Are you giving your child every chance to communicate? Communication is key and I’m not talking just about verbal skills. Touching, pointing, and giving are important outlets for communication. We must set our kids up for success using alternative ways to communicate as early as possible.
How early can we start to offer extra ways for our kids to communicate? As soon as they show a preference. By six month a child is starting to show displeasure at losing a toy, recognizes parents, shows stranger anxiety, and starts to show food preferences. Is this not the child communicating what he or she wants?
The techies of this world love high-tech gadgets; however, they are not the answer to all things. Communication starts simple and it is best if kids with communication challenges start simple as well. Communication is a 24/7 business and it takes time. The sooner communication is expected in all areas of a child life, the happier, healthier and smarter the child will be.
How do I set up a communication house? Provide opportunities for communication in every room, at every moment possible.
Start by offering two objects. The object the child looks at, reaches toward or touches the child gets. Make this a family habit. An example, hold up two shirts, if the child does not seem interested, shake one. Yes, that is cheating; however, you’re in training mode. The child just looked at and then selected the moving shirt. 🙂 The child likes a certain movie. Hold up two DVD jackets. The one the child looks at is put in. Cheat if you need to; shake the preferred one for a while, again you’re in training mode. The golden rule, you look at it, you get it. No second chances the wrong movie goes in for a few minutes if it is looked at. If your child is a reacher, you’re in luck, they reach for it, they get it. After they understand this game, it is OK to TEACH NO. Tell them, use your mommy voice. “I know you are asking for this; however, right now we need to do this.”
Single output switches such as a BIGMack Communicators are great. Place one by the back door for “Outside”, one near the bed for “get up” and one near the fridge for “food”. Any activity the child has a preference for can be set up with a single switch communicator to allow the child to press and receive a verbal output message. Yes, the child will hit the button and drive you crazy. When a toddler yells at the top of their lungs, do we take away their voice?? No, you teach them the word “NO”.
The last step for this blog is using pictures. You got a camera, you got real pictures. Kids understand real pictures way before they understand line representations. When a child has a preference, take pictures. Be use to take pictures of preferred and non preferred items. Laminate and off you go. Use sticky back Velcro and attach the pictures of anything. A cutting board, a note-book, and yes even the fridge. The pictures need to be near the object and area of use or you will not have time to use. Your child really likes one food over a second. Take pictures of the food and keep them on or near the fridge. Child wants banana, child touches the banana picture first. Got an extra 10 minutes, child touches banana picture every 4 bites.
A word about the 50/50 chance of offering two pictures. You have to offer non preferred items. A child who is only given two preferred pictures or objects could just be randomly grabbing and looking. You have to offer and give non-preferred choices. Yes, the child will get angry. However, offering non-preferred items is the only want to teach the child they must look, and think prior to communicating. Communicating is not about random selection. It’s about using the brain.
So when is a child ready to use an I-Pad for communication? When a child starts to do a large percentage of the following, probably around the developmental age of 12 months; then, they may be ready for using a device such as the I-Pad. The child: Has preferences, Tries to find objects that you have hidden, Connects animals with actions and sounds, Copy or imitates the actions of others, Recognizes own name, when spoken, Matches shapes, Enjoys looking at pictures, Starts to point to objects in books, and Repeats an action that gets a reaction, such as knocking over blocks
Will using an Ipad or other device mean my child will not speak verbally. NO read this article. http://aac.unl.edu/yaack/b2.html
A link to Ablenet, a source for single output switches. http://www.ablenetinc.com/Assistive-Technology/Communication/BIGmack%C2%AE-LITTLEmack%C2%AE