Kids spend a sizeable number of their waking hours at school. It is likely that they will have many more opportunities for social interactions at school than at home. So, employing efficient augmentative and alternative communication strategies can help a great deal in improving their communication skills and social development.
Introducing AAC in classrooms requires a lot of coordination because there are so many moving parts to the process. With some forethought, measures can be taken to include strategies for implementing AAC in the classroom.
Team Work, Planning & Coordination
It takes diligent planning to introduce AAC systems in school. Making sure that all the members of the team are on the same page, goes a long way in effective implementation. Discussing the curriculum and proposed schedules can ensure that the efforts of the team are not diluted by miscommunication. Having a definitive organizational policy gives clarity on the mode of implementation and the rules if any. Setting up in-house systems for troubleshooting and technical support would be helpful for team members. Do reach out to the support team of whichever AAC system you are using to get the most out of it. Avaz AAC app, for instance, has a dedicated 24×7 support team that can enable your team to make the AAC implementation a success!
Most teachers are willing to try new technologies and systems if they are convinced about that system’s effectiveness. However, enthusiasm alone will not equip them with the necessary knowledge to teach using AAC apps. It is important that teachers are adequately trained in the chosen system and the strategies for implementing AAC in the classroom.
In a classroom setting, children look up to their teachers for guidance. And modelling is a key aspect of AAC learning. Hence, the teacher’s comfort with the device can greatly influence the confidence and usage patterns of the students.
Familiarity with the device or AAC app can also help the teacher come up with creative ways to use the system. Since each child has his/her unique set of preferences and abilities, the teacher can play around with the features of the AAC system to best suit the needs of the child.
Preparing the Child
There may be children in the classroom with prior exposure to AAC devices at home or at therapy. Such children may require minimal instruction. On the other hand, students new to AAC apps might need more preparation before they are introduced to the system.
Teachers need to talk to the students about why they will be using AAC at school and how it can help them. Since some kids may be less receptive to new ideas than others, the reassurance of the teacher can be vital in how quickly a child takes to the AAC app and system.
Talking to Parents
Having a chat with parents about AAC use in classrooms is essential because families need to be on board with the idea. Efforts must be made to educate parents about AAC apps. If there are any apprehensions, those should be addressed at the very outset.
Talking with parents can also shed light on their aspirations regarding their child’s development. Teachers and SLPs must ensure that families have realistic expectations. This helps to avoid discouragement if they don’t see immediate results. It is essential that families are also trained in using an AAC app with symbols and text, helping them to actively participate in the child’s communication intervention. This will effectively supplement the therapist’s efforts at home and enable the child to get the most out of the communication system.
Assessing Potential Barriers and Solutions
The foremost goal of AAC is that the children reach for the device every time they have anything to communicate. So, it is important to ensure easy access to the device at all times. The child should be encouraged to seek the device when they need to communicate. Fortunately, the barriers impeding the use of AAC apps in a classroom or even at home can be dealt with easily if you have a solid plan in place. For instance, if a child has trouble bringing the device to school due to physical limitations, providing a case with a strap can help in carrying the device without difficulty.
Making it Fun is One of the Vital Strategies for Implementing AAC in the Classroom
A fool-proof strategy for AAC implementation is of no use if the child is completely disinterested! Given the limited attention spans, you need to be at the top of your game to stimulate their curiosity. Devise fun augmentative and alternative communication strategies such that the child cannot wait to use the device!
Plan exciting games and activities to include the AAC system even in their leisure time. For kids inclined towards art, music, or sports, using AAC apps as part of the activities they love and enjoy can serve as a great motivator.
Endowing children with the ability to freely communicate early in life can enable them to overcome their inhibitions. It also opens up possibilities of interaction with others, outside of the home and classroom. Some children may be inspired by seeing their peers using communication devices. Use of AAC apps and systems in classrooms can thus enhance the independence and boost the self-esteem of children.
Do you have any other suggestions or strategies for implementing AAC in the classroom? Please share your ideas in the comment section below.