When you are programming many dynamic display speech generating devices, ease of navigation is just as important as vocabulary. An AAC user may have thousands of words available, but if the user has to hunt through multiple screens to find needed words, communication slows to a snail’s pace, and the connection with the listener is strained or even lost. Many AAC software applications do a pretty good job of anticipating what words might be coming next in a sentence and may automatically move to a different screen to provide access to those selections; however, I often find I need to make changes in this navigation to facilitate faster communication for my students.
When you program a cell on a dynamic display device, you have three choices:
- you can dwell on that screen, meaning that activating the cell won’t cause the screen to change. This is the best choice when the AAC user needs immediate access to other words on the same screen.
- you can move on to a different screen. Touch “I want” and the screen will change to a selection of logical options to continue the thought, such as “that,” “more,” “it,” “you,” and phrases such as “to eat,” “to go,” “to watch,” “to play.” This can greatly speed up message generation.
- you can go home, meaning that once a cell is activated, the home screen will appear. This is the optimal choice when one can’t anticipate what word choices will come next; returning to the home screen provides access to all of the categories: questions, people, time, places, groups, social, core words, etc., and it eliminates the need for the user to hit the “back” or “home” button to get there.
Just because this dynamic navigation may be preprogrammed in AAC software, don’t assume that it is the best for your student, or that it can’t be changed to improve the flow of communication. Write out sentences that your student might say when engaged in a conversation, participating in the classroom, or reading a book. Make those sentences yourself on the device. Do you find yourself continually hitting the “back,” “home,” or other cells to navigate to the next words, or can you adjust the built-in navigation to make the message generation more efficient? As you program new vocabulary into a device, always ask yourself: “Should this cell dwell, move on, or go home?” The only way to answer this question is to try it out yourself. Small adjustments in navigation can make a very big difference in how smoothly and quickly a message can be generated. In this fast-paced world, the more efficiently the AAC user can get his/her message out, the more likely the listener will stay engaged in that interaction and be willing to engage in the future.