Photo from Unsplash
Originally Posted On: https://getgoally.com/blog/aac-speech-device-whats-right-for-your-child/
As a parent, you have a lot of decisions to make. If you’re the parent of a child who is not speaking, choosing the right communication support is at the top of that list. With so many AAC speech devices to choose from, how do you know which one is the best fit? Here are a few things to consider on your quest to find the best AAC speech device for your child’s needs and goals.
Partner with an AAC Professional
As you explore AAC options, consider three factors: language, access, and personal preferences. You’ll need to find an AAC solution that provides enough language to support what your child wants to say now, and what they need to learn as they grow. You’ll also need to consider your child’s vision and physical skills (AKA “access”) to help you decide how to display language on an AAC device. Many children are able to access words on an AAC speech device by simply touching the screen. Others may need support to use their fingers to communicate or may need alternative ways to get to their words. For example, they may need to use accessibility switches or eye gaze. A speech therapist, special educator, or another professional with an AAC certification is an important resource as you search.
AAC professionals undergo training to observe your child. They know how to ask the right questions to help you make the best AAC choice among the overwhelming sea of options. This professional can guide you and your family as you work to integrate an AAC system into your lives. They can help by providing support and strategies at each step of the journey.
Choose an AAC Option With Core Words
Finding an AAC system that has the right language for your child’s needs is the most important factor. In this context, the term language refers not only to the language that you speak at home. It also refers to the types and number of words that are available to use on your communication device. AAC apps tend to offer lots of options, but choose an option with core vocabulary. Core words are those that all of us use to say most of what we want to say throughout the day. There are about 500 core words in total that are “at the core” of everyday communication.
This small set of functional words allows kids to communicate quickly in lots of different situations. This makes core vocabulary a powerful starting point for emerging AAC communicators. Luckily, many AAC devices offer you the ability to add personal words that are important to your family, so you can build on your child’s foundation. You’ll want to make sure that your AAC speech device of choice has individual words available – not just stock phrases or sentences. This is because these are the building blocks of creating novel sentences to express a range of ideas. Of course, sometimes we need to communicate quickly or we need to say something, in the same way, each time. (e.g, Hi! ! What’s your name?). Having a way to add some quick social and safety phrases to the system is also a good feature to look for.
Try a Few AAC Devices Before You Decide
Along with understanding your child’s needs, the needs of your family have a big impact on AAC success. You’ll never know how an AAC speech device fits into your family if you don’t give it a try. Many AAC manufacturers provide a way for families to take their products for a spin. More and more AAC app developers are also offering options that allow families to try AAC programs at home before they make a forever choice. You might consider comparing at least two options during your AAC test drive, keeping the following questions in mind as you explore the fit of each:
- Does this system have all the words I want my child to have access to?
- Is it easy enough for me and others in my family to add new words when we need to?
- Can I see myself using this tool each day to provide a model of how my child can use it?
- Does the tool physically fit into our daily life size, physical features, battery life, etc…?
- Does my child seem to like this tool? If not, why might this be?
- Do I like this tool? If not, why might this be?
Choose an AAC Talker to Fit Your Family
You’ll want to use a trial AAC system across your daily activities, including when you’re at home, at school, and out and about. This widespread try-out helps you and your AAC team discover needs and issues that you might not have discussed at the start of your AAC search. After all, it’s hard to anticipate all the things, all of the time, right? As you try each tool on for size, focus on exploring the ins and outs of the software on your own. Explore the words, where to find them, and how to add new ones. When you and your child are trying the AAC device out together, keep it fun and low pressure. Use the tool to model words for your child, and observe how they respond.
It Comes Down to Your Child’s Preference
When considering a handful of AAC speech devices that meet your child’s needs, the best tiebreaker is a robust tool that fits into your preferences. If you don’t get the warm fuzzies about an AAC tool right out of the gate, talk with your AAC support team to explore why this might be. Is there a better tool to fit your family’s needs? Do you need more coaching to help you how this tool might fit into your day-to-day parenting and teaching? No matter what AAC speech device you choose, remember that learning to communicate is a journey that you can’t reach overnight. Finding the right tool is a great start, but dedication and patience will be essential to realizing success with your family’s new AAC sidekick.
Article by Tanna Neufeld, MS, CCC-SLP
Try Goally’s AAC Speech Device for Your Family
Goally’s AAC app is an excellent option for many families. It’s easy to set up and has an expert-informed design. With our easy-to-use web portal, you can customize your talker in under 10 minutes. Designed by a Speech-Language Pathologist with 20 years of experience, our AAC is trusted by clinicians and parents everywhere. Goally also has word games, customizable visual schedules, checklists, reminders, and more! Try Goally today and us know how it goes in the comments below!