Making it Work: Using Games in AAC Learning

Games are an exciting way to build engagement in AAC learners. Communicators tend to absorb and retain more information when they are having fun. So, nothing like a communicator’s favourite game to infuse some AAC learning while encouraging meaningful interactions.

Learning & Fun with Games 

AAC Learning with Games

There are several benefits of using games in communication intervention.

First off, games are not work. So, learning does not feel like a chore. Moreover, many can play a game – therapist, peers, family. Hence, more opportunities for interaction.

 Think of all the different communication functions can be targeted during games.

  • Requesting( I want).
  • Denying (I did not do that)
  • Commenting(That was a nice try). 
  • Complaining( He is cheating)

In addition, we get to work on not only communication but also other areas like social skills such as turn taking, turn waiting, and gaining confidence. Pragmatic skills are easy to learn with games too. 

  • There can be more initiations- It’s my turn
  • Provides opportunities for positive reinforcement – You played really well
  • Helps in building rapport with others
  • Ability to adhere to rules of the games- better sportsmanship 
  • Better generalisation of skills learned during therapy

Getting the Games Started

It’s a no-brainer that the user’s favorite game ensures better participation. It’s equally important to choose games that are age respectful. Think about whether an age  appropriate peer might be interested in playing them. 

When it comes to programming the AAC system, you can make custom folders for each game. However, we should try and encourage them to use core words already available in the system. This is a great time for them to explore the vocabulary and work on their navigation skills!!

Let’s look at how to incorporate AAC learning in a few popular games.  Remember that it’s ok to not be a stickler for the rules of the game in the initial stages. 

UNO
AAC Learning with UNO Game

UNO is a fun game loved by children and adults. It involves matching cards by colour or number. It also has special action cards like skips, reverses and wild cards that help you win the game . And you can never ever forget to shout UNO when you have only one card  left. See how there is a ton of opportunities to target communication and language goals with UNO?

Here are some of the core words we can target with this game:

Same, Different, Bigger, Smaller, More, All done/ finished, I don’t have that, My turn /your turn

You can also target related fringe vocabulary such as the different colours and numbers.

FEELINGS UNO – Game Adaptation

This modification of the UNO game helps in targeting the communication goal of expressing emotions.            

This  is played using a regular deck of UNO cards and standard playing rules. We assign an emotion to each colour. For example, 

RED-Angry

GREEN-Happy

YELLOW-HAPPY

BLUE-Sad

WILD-Scared

When a player discards a card, they must identify a scenario in which they feel the emotion.

Example: When a player discards a green card, they must identify a situation in which they feel happy.

“I feel happy when I play with my friends ”

2. Yes No Game

This game is a great way to expand the vocabulary of communicators who can answer yes-no questions consistently but are stuck at the single word level (YES/NO), 

In response to simple questions , the user has to answer affirmatively or negatively using words other than yes and no. 

Program some alternatives for Yes and NO in their AAC system. 

Ask questions such as ‘Do you like pasta?’

Instead of ‘Yes’, the communicator needs to pick another word such as ‘sometimes’, ‘absolutely’, ‘I love it”

Instead of ‘No’, the communicator needs answer using a word/phrase such as ‘Nope’, ‘Not at all’, ‘I don’t like it’.

If you ask, ‘Is a lion an animal?’, they need to say ‘Definitely’ or ‘Of course’ instead of ‘Yes”

This game is a fun way to encourage communicators to extend their sentence length.

3. The Missing Object Game

This is a great no-prep game to start when the user is beginning to use the AAC device.

Take a couple of small objects lying around that the user can identify. Let everyone look at the objects for a few seconds and then cover it up with a cloth. When no one’s looking, remove one object. The player who guesses the missing object wins the turn.

Apart from the vocabulary for objects used in the game, you can also target starter phrases such as ‘I can’t see’, ‘I won’, ‘You lost’, etc.

This is a memory game and can include as many or as few people as needed.

Games create an outlet for spontaneous communication simultaneously strengthening the relationship between the communicator and other players. Most games can also be modified to target specific language/communication goals. Moreover, when we play with a communicator, we tell them we are prioritizing their interests and that is a great way to build connections and communication.

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.

References 

https://swhelper.org/2014/05/22/using-games-in-therapy/.

https://ct.counseling.org/2013/09/game-play-with-clients-and-patients/

https://rc-assets-2.file_name=FeelingsUno-1.pdf

https://inclusiveteach.com/aac-communication-resources/

https://www.mattelgames.com/en-us/cards/uno

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2 thoughts on “Making it Work: Using Games in AAC Learning”

  1. Hello! I am an assistive technology consultant, and I find your ideas to be so practical and fun. I help send great AAC ideas to other SLPs in my region through a weekly Tech Tips email. I would love to share these ideas, with your permission and credit to you as the source. I could direct them to Avaz so that they can join your AAC community.

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