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Posted on October 19, 2017

Simple AAC – 6. Explore

I often hear concerns from teachers and parents about allowing AAC learners to “play” with their device, if they seem to be selecting cells at random.

This is okay! In fact, it’s really important that we give AAC learners time to explore their device, and see what all of the symbols and cells do, just as we allow children who learn spoken language the opportunity to babble.

Time to babble

AAC learners need time and opportunities to babble just as much!

Firstly, if an AAC learner is ‘babbling’, selecting different words on their device, this is the perfect opportunity for us to show them what those words mean by responding to them as meaningful.

How do I do that?

Here’s one example. If they are on a grid of clothes vocabulary and they select ‘trousers’ you could say ‘yes, you are wearing trousers, and I’m wearing trousers’.

If they then select ‘skirt’ you could say ‘no, I’m not wearing a skirt, and you’re not wearing a skirt’. And so on.

I have used this tactic with many AAC learners, and it can even help to encourage the learner to look at you, if perhaps they are focused on just selecting words on their device without paying you any attention (which can be common!).

Taking turns

So this will also help to teach important social skills like taking turns in a conversation.

This clothes conversation might not sound that interesting, but I have found lots of AAC learners who are initially ‘babbling’ to themselves become interested when I start to respond, gradually learning to pause after each word and looking to me for a response.

Initially, the learner might not understand the meaning of the words they select, but it’s up to us to teach them!

Responding to action words

You can also encourage the user to explore particular grids, so that you can prepare how you might respond.

One of my favourite games to play, which I described under 2. Interesting is to navigate to a grid of action words for the learner to explore, and either act out the actions myself or enlist the help of a teddy or dolly!

So when they say ‘jump’ you jump, and when they say ‘swim’ you pretend to swim, and so on.

Some more ideas

Here are some more ideas about how you respond to words on different grids:

  • Colours – respond by pointing to items around you that are that colour, or respond by selecting that coloured crayon and colouring on a piece of paper
  • Food – respond with toy food and feed whichever food is selected to teddy, or if you’re feeling adventurous you could try drawing the food!
  • Vehicles – respond by playing with toy vehicles, and if you don’t have a toy ambulance you could say ‘oh, we don’t have an ambulance’, or if you have a computer or iPad nearby you could search Google for pictures or videos of the different vehicles 



See the full SIMPLE AAC series 

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