How to Hook ’em into AAC

Brilliant idea alert!  It’s not uncommon for kids to be a bit hesitant to use a speech generating device. Sometimes, it is a fear of the unknown:  “What is this thing and what I am supposed to do with it?”  Sometimes, it is the fear of making a mistake – gasp! – OUT LOUD!  Sometimes, frankly, it just not motivating (boring content, teacher agenda), and doesn’t give the student any power.  And, face it, power is what communication is really all about.

I recently visited a Life Skills class of 8 boys, ages 7-10.  All of the boys have very limited verbal skills.  Five of them have been using iPads with ProLoQuo2Go for the past year and are flying with the devices, thanks to a teacher who knows how to hook them in and keep them growing with AAC.  A new student moved into the room this year.  His parents have limited proficiency in English, and he is quite reticent by nature.  He would be an ideal candidate for an AAC device, but shyness and a touch of techniphobia  resulted in a reluctance to go anywhere near the iPads.  Until, that is, this wonderful teacher came up with a plan.

She programmed into one of the iPads two pages in ProLoQuo2Go.  One had the names of the students  and teaching staff (he is learning to read so the teacher wanted him to read the student names rather than identify them by photo).  The other page had a bunch of commands in text and symbols (turn on/off the light, open/close the door, sharpen a pencil, wiggle your fingers, stomp your feet, clap 5 times, pick up a book, etc.).  Each day in Morning Meeting, as the students all sat in a circle, the new student would have the opportunity to select names, then navigate to the next page to give his classmates or teachers commands.  There was no right or wrong here — any name and any command would be acceptable.  As the student warmed to the task, the teacher added a selection of regulating and feedback messages (wait, do it now, you’re not listening, way to go!, awesome!, oops, try again, etc.).  The student quickly become adept at using the iPad, as he loved being able to control — possibly for the first time ever — the behavior of others in a clear and appropriate way.  Talk about power and motivation!  The classmates benefited from the activity, too, as they had to listen and follow directions, asking for clarification as needed, and they had a good time, too.  It was a bonding experience for boy and iPad, as well as boy and classmates.  The teacher was able to collect data on the student’s proficiency, and we are now in the process of getting the new student his very own iPad.  It can’t come soon enough;  he is always trying to elbow his way into using his classmates’ devices throughout the day.  Hooked?  You bet!


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