It’s that time of year again…
The turkey is gone (maybe there’s one more sandwich you can make!), everyone has their lights up, and it’s dark by the time you get home. Before you know it, the wonder and the craziness of the holidays will be upon us. For those who work with children with special needs and their families, it can be a great time to explore new opportunities for communication. As professionals who work with children with special needs, we can inspire our families to incorporate an AAC like SuperSpeak into your holiday season to make it both festive and functional!
1) Model using an AAC to increase communication success
The holiday season bring families together, and also some time away from work and school. In my experience as an SLP, I have found that families benefit from encouragement to model communication during activities together. Some families like knowing that what is being recommended is current information. Research shows us that modeling (known as Aided Language Stimulation) is a proven way to increase use of an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) with a child (Goosens, Crain, and Elder; 1992).
Some families like specific ideas on “how” to model. Recommendations can include modeling using SuperSpeak during play by requesting toys, commenting while interacting with toys, and requesting preferred food during family meals.
Overall, modeling shows our SuperKiddos that communication is an experience which requires two or more people, and that using the iPad can affect their environment.
2) Plan ahead for communication with the whole family
One of the great things about SuperSpeak is it’s flexibility. As a professional, you can recommend a few things for the families you work with before any holiday break. Visiting family members can download SuperSpeak to get familiar with it before they arrive. This way, they can learn how to use it and find out about the kinds of things that your SuperKiddo likes. Sharing a profile is easy and allows for a quick transition!
Let your families know that when guests visit, our SuperKiddos can “show off” their new skills. Some children with special needs take great joy in meeting new people, and when you combine that high level of interest with communication opportunities, great things can happen. Plus, you are showing your SuperKiddo that using the iPad to communicate is not just for Mom, Dad, and his teacher at school.
Some quick recommendations include:
- When family members come over, encourage the SuperKiddo to say “Hi” using SuperSpeak. When family members pictures are linked, it allows the SuperKiddo to put together a phrase like “Hi Uncle Bobby!”
- When a family member engages in a play activity, they can use SuperSpeak to request items or “show off” a new toy.
- Encourage your family members to show a lot of enthusiasm whenever they their SuperKiddo uses SuperSpeak– even for something as little as “Hi.” Empower other family members to do the same- it will go a long way towards promoting future use with other people.
3) Pre-teach to improve communication with the whole family
Because the holiday season is a time of traditions, it allows for some pre-planning and pre-teaching. In my experience, the time you take with a family to break down their traditions from a communication perspective allows for their child to have success interacting and communicating appropriately. When families “get” the idea that communication practice can be incorporated into a variety of situations, it really is time well spent!
As professionals who work with SuperKiddos, we can help our families with this process of pre-planning. Ask about traditions; do some people speak at the holiday meal? Do people share things for which they are thankful? Are there are traditions followed by opening gifts?
In each of these situations, SuperKiddos can add to the communication! You can pre-program a short phrase to add during mealtime or a statement about being thankful for family or friends. You can add some comments about gifts such as “This is great!” or “I love this toy!”
Put SuperSpeak into action this holiday season
The holidays can be a special (and sometimes crazy) time together in a household. As professionals who work with children with special needs, we have the skills and expertise to support families. Encourage families to communicate with their child in different ways during the holidays. Remember to stress the importance of modeling. Remind families that SuperSpeak allows their SuperKiddos vocabulary to be stored securely in the cloud so that profiles can be shared with different people. Easy transitions between communication partners make for easier communication which can only be a good thing for our SuperKiddos! Download SuperSpeak from the Apple App Store and try for free for 14 days to show easy communication can be!
Reference: Goosens, C.; Crain, S. & Elder, P. (1992). Engineering the preschool environment for interactive, symbolic communication. Birmingham, AL: Southeast Augmentative Communication Conference Publication.