The journey of an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) user can take some time to get right. Similar to learning a new language, AAC is a language the user will learn to communicate with.
Modelling language on the AAC system, in a meaningful context, allows the user to learn how to use the device to communicate.
What does ‘Modelling’ Mean?
‘Modelling’ is about showing the user how to communicate using their AAC. This practice applies to both aided and unaided forms of AAC.
A lot of people learn skills by being shown how to do something, and communication is the same. By using AAC with the user as you speak, you show them how it works and the impact it can have in communicating their ideas, wants and needs.
What is Modelling Without Expectation?
When we say “without expectation,” we mean not trying to prompt or encourage a response.
Modelling without expectation is about using AAC to communicate with the user without needing or expecting them to respond.
The benefit of this is that you remove the pressure from the user. They can decide whether or not to reply, giving them an added layer of autonomy.
How to Model Without Expecation
Modelling without expectation can be integrated into everyday routines. There are different ways to do this depending on the type of AAC:
- Unaided: You can do this using gestures and signs to provide further context to the words you are speaking.
- Ligh-Tech (Aided): Point to symbols on the user’s communication book or board that represent what you are trying to say.
- Mid to High-Tech (Aided): Press a button that corresponds to the word you are saying and adds meaning to your speech.
You can incorporate these methods into tasks or activities the user enjoys doing. Keep it relevant or as an extra resource to add to your spoken words.
Start by using single words rather than sentences. Over time you can build on sentences by adding an additional word. By starting small, you allow the user to become familiar with the vocabulary (core and fringe), and how to use them before they take the next step in combining words.
Things to Remember when Modelling Without Expectation
It is important to remember that the exercise of modelling without expectation requires patience and time. Showing patience as the user decides if they want to respond and allowing time for them to begin using AAC themselves.
If the user isn’t looking at you or paying attention to you while you are modelling, don’t stop. Continue to use AAC. Some users may still pick up on what you are doing when you might think they’re not listening. Keeping up the practice of modelling will encourage AAC use and further communication.
As the AAC user begins to use their AAC, try to keep modelling instead of dropping the practice. You can continue to model longer sentences or introduce grammar to encourage further learning.