How do I talk to a parent about Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC)?
By Darcy Regan, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist, Wyoming Assistive Technology Resources (WATR)
One of the most frequent questions families ask a speech language pathologist (SLP) is, “Will my child talk?” To help answer this question and involve families, we, as SLPs, can better explain augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and its positive impact on a child’s development to families. Although we can’t predict whether or not a child will develop intelligible speech, we can explain speech in the context of AAC and encourage families to try AAC strategies.
Even if the child is already receiving speech/language intervention services, there are many benefits to adding an AAC intervention; but, first we must consider an AAC Assessment. Let parents know that an assessment is a nice way to see how the child’s communication is developing in comparison to same age-peers. Also, the family may appreciate knowing that an AAC assessment covers all the bases of communication and make sure their child is getting help in all the areas of speech and language that he or she may need. Sometimes, in early intervention, suggesting an assessment eases parental concern; especially when you outline it is something that will allow them to understand how well their child is progressing. An assessment is also a great way for parents to learn ways to facilitate communication and work with their child to prepare him or her for school.
Another strategy when working with families is to explain to parents that AAC is not that much different than their own daily communication. Just as we use many different forms of communication like verbal, E-mail, and texting, AAC also uses many forms such as picture symbols, gesture, and sign. AAC makes a commitment to speech as a form of multimodal communication to make use of all the child’s communication modes as well as introducing new modes such as pictures or voice output.
If parents are hesitant about AAC, you can remind them the evidence suggests AAC may actually encourage speech development. There is no prerequisite to communication. Children learn from an early age how to communicate as caregivers respond to their early behaviors such as crying and cooing. Consistent responses to these behaviors are how child learns he or she has power over his or her environment through communication. There is no reason to wait for children in early intervention to experience communication failure before providing them with access to AAC.
You can share with parents some key facts about AAC in your meeting:
- Past research indicates that 89 percent of individuals using AAC across multiple studies have shown increases in speech; while the remaining individuals using AAC demonstrate no changes1.
- Recent emerging evidence shows that an AAC system provides opportunities for language development and can actually encourage speech development.
- A comparison of 68 toddlers showed children whose intervention sessions incorporated AAC demonstrated a higher increase in vocabulary and in spoken words than children receiving spoken intervention only2.
If you need more support in educating and working with families, Wyoming Assistive Technology Resources (WATR) can help. WATR’s comprehensive AAC assessments are family-centered, forming a partnership between the child’s family, educational team, and learning environment. Our process is dynamic and ongoing. We work closely with parents through parent interviews, inventories, and checklists to provide information to parents about their child’s current communication methods, use, and understanding of language.
WATR also offers a resource called Pointers for Parents, a guide developed for parents explaining assistive technology and the assessment process. This publication is available as a free download on our website: http://www.uwyo.edu/wind_files/docs/watr/pointers%20parents%20web.pdf
- “An Open Letter to the Parent of a Child with Speech Delays” http://niederfamily.blogspot.com/2013/04/an-open-letter-to-parent-of-child-with.html
- https://www.msu.edu/~linstrom/myths.html from Romski, M., & Sevcik, R. (2005). Augmentative communication and early intervention: myths and realities. Infants & Young Children: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Special Care Practices, 18(3), 174-185.
- “BUT…MY CHILD CAN TALK….Why a device?” (2012). Margaret Perkins PRC Consultant, Language Acquisition and Motor Planning Document
- “Responding to a Common Early AAC Question: Will my child talk?” (2003) by Cynthia Cress, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, http://cehs.unl.edu/barkley/present/cress/sidfinal.pdf
1Millar,D., Light, J., & Schlosser, R. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on speech production of individuals with disabilities: A research review. Journal of speech, language and hearing research, 49, 248-264.2Romski,M., Sevick, R., Adamson, B., Cheslock, M., Smith, A., Barker, R., & Bakeman (2010). Randomized comparison of augmented and nonaugmented language intervention for toddlers with de