, and about which the student will need to communicate something to get to them.
Sabotage or engineer the environment. Put favored items just out of reach or away.  Create a 'need to communicate' in order to get to an item, activity, or person or place.

Look at all of your interaction and communication with your AAC user and look for all of the ways you can infuse real communication into those opportunities and model how to do it.

Keep modeling and.........keep on talking! 

1 comment:

  1. All the YESssses to this post, Susan! We have an amazing PRC rep in my county who is a parent of a child with a device. She gets it. She is very frank with the families that introducing a device is a process and it might not be a quick one, but it is a worthy one!!