March 2022 Newsletter – Speech and Language Development: Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tools

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tools

Sometimes, children with speech and language delays use tools to help them communicate.  These tools are typically introduced by speech and language therapists or other early intervention professionals.  They are trained in the best practices for using these tools in the home and classroom environments. If a child in your care uses a communication device, be sure to speak with the child’s family or therapist to ensure you are using the tool appropriately.  Request training or ask for a demonstration of the tool so that you are confident in how to support the child who is using the tool.

Some forms of alternative communication include gesturing, pointing, and indicating needs through eye-gaze. There are many technology-based tools, as well as no- or low-tech options available to support children’s communication. Common tools include:

  • Picture cards and cues – Some children use picture cards or cues to communicate a need or preference. Sometimes, the picture cues are arranged onto a page or board using Velcro. This allows the communication board to be set up for a variety of scenarios. For example, the card can be set up to allow a child to choose a learning center or a snack option, depending on the cards offered.  Teachers can also create cards that depict parts of the daily routine and other common prompts.  When working with the child, the teacher can flip to the appropriate picture card to provide a visual prompt to the child.
  • Switches and buttons – Switches and buttons can also be used to support communication. When activated, these tools help a child gain the attention of others and communicate needs and preferences. These tools can be pre-programmed with messages that play when the buttons are pushed.
  • Communication Boards and Tablets – These electronic devices allow children to create longer sentences in the moment. They follow the same principle as the picture cards, but these devices generate audio messages that can be created spontaneously. In addition to electronic communication boards, there are also applications that can be downloaded onto a tablet that assist with communication in a similar manner.

There is a wide variety of tools with different levels of communication support.  Again, be sure to work closely with the child’s family and therapist to be sure you are using the tool appropriately and in a way that aligns with the child’s developmental goals.  Click here to learn more.

For the main article Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Elements of Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Speech and Language Development Milestones, CLICK HERE

For the article Promoting Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE