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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Modeling to the Max: Using Aided Input to Teach AAC

Much has been made of using modeling to teach AAC use to children.  The term Aided Language Stimulation was first coined by Carol Goosens et al.
They said, “A language stimulation approach in which the facilitator points out picture symbols on the [individual’s] communication display with all ongoing language stimulation. Through the modeling process, the concept of using the pictorial symbols interactively is demonstrated for the individual.” (1992)

Aided Language Stimulation (ALgS) is based on the idea that babies/children learn language the same way; through the models provided by others in their environment.  If we only provide spoken input, how will they learn to use pictures?  Instead, we need to use symbols to say real things in real situations.
Language should not be a specific time in the school or home schedule.  Instead, use of language happens all the time, in all situations, and we model the use of symbols in naturally occurring contexts.  
What we don’t do is to create false scripts or testing-like situations, where we’re always probing and asking pointed questions.

How do I do this?
We start modeling where the child is currently in his communication and move 1 step ahead.  So, if the child isn’t using any words, start y modeling single words.  If the child is using single words, begin modeling 2-word combinations.
Begin with the end in mind.  The child may be limited in his communication now, but where do you expect him to be functioning in a long-term objective?  I usually think about beginning with a 36 or 40 location set-up for children who are emerging. I might hide some of those keys early on, but I want to have them in their “reserved spaces” so that location of the symbols is static. (See my post on stability of location)

When you’re modeling, think beyond “I want.”  Making requests is often the first thing we teach, so that children can get their wants and needs met and make choices or requests.  But too often that’s where people stop.  And there are so so many more reasons to communicate.  What happens when the child is hurt or sick? Or when someone has been mean or is annoying?  How do they ask for something “different?” 

We should be modeling greetings, asking and answering questions, expressing feelings, making comments, and more.  

We should also be modeling self-talk.  By being verbal about what we’re doing to find symbols/words or make a correction the child can take in how we communicate and use language.

Model operational use of the system.  PODD is excellent at this, with the navigation conventions built into the communication book.  With electronic systems, we should be modeling how to use the ‘back’ button, the ‘clear message window’ button, and how to turn the system on and off, among other targets.  Operational competency is often forgotten.

Model while you communicate to the child in all opportunities. It's the way they learn language.  And that's what we're all about!
So, keep on talking!  And keep on modeling!
Looking for some easy to use resources to help staff with modeling core words? Try my AAC Core Word Modeling Plan Posters for Staff.

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