Communication Success -Celebrating Small AAC Wins

How does one identify and celebrate the small AAC wins & communication success we encounter among users every so often? And why is this important? Read on to understand more!

A user’s AAC journey is interesting. But, it can be a long winded one for the child, parents and the rest of the team. Most of us start with the end result in mind- which is Autonomous Communication. Yes we definitely want the user to get there!

That said, somewhere along the way it is easy to lose motivation. For instance, you may feel you have stagnated or you see another child making quicker gains. As communication partners, we often end up questioning if what we do is  making a difference. It often sounds like –

"Am I doing it right?"
"Am I doing enough?’"

Please remember that there is no “right”. Each student and communication system is different. Is what you are doing, making a difference? Chances are you are doing something right. Don’t focus so much on the child or the device that you lose sight of meaningful progress. As the goal for an AAC user is successful communication and autonomy, we should celebrate any step towards it. This is regardless of whether the device was used or, you think that the response happened by fluke.  The focus should be on building connections with others and not on a particular modality. Total communication and Autonomy are the keywords here.

Many AAC users make slow gains. If we switch the AAC program and symbols prematurely due to “lack of progress”, the AAC user may never make significant gains. Imagine how painful it will be for the child if they have to learn a new system or symbol or motor plan every time .

What Can We Do Instead?

The key is to celebrate every win , however small. Try to measure communication success that reflects growth. Small changes made today pave way for great wins.

We want the user to become fluent  in using the system with varied communication partners in varied contexts.

Examples of small wins for the AAC user (who is beginning  to use the AAC system) could look like –

  • Looking at the device as language was modelled
  • User helping in charging their device 
  • Gesturing for water  for the first time(total communication)
  • Putting their talker in the school bag before leaving for school

Small wins are not only for the user. As his communication partner you could celebrate something positive that you have done too!

Examples of small wins for the communication partner could be

  • We had the talker with us all morning
  • I modelled a little more this week
  • I modelled a question yesterday (a different communication function)
  • Modelling helped them understand what i was saying
  • I modelled during meal time( an additional context)

How to measure Communication Success?

Think about how you can measure this progress….

  • Documenting is a great start. You can  start writing down the different words and sentences that  you have modelled or  the ones the user has initiated. Do this on a daily or weekly basis. When you look back after a couple of weeks you will know how far you have travelled.
  • Take time to reflect at the end of the day or week. Write or journal your reflections.
  • Taking videos is another way. Perhaps you could video the student using their device, and use it in the same way as mentioned above.

Plan to have a “communication success of the day/ week”. This could be shared and celebrated with family and teachers. Most importantly , always celebrate what a great job you are doing!

The initial stage of AAC learning requires a belief that it will be worth it and a commitment to keep going. Just remember that it’s normal to have peaks and plateaus. Recognizing and celebrating small wins keeps you motivated to keep going.

Niveditha Ryali, SLP, Avaz Inc

WRITTEN BY

Niveditha Ryali
Speech – Language – Swallowing Therapist

I have 16 years of learning experience that comes from working in NHS(UK), special schools, hospitals and private practice. I am passionate about working on improving Speech, Language and Swallowing skills in children and adults. I also strive to facilitate early communication in children with complex communication needs, thereby improving parent-child bonding.

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