Choosing the Right AAC Device for Early Learners

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Choosing the Right AAC Device for Early Learners

Giving a voice to every child is essential. For young learners struggling to communicate, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices can be transformative. This guide dives into Single and Multi-Message Communicators, helping you find the ideal tool that matches each child's unique abilities. With an AAC device, your child can express themselves, make choices, and have fun participating in the world around them!

Single Message Communicators

Getting their attention - motivate early communicators by recording a variety of different music, sound effects and jingles on the device. Find out what they like/dislike and spark their interest in using a communication device.

Getting your attention - use the device to encourage appropriate strategies for gaining others’ attention. Start with silly or shocking noises or requests for favourite interaction activities to provoke a strong listener reaction, teaching the concept that communication can be powerful.

Making noises - playing with sounds e.g. making animal noises, vehicle sounds or babbling is an important early stage of language development and often overlooked in AAC. Use these devices in play areas to encourage vocal play.

Playing with toys - connect switch adapted toys and comment on what the toy is doing. A great motivator.

Playing with words - when introducing early words using a device remember to choose a range of words that have different functions - greeting/parting, requesting information, giving information, asking for more, asking to stop, making comments etc.

Taking part - be active in your activity and use the device for joining in songs, stories, plays and assemblies.

Directing others - a great reason to talk. Take control and be the boss in activities, games and routines. Shout out your instructions and watch others obey!

Choosing - you can even use a single message to choose. Have messages such as “I want that one” or “that’s right” to select as objects or pictures are pointed at.

Multi-Message Communicators

Having access to two messages can open up a new level of communication; one in which you can make real choices and express opinions. When first introducing this, it is sometimes useful to have a ‘preferred’ and a ‘non-preferred’ choice, to teach the concept of choosing. For example, “chocolate buttons/piece of paper”. 

Alternatively, use errorless choices, such as directing others to “pull a funny face/jump up and down”. Try to avoid using “Yes” and “No” – most AAC users have other ways of expressing these and it limits them to answering closed questions.

Hints & Tips

These motivating, easy to use devices are great for introducing choice making. Try using them with messages that give real control and participation and with words that can be used in a variety of situations:

  • Stop/go - great for playground games, P.E. activities, tickling or directing others’ actions.
  • More/finished - try this at snack time (whilst giving small amounts of food or drink), workbox activities, puzzle pieces.
  • On/off - control the use of disco music, light shows, fans (e.g. in a sensory room).
  • Higher/lower - a ‘Play Your Cards Right’ style game.
  • Old/new - ideal for use in sorting activities.
  • My turn/your turn (or mine/yours) - great for use during game playing or sharing activities.
  • Brmm brmm/crash - sound effects when playing with toys.
  • I know/not sure - join in group question and answer sessions.
  • Guess what?/keep guessing - a great conversation starter or perfect for ‘secret’ games.
  • Good/naughty - describing characters in stories or even classmates!
  • Rubbish/cool - come straight out with your opinions on fashion, toys or anything.
  • Bit left/all gone - useful at mealtimes or any activity involving pieces or completion tasks.

Communication Bundles & Kits

Why not get started with our handy Getting Started with Communicators Bundle which provides the opportunity to ‘get started’ using communication aids; it includes a single message communicator, a sequential message communicator, a two-message device with three levels.

Inclusive offer a selection of our most popular communication resources supplied in handy bundles and portable kits to help therapists, teachers, carers, assessors and learners to get started with communication in the classroom or at home.

View our range of Communication Bundles and Kits

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