Using AAC during play with your child
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Using AAC during play with your child

Playtime! It’s a magic time for exploration, learning, and connection.

If your child is struggling to use words with his/her mouth, we can always use a robust Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device to help find their words. We know that using such a device does never stop or delay children to speak with their mouths. On the contrary it helps, enormously!

Can playtime still be a blast? Absolutely! In fact, incorporating AAC into play can be a powerful way to boost communication skills, build confidence, and create a truly inclusive play experience. Here’s how to make it happen, with a focus on core words and core scripts for our GLP’s (the building blocks of communication used by everyone). In this video I am using the core word ‘IN’ and ‘MORE’.

The Magic of Core Words

Core words are the most frequently used words in everyday communication. They might be verbs like ‘want’, ‘more’, ‘go’, or ‘stop’, or adjectives like ‘happy’, ‘sad’, and ‘hot’. These words are the foundation for building sentences and expressing needs and desires. They’re perfect for children using AAC because they’re simple to understand and use.

Let’s Play! Here’s How

1. Choose Your AAC System

Many options exist! It could be a low-tech picture board with core words, such as the one you see pasted on my cabinet door in the background, or it can be a dedicated AAC app on your tablet. Here I am using the GRID app but I also love using others, such as LAMP Words for Life.

2. Make it Fun and Functional

No pressure! Integrate your AAC system seamlessly into your play routine. Here are some ideas:

  • Car/trains: Use core words to describe what the cars are doing: (‘down’, ‘go’, ‘stop’, ‘again’ ‘fast’ ‘slow’).
  • Dress-up: Use core words to choose clothes (‘want’, ‘hat’, ‘shoes’).
  • Tea Party: Use core words to ask for and share (‘more’, ‘juice’, ‘give’).
  • Building Blocks: Use core words to describe what you’re building (‘tall’, ‘big’, ‘house’).
  • Dolls/Stuffed Animals: Use core words to act out scenarios (‘sleep’, ‘eat’, ‘cry’).
  • Arts and Crafts: Use core words to describe colours (‘red’, ‘blue’), actions (‘draw’, ‘paint’), and feelings (‘happy’, ‘sad’).

If your child is a Gestalt Language Processor you will want to model meaningful, fun scripts instead of single words! As above, but use phrases:

  • Car/trains: Use scripts to describe what the cars are doing: (‘it’s going down’, ‘let’s go’, ‘make it stop’, ‘want it again’, ‘that was fast’, ‘it’s so slow’).
  • Dress-up: Use scripts to choose clothes (‘I’m gonna wear this’ ‘that’s a lovely hat’, ‘let’s choose shoes’).
  • Tea Party: Use scripts to ask for and share (‘I want more’, ‘more juice’, ‘give me this’).
  • Building Blocks: Use scripts to describe what you’re building (‘a tall one’, ‘that’s so big’, ‘it’s a house’).
  • Dolls/Stuffed Animals: Use scripts to act out scenarios (‘it’s time to sleep’, ‘let’s eat’, ‘he’s crying’).
  • Arts and Crafts: Use scripts to describe colours (‘a red crayon’), actions (‘let’s draw’, ‘I’m gonna paint’), and feelings (‘I’m happy’, ‘that’s so sad’).

3. Model, Model, Model

This is key! As you play, constantly model using your child’s AAC system.

  • Point to the picture or word or script you’re using.
  • Speak clearly and slowly while pointing.
  • When using core words for either Analytical or Gestalt Language Processors, try using good phrases. For example, instead of just saying ‘juice’, say, ‘you want more juice?’

4. Make it a Team Effort

Get everyone involved! Encourage siblings, grandparents, and caregivers to use the AAC system with your child during playtime. The more consistent the approach, the faster your child will learn and feel confident using their voice.

5. Celebrate Progress, Big and Small!

Every step counts! Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s efforts, whether it’s reaching for their AAC system or successfully using a core word. This positive reinforcement will keep them motivated.

Remember

  • Playtime should be fun, not stressful. Don’t force your child to use their AAC system. Let them lead the way and follow their interests.
  • Every child develops at their own pace. Celebrate your child’s unique communication journey.
  • Seek professional help when needed. Your SLT can provide tailored strategies and resources to support your child’s development.

By incorporating AAC and core words into playtime, you’re not just fostering communication; you’re creating a space for your child to thrive, explore, and build strong connections.

So, grab those toys, power up your AAC system, and get ready for a playtime adventure filled with fun, connection and, therefore, communication!

Don’t hesitate to contact me!

Sonja McGeachie

Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapist

Feeding and Dysphagia (Swallowing) Specialist The London Speech and Feeding Practice

The London Speech and Feeding Practice


Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.

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