If you are working with an individual who uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system, then you probably want to find ways to engage them and encourage communication (social, functional, etc.). You may even be helping run or lead an AAC group, where multiple individuals use AAC and are all developing language and communication skills. We’ve spent a lot of time working with AAC groups, and have found some great group activities that are both educational and enjoyable. The following are some of our favorite group AAC ideas.
Supporting AAC Users
Individuals who use AAC are not a homogeneous group; some individuals have simple core word boards with just 6-20 words where others have speech-generating devices with over 1000 words. You can modify any activity and provide more or less support depending on the individual. Some individuals may be best able to communicate in one- or two-word phrases, whereas others can communicate in full sentences. Some individuals are multimodal communicators, which means they may use gestures, signs, and/or verbal words in addition to their AAC systems. We encourage you to be flexible when working with AAC groups and keep in mind that the overall goal is simply to increase communication and language skills.
Additional resources that may be helpful when planning activities and working on developing language skills include how to make a communication board and how to choose fringe words. Communication boards and fringe words can be added and adapted for different group contexts/settings, some of which are mentioned below.
AAC Group Idea #1: Social Group
When we discussed the different communication functions and AAC, we talked about asking and answering questions. In a group AAC session, you can work on asking and answering questions to promote language expansion and conversational turn-taking. You may start by initiating or suggesting some questions, then encourage one individual in the group to ask another individual a question, where both of them use their AAC devices to communicate these functions. Many of the following questions can be reworded to have yes/no responses, which may be simpler for some members. Additionally, asking questions in response does not have to be full questions if someone's language skills are not there yet. Communicating “you” on a core words board may be an adequate way to ask a question to someone else.
Examples of questions include:
- How are you?
- What is the day today?
- What is the date today?
- What is the weather like?
- What are you doing today?
- What do you like to do at home?
- What is your favorite class at school?
- What kind of games (TV shows, toys, sports) do you like?
- Do you like to play ____?
- Do you like to ____?
- What is your favorite holiday?
- What is your favorite color?
- What is your favorite game?
- What is your favorite sport?
- What is your favorite activity?
- What is your favorite food?
You can also draw “topics” out of a hat for more of an open-ended conversational activity.
AAC Group Idea #2: Playing Games
Depending on the size of your group, there are a number of games you can choose from. Some examples include Connect 4, CandyLand, Sorry, and Uno. Playing games in groups is a great way to target skills like turn-taking. They also involve requesting, protesting, and commenting/describing, which are additional communication functions that individuals who you AAC may be working on. Simply put, playing games may also be more fun and motivating for individuals as well.
Language and communication opportunities include:
- Indicating what color or game piece each individual wants
- Deciding and figuring out whose turn it is
- Requesting game pieces or die
- Saying what spot you’re going to or what number you rolled
As mentioned before, messages and communication styles may vary from individual to individual. Some may just use a few core words when playing, such as “go,” “more,” “I,” and “you,” whereas others use full sentences, e.g. “It is my turn,” or “I want yellow.” Some individuals may use a combination of gestures and their AAC devices to communicate as well.
AAC Group Idea #3: Making Crafts
Arts and crafts activities are fun and can encourage communication between others. Almost all of the communication functions may be used when completing an arts and crafts activity: requesting, protesting, describing, asking questions, answering questions, and describing. Arts and crafts generally require the use of many materials, such as crayons/markers, scissors, glue, paper, pipe cleaners, paper plates, and more. You may have each individual be in charge of handing out one material, so the remaining individuals in the group have to request the material from that person. For example, person A may be in charge of handing out crayons, and person B handing out scissors. After completing the craft, each person can go around and describe what they made. Simple and fun arts and crafts activities can be found here!
Working with AAC groups can be fun and encourage a lot of communication - we hope you enjoy!
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