Improving Literacy Skills for Children Using AAC

 

What is AAC?

The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) writes, “Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write.”

What are the types of AAC systems?

  • Unaided: using body language, gestures, and/or sign language
  • Aided:
    • No-tech or Low-tech: paper and pencil; photographs with a printed label; communication binders
    • High-tech: speech generating devices such as iPads

 

AACs are a great way for children to become empowered communicators!  When introduced to their AAC system, it is crucial the child’s family, teachers, and therapists model the system as much as possible in order for the child to learn how to navigate through the device effectively.

One way to model the system, is through story time! Using books to promote early language and literacy development for AAC users is not only fun and engaging, but also effective in improving vocabulary. Research shows using interactive book reading intervention improves overall language development, so let’s read!

 

“During the interactions, adults provide children with opportunities to develop vocabulary, discourse, comprehension, and pre-literacy skills. With repeated readings of familiar stories, children have the opportunity to develop competence in talking about the story and taking meaning from the text, and they gradually assume more active roles in storybook interactions” (Light & Kent-Walsh, 2003).

Books expose young children to familiar and novel adjectives, verbs, and nouns while  encouraging them to use these words to participate in reading. When reading, it’s important to comment and ask questions. Here are a few examples below:

 

ADULT “I see a horse! What do you see?” (Models pointing to icon/photo if needed or allow child to independently select icon/photo)
CHILD: Allow for child to select appropriate icon/photo or have adult model by selecting the appropriate icon/photo with child’s finger

(Child selects icon/photo of “horse”)

ADULT “A horse! Good job finding the word horse! What about this boy. What is he doing?” (Model pointing to icon/photo if needed or allow child to independently select icon/photo)
CHILD Allow for child to select appropriate icon/photo or have adult model by selecting the appropriate icon/photo with child’s finger

(Child selects icon/photo of “eat”)

ADULT “He is eating. You are right!”

 

If you are interested in learning more about augmentative and alternative communication or ways to promote language and literacy development, please contact Live Oak Children’s Center to set up an appointment with a speech-language pathologist.


References:

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/AAC

Light, J. C., & Kent-Walsh, J. (2003, May). Fostering Emergent Literacy for Children Who Require AAC. Retrieved August 29, 2017, from Fostering Emergent Literacy for Children Who Require AAC Janice Light – http://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2292381

 

Justine Langkopp, M.A., CCC-SLP
Courtney Harrison, M.S., CCC-SLP