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  • Sarah Karipides

What does modeling with AAC look like?

We often hear about modeling with AAC, but sometimes it's hard to get started or to even understand how that would look for you and your child. The best way to learn is by watching someone! We have some videos to help!

We have collected some videos of aided language modeling with children at varying levels of AAC. Some don't touch the device at all, some imitate models, and some are more independent in communicating. No matter where your child is, modeling is still important!

What is modeling and why does it matter?

Let's start with what aided language stimulation/modeling is and why it is important. We often are more motivated to do something when we have a better understanding of why it matters.

Modeling without expectation to support learning

In this video, a teacher is modeling in a classroom using a large core board. Notice how she points and pauses as she pairs her spoken word with the core word on the board. This is a great example of modeling without expectation. She is modeling the words, but has no demands or expectations that the children will do the same. This is just to enhance learning and support visual communication. There may be students in this class that use an AAC system or who benefit from a visual language system.

Modeling with early communicators

This first video shows a great, natural play interaction while incorporating AAC. The child is interested in the play and the communication partner is not overly directing the play or placing demands on the child to use the device. She narrates what he is doing both through spoken words and with the device. She focuses on repetitive use of 1-2 words (play, done) as well as some models of the objects he is playing with! She responds to all communication he uses through the device, sounds, gestures, facial expressions!

NOTE...there is one instance where she uses physical prompting to make the child use the device. Physical prompting with AAC is not recommended and it does not support the child's path to spontaneous language development. It also goes against bodily autonomy.

In this video, notice how the adult has placed the device within reach of the child, and models without expectation. The child does not imitate the models or touch the device, BUT notice how he looks at the device when she models and responds to what she is saying using non-verbal means like gestures, facial expressions, and sounds. Notice how she models a few different words, but mostly focuses on the home page with core words. I love how the modeling takes place during a fun activity!

This next video has the same group of people, and similarly, the adult models without expectation to narrate and comment along with the interaction. There are minimal questions or demands. It's natural and fun. In this video, notice how she focuses mostly on 1 core word, go, and gives lots of repetition and models of that word. She also provides context for the word by talking about things that "go." At one point, the AAC user says "car insurance." Notice how she acknowledges his response rather than ignoring it or telling him that he's wrong. We want our child to feel comfortable and supported while trying out AAC!

Our last video has an older student who seems to have more independent use of his device. Notice how the communication partner uses AAC to support his communication and help him share how he is feeling and about his morning. She gives him options and shows him the language he may want to use. He uses the device to express agreement with her comments and he also shakes his head, smiles, laughs, puts his hand on his head, all to communicate! She doesn't require him to use the device, and she provides meaningful models for him to express himself. She validates his non-verbal language by modeling something on the device. This is a beautiful example of AAC and supportive modeling to create a meaningful interaction!

In all of these videos, notice...

  • Interactions follow the interests of the child

  • Models are provided throughout the activity without expectation that the child will imitate, especially with early communicators

  • The communication partner does not try to press or find every single word they say, but just focuses on 1-2 key words depending on the child's current communication

  • Most of the words modeled are core words

  • The communication partner honors all forms of communication including facial expressions, gestures, vocalizations, approximations, words and responds by modeling a word on the device

Modeling AAC is such a powerful tool to helping a child grow in their spontaneous language! It can be overwhelming for the child and the communication partner to start, but we can help you get started and create attainable goals. Check out our blog post about tips for modeling AAC.


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