When your family starts using AAC for a young child it can seem like an endless and frightening process. There’s a wonderful post this week from Star In Her Eye about how Fiona, age three, is starting to use her iPad purposefully for communication.
This is from Fiona’s mother:
Petra is playing with a ball on the floor. Fiona’s on the couch with me. I hit “ball” on the talker. I ask Fiona, “Do you want to play with Petra?” I hit “play” and “with” and “Petra.”
She shakes her head, starts jabbing her thumb at the screen.
It takes her sometimes ten hits to get the word she wants, to touch her thumb just-so on the app that the iPad responds. But she is determined. “Cathy,” the talker finally says. Cathy is a friend of ours, and Fiona adores her. They haven’t seen each other in a week.
“You want to play with Cathy?” I ask.
She nods furiously.
I must admit that I never really used to understand really about AAC babbling and non-purposeful hits becoming purposeful until my own niece was old enough to start verbally babbling things. Suddenly whenever we’re all at Mum and Dad’s for pizza night the (able-bodied as far as we know) toddler says a sort of “eee-aaa” sound, which I’m 99% sure was random as it was embedded in lots of other vowel sounds, and all six adults in the room stopped what they were doing and clapped and cheered and said “Yes, pizza! That’s right! Here’s some more pizza for you!” and gave her more pizza.
Suddenly I realised how much feedback so-called-normal kids get for their apparently-purposeless babbling and how much shaping and positive feedback we do for every utterance that has even a tiny chance of being purposeful … somehow because it was so ordinary I’d never even noticed it happening before that moment. It really changed the way I thought about early AAC usage!
For those readers who are new to the whole assistive and alternative communication (AAC) world, you can check out our list of AAC Bloggers which includes parents blogging about children’s AAC use and some awesome adults who are themselves AAC users and blog about their own experiences.