Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) can be any form of communication that is not verbal speech. This includes facial expressions, gestures, communication buttons, computers, iPad apps, paper images, etc.
People who have difficulty communicating verbally or speaking may use many forms of AAC to communicate. As communication partners, it is OUR job to acknowledge and respond to their messages.
If you do not understand what a child is gesturing for, have them guide you to their preferred item/object. Say, “Can you show me?”
When using an AAC device, select the appropriate keyword. For example, if you are asking the child if they need “help”. Select the “help” icon on their board or device when asking. This helps them associate the meaning with the symbol/word.
Do you want water or milk? Watch for the child’s response. Sometimes they may not understand or not be able to point to an object. In that case, follow their eye gaze. Then respond, “Okay, you want the milk.” The child will begin to understand that their gesture or eye contact communicated what they wanted.
If you know your child loves cheerios, next time you empty that cereal box, cut out the label and stick it on the pantry door. The child can easily access that label to request.
Not being able to talk can often lead to frustration or an increase in the child’s behaviors. As a parent, this can be very challenging. Try providing the child with multiple means to communicate (gestures, choices, pictures, apps etc.). Let them know you understand they are trying to communicate.