I’ve been supporting a few young children who desperately want to be verbal communicators but they have multiple articulation errors that affect their intelligibility. Yes, we have introduced them to communication books and AAC apps on iPads, but these were met with resistance. The truth is, when you know the context, you can pretty much figure out what they are saying. Without context, you’re lost. A couple of these students will keep repeating their message or will search for other ways to help the listener understand, but it’s been noticed that one student is now very quick to give up with a shrug and “never mind,” and his overall communication attempts have dwindled at home and at school. Without some kind of support, all of the students may become discouraged and withdrawn, to the detriment of their self-esteem, social relationships, and academic progress.
Since none of these students are proficient readers/writers, the simplest and most effective solution was to give them a topic-setting board that can be used for to establish context and clarify misunderstood messages. With plenty of adult modeling during conversation, these students learn how to identify when they are talking about a place, a person, a TV show, etc. As their literacy skills develop, they can use the alphabet section to spell out whole words. For now, just giving the initial sound of a misunderstood word can be a big help to the listener.
Meanwhile, the students continue to receive therapy for articulation and phonology. That, plus maturation, may be all they need to become intelligible speakers. If AAC support is needed in the future, they’ve at least started down that road by using the topic-setting board. In the meantime, the topic-setting board helps to clarify their messages, reduces frustration, and keeps them talking. You can download a free copy of this topic-setting board from the Materials Exchange on Speaking of Speech.com, under the heading AAC.