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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Stage 2 NLA
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Stage 2 NLA

Image by Freepik

Last time we asked: is our child ready tp move to Stage 2 NLA (Natural Language Acquisition stage 2) and we looked at how we can know. Now we know: he/she is ready, they are mixing and matching those scripts quite liberally! Hurrah!

So for example we hear phrases like:

  • ‘let’s go’+ ‘downstairs’
  • ‘it’s’ + ‘downstairs’
  • ‘I see it’ + ‘downstairs‘
  • ‘I want to’ + ‘shoes downstairs’ (I want to put my shoes on downstairs)

To recap, it’s important to listen out to a variety of contexts because if we only hear the single version of a gestalt —this is so great, hurrah!— but that’s not yet Stage 2.

What we can now do on a daily basis to help and support at this time:

1. We need to offer more ‘mix and match’ phrases to help our child establish this new way of communicating.

Good phrases:

  • It’s … raining / cooking / eating / washing / brushing
  • That’s … great / cool / amazing / wow / so good
  • Let’s … see / look / go / run / chase
  • How’bout … some food / playing / I’ll chase / sleeping / we read a book
  • I see a … bird / large car / fire engine
  • I wanna … have a biscuit / have a book / have a snuggle
  • We’re … going out / going home / going in the car / going upstairs

Here in my video clip of train play I use:

  • Let’s go
  • It’s going up the hill
  • It’s coming down
  • Ooops it falls!
  • It’s stopping
  • Let’s put on another parcel
  • Ready steady go
  • Off we go
  • It’s come off!
  • Let’s fix it
  • I can do it
  • I don’t need help

You can offer these gestalts either with an AAC as you can see me do in the video clip or you can just verbally offer these.

2. Watch out for Pronoun confusion or reversal:

Gestalt kids repeat gestalts, so we don’t want to create ‘pronoun reversal’.

Instead model from a:

  • first person perspective: ‘I’ / ‘Our’ / ‘Us’
  • joint perspective: ‘We’ / ‘Let’s’ or a
  • neutral perspective: ‘It’

You can turn almost any sentence into a good language model once you get used to it. And you can avoid ‘you’ and ‘your’ at the same time!

So instead of saying, ‘Do you want to go to the park?’

You could say:

  • We wanna go to the park?
  • Let’s go out?
  • Shall we go out / to the park?

3. Start providing ‘variation’ in your language modelling:

Instead of just modelling something one way, start thinking about offering a pattern in a couple of other ways, in a couple of different situations, then several ways in several different situations.

Example: once you hear your child saying: ‘it’s raining’ and you know it’s a mitigation, because you don’t often say ‘it’s raining’, or haven’t said it in a while and you know your child says other ‘it’s’ phrases.

Repeat: ‘it’s raining!’

Then: ‘it’s’ + ‘raining hard’ / ‘it’s wet out there’ / ‘It’s’ + ‘raining lot’s’.

Then later think of other combinations for ‘it’s’ + ‘something’:

  • (rice) ‘It’s’ + ‘cooking’
  • (water/tap) ‘It’s’ + ‘running’
  • (radio) ‘It’s’ + ‘singing
  • (dog) ‘It’s’ + ‘peeing’ / ‘it’s’ + ‘running’ / ‘it’s’ + ‘jumping’

In my train video clip:

  • Let’s go
  • It’s going
  • Let’s make it go
  • Ready steady go
  • Oops its gone

4. Use natural intonation that shows you really mean what you’re saying.

You can be animated or try for musical if your child prefers that / doesn’t mind you singing —they might not like it if their hearing is pitch perfect and your singing is off key…—

  • ‘I’m’ + ‘trying to find you!’ (animated, goofy face)
  • ‘I’m’ +’ getting tired!’ (exaggerated stretch and yawn)
  • ‘I’m’ + ‘catching up with you!’ (animated goofy)
  • ‘I’m’ + ‘gonna get you!’ (animated goofy)
  • ‘I’m’ + ‘sad right now’ (exaggerated face and tone of voice)

5. USE SILENCE!

Important, I might not have said this before but we need to hold back sometimes (hard I know) and not constantly offer models. Let our child sit in a bit of silence with us there just observing and waiting for their own offers. This is a very important point. Silence is golden sometimes. Try it out. I am not talking about the silence that comes with a person scrolling on their phone though, we do need to be present and receptive.

You will see this works wonders!

Do get in touch if you would like some in-person or on-line 1:1 support with this. It can be overwhelming to figure it all out alone.

You can also check my friend’s lovely handmade jewelry on her website.


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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How do we know our Gestalt Learner is moving to Stage 2?
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How do we know our Gestalt Learner is moving to Stage 2?

Image by Freepik

Is our student ready to move to NLA 2 (Natural Language Acquisition stage 2)?

We know that the GLP (Gestalt Language Processor) will move into the next stage when they are ready. But are they now ready you might think? When are they ready? How do I know? If you are not sure whether your child is ready to move forward then go and see your GLP trained Speech Therapist. Together you can work out what the next steps are and how to help your child settle into NLA 2. It’s very exciting!!

Tip

The first useful tip: keep a language sample of phrases your child says. This is very helpful!

You might want to check with your Speech Therapist and offer some language sampling you have taken so they can help you figure out where your child is currently. Always keep an Utterance Journal that you can share with your Speech Therapist and with others who look after your child.

Basically, we want to listen out for phrases our child says that you or nursery don’t say routinely; that way you can presume that this is not an echo but a mixing together of two chunks of gestalts. Watch out for those coco melon phrases though: double check it really isn’t an NLA 1 gestalt that is copied verbatim from a favourite you tube video.

You can best support your child best by listening, and thus figuring out what your child is TRYING TO SAY. Often your child might skip over the parts of gestalts they don’t want to say. This is common in older kids who have long gestalts, sometimes even whole episodes or whole stories!

Try and tease out their shorter mitigations and then focus on practicing and modelling those as they are so much more useful!

So back to our question: are they ready?

Are their gestalts covering a variety of situations and contexts?

Make a note in your journal to see what the backgrounds are to each phrase you ear, so for example:

  • Transitioning: ‘it’s time for the park’ ‘what’s next’ ‘shoes on’
  • Bed Time: ‘we need to wash’ ‘let’s get in (bath/bed)’ ‘ready for our book’
  • Toilet/nappy: ‘we need the potty’ ‘where’s the potty’ ‘let’s wash hands’
  • Mealtime: ‘time to eat’ ‘go get a spoon’ ‘yummy num num’
  • Park/going out: ‘look at the squirrel’ ‘funny doggy’ ‘I wanna swing’
  • At the shops: ‘let’s get the trolley’ ‘lots of veggies’ ‘no tomatoes’ ‘ooh long queue’ ‘back to the car’

And… does the child use the phrases for a variety of functions?

  • labelling
  • providing information
  • calling out
  • affirming
  • requesting
  • protesting
  • directing

We need to offer lots of similar language models so that in their own time our children can extract/mitigate useful phrases for what they want to express. The more similar utterances a child hears around him the more he/she can discover the communalities. Once the child has a small range of phrases, he/she can mix them up and create semi-original own phrases.

If the answer is YES!! our child has perhaps not all but a range of functions and a range of situations where they use a variety of easily mitigable gestalts then yes they are ready for moving to stage 2 of NLA!

Hurrah!

Keeping a journal of what your child is saying and in what circumstance is crucial to help with our ongoing detective work!

Next time I will be looking at how we can help our NLA 2 GLP produce even more of their own mix and match phrases.

If you need help with your child, please do not hesitate to contact me.


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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