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May 22, 2023

What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication Therapy?

Communication is a powerful tool that helps children express themselves and form connections.

However, for children with communication impairments, such as speech and language disorders, finding alternative means of communication becomes crucial for their self-confidence, independence, and relationships.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) offers a lifeline for kids facing such challenges, enabling your child to participate more fully in society, school, and home.

WHAT IS AUGMENTATIVE AND ALTERNATIVE COMMUNICATION THERAPY?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) encompasses a range of methods, tools, and strategies that enhance or replace spoken language for children facing communication difficulties. AAC can benefit children with a wide range of conditions, including developmental delays, autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, and aphasia, among others. It supports expressive communication by providing children with alternative ways to convey their thoughts, ideas, and needs.

At Lumiere Therapeutic Preschool, we use both unaided and aided forms of AAC that are integrated into the curriculum, offering a comprehensive approach to communication support.

Unaided AAC involves nonverbal methods such as gestures, facial expressions, and body language. Children learn to use these expressive tools to convey their thoughts, emotions and needs effectively. By focusing on unaided AAC children develop their natural abilities to communicate, fostering self-expression and social interactions.

Aided AAC, on the other hand, employs external tools and devices to enhance communication. This can include communication boards with symbols or pictures, speech-generating devices, and mobile applications. These aids allow children to select and communicate specific words, phrases, or ideas, promoting clarity and understanding.

WHAT CAN AAC HELP IMPROVE?

  1. Communication Skills: AAC therapy helps children develop and enhance their communication skills. They learn how to express their needs, wants, thoughts, and feelings more effectively using AAC methods, leading to improved overall communication abilities.
  1. Language Development: AAC therapy can support language development by providing children with visual and auditory cues for language comprehension. It helps them learn new vocabulary, sentence structures, and language rules through the use of AAC systems and strategies.
  1. Independence and Self-Advocacy: AAC therapy empowers children to become more independent communicators. They gain the ability to express their needs, preferences, and opinions, enabling them to advocate for themselves and actively participate in decision-making.
  1. Academic Success: Improved communication skills through AAC therapy can positively impact academic performance. Children can better engage in classroom activities, understand instructions, participate in discussions, and demonstrate their knowledge across various subjects.
  1. Emotional Well-being: AAC therapy can enhance children’s emotional well-being by providing them with a means to express their emotions, thoughts, and experiences. It reduces frustration, enhances self-esteem, and supports emotional regulation.
  1. Cognitive Development: AAC therapy engages children in meaningful communication experiences that stimulate cognitive development. It improves their cognitive skills, including attention, memory, problem-solving, and reasoning abilities.
  2. Inclusion and Participation: With the help of AAC therapy, children can actively participate in various environments, including school, home, and community settings. They can engage in recreational activities, express their opinions, and contribute to decision-making processes.

HOW DO WE USE IT AT LUMIERE THERAPEUTIC PRESCHOOL?

We take a holistic approach to AAC, integrating both unaided and aided communication methods into the daily routines and activities of your child.

Unaided AAC is incorporated into various aspects of your child’s unique curriculum by providing opportunities for them to engage in sign language, use gestures, and express themselves through facial expressions and body language. Our therapists at Lumiere Therapeutic Preschool foster an environment that encourages the development of these nonverbal communication skills, promoting creativity and self-confidence.

What does unaided AAC therapy look like?

  • Gestures: Encourage your child to use gestures to communicate their needs and wants. For example, they can raise their arms to indicate a desire to be picked up, point to objects they want, or wave goodbye.
  • Body Language: Teach your child to use body language to express their emotions or intentions. For instance, they can stomp their feet when they are frustrated, nod their head to indicate agreement or shake their head to indicate disagreement.
  • Facial Expressions: Help your child understand and use facial expressions to communicate their feelings. They can smile when happy, frown when sad, or raise their eyebrows to show surprise.
  • Eye Gaze: Encourage your child to use eye gaze as a form of communication. They can look at an object they want, make eye contact to initiate interaction, or shift their gaze to indicate interest or attention.
  • Body Movements: Teach your child to use body movements as a way to communicate. For example, they can wave their arms to indicate “hello” or “goodbye,” clap their hands to show excitement or stomp their feet to express frustration.

Aided AAC strategies are implemented through the use of communication boards, picture symbols, and speech-generating devices. These tools enable children to effectively communicate their thoughts, ideas, and needs, bridging the gap between their internal world and the outside environment.

What does aided AAC therapy look like?

  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): PECS involves using a system of picture cards or symbols to represent objects, activities, or requests. Children can select and exchange a specific picture card to communicate their needs and desires.
  • ommunication Apps: Utilize AAC applications available on tablets or smartphones that offer customizable communication boards, symbol libraries, and voice output. Children can select symbols or words on the app to express themselves.
  • Communication Books: Create personalized communication books or binders with pictures, symbols, or written words that represent common vocabulary and phrases. Children can flip through the pages and point to the desired communication option.
  • Choice Boards: Design choice boards with pictures or symbols to allow children to make choices. For instance, a choice board in the cafeteria can display pictures of different food options, enabling the child to point to their preferred meal.
  • Visual Timers and Countdowns: Utilize visual timers or countdown boards to help children understand and anticipate transitions or time limits. These aids provide a visual representation of the time remaining for an activity or task.

Our therapists here at Lumiere work closely with each child, tailoring AAC interventions to their individual needs and preferences.

CAN AAC BE USED AT HOME?

At Lumiere Therapeutic Preschool we actively involve (you!) parents and caregivers in the AAC journey.

Our therapists provide training and support, helping families (like yours) understand how to utilize AAC strategies at home and reinforcing the child’s communication skills beyond the school environment. This collaboration ensures a consistent and supportive communication approach for all children, empowering them to flourish in all aspects of their lives.

What does in-home AAC look like?

  • Visual Schedules: Create visual schedules using pictures or symbols to help your child understand and follow daily routines. Place the schedule in a visible location, such as on the fridge or a bulletin board, to provide a clear structure for their day.
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): Implement PECS by using a collection of pictures or symbols representing common objects, activities, or requests. Encourage your child to exchange a specific picture for what they want, promoting communication and independence.
  • Communication Apps: Explore AAC applications available on tablets or smartphones. These apps often offer customizable communication boards, symbol libraries, and voice output. Use them with your child to facilitate communication by selecting symbols or typing messages together.
  • Visual Supports: Utilize visual aids such as labeled pictures, labels, or written cues to enhance understanding and communication. For instance, label household items or create visual step-by-step guides for daily tasks like brushing teeth or getting dressed.
  • Social Stories: Develop social stories using pictures or written text to teach your child about specific social situations, expected behaviors, or routines. Social stories can help them understand and navigate various social interactions and expectations.
  • Gesture and Sign Language: Incorporate gestures and basic sign language into your communication with your child. Teach them simple signs for important words like “eat,” “drink,” “more,” and “finished.” This can provide a bridge to verbal communication or act as an alternative means of expression.

HOW CAN LUMIERE HELP MY CHILD?

At Lumiere Therapeutic Preschool, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) takes center stage for your child’s needs, encompassing both unaided and aided methods. Through unaided AAC, your child will learn to express themselves through gestures, facial expressions, and body language, fostering self-expression and social interactions. Aided AAC utilizes communication tools such as boards, symbols, and devices, enabling children to communicate effectively and bridge the communication gap.

By embracing both unaided and aided AAC, here at Lumiere Therapeutic Preschool, we create an inclusive and supportive environment where all children can thrive. Your child is encouraged to develop their natural communication abilities while also gaining access to powerful aids that enhance their communication skills.

If you have a child or know someone who could benefit from the wonders of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, we invite you to call us and discover our magic here at Lumiere Therapeutic Preschool. Let’s celebrate the beauty of communication together and unlock limitless possibilities for your child!

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