Special events and holidays provide many opportunities for individuals to use their AAC devices in meaningful and motivating ways. These include using core words, seasonal fringe words, social comments and questions, and more. Additionally, using photos, jokes, and music also offer unique ways for individuals to use high tech AAC devices (i.e., speech-generating devices) with their family or community.

As with all other times, the use of AAC should not be forced. We encourage modeling without expectation and using aided language stimulation throughout all communication.


Using Core Words during Special Events

Core words are the most commonly used words in our day-to-day communications, which also include how we communicate during the holidays. These include greetings and "polite words," commenting on activities or events or requesting to participate. Below are a few common core words and ways they can be used during special events.

Greetings: hello/goodbye, please and thank you

Commenting: look (at the festive lights), go (eat, sing, read), big (turkey),

Requesting: want (to decorate), play (new game), more (food, music)

Using Fringe Words During Special Events

There are many unique fringe words related to holidays that can be added to or are already programmed on AAC devices. There may be a folder full of holiday fringe vocabulary that doesn’t get used often because the holiday is only once a year. However, this may be a great opportunity to use them! These fringe words may be used to initiate a conversation about a special event, comment on different holiday topics, or request to participate in special activities.

Thanksgiving fringe words may include turkey, pie, football, thankful.

Asking Social Questions and Making Comments During Special Events

Many AAC devices have social questions, or words that allow an individual to create social questions, programmed on them. Individuals who use AAC can lead or participate in conversations surrounding the special events, as well as conversations about favorite foods, sports teams, TV shows, or more.

If you think about a typical conversation during a meal around a holiday (we hope they are peaceful!), there is likely a mix of holiday-related and non-holiday-related topics. Social questions an individual may ask or answer can include both holiday-related and non-holiday-related topics.

Possible holiday and non-holiday questions:

"What is your favorite part of [this special event]?"

"What is your favorite [food, sport, current Netflix show]?"

"What do you like to do for fun?"

"What do you think of ____?"

Using Photos on AAC Devices During Special Events

Adding actual photos to AAC devices and accompanying captions allows individuals to share some of their recent favorite events or hobbies with other family members. We know that “pictures tell a thousand words” and they can also be used as a conversation topic or starter. For example, if an individual built a really cool Lego creation, or painted a nice picture at school, a photo can be taken and added to their AAC device. Captions may also be added to provide more information about the photos.

Telling Jokes on AAC Devices During Special Events

Telling jokes is a fun way for individuals using AAC to engage with others. A quick Google search of appropriate or children’s holiday jokes can provide many funny options that can be added to individuals' AAC devices. There are also many AAC software applications that contain pre-programmed jokes and punchlines (e.g., in TouchChat with WordPower you can find them in the Social or Groups folder)!

Listening to Music on AAC Devices

Many AAC devices have the capability to add .mp3 or music files to devices. Individuals can play seasonal or holiday songs using their AAC devices to provide entertainment for themselves and others! Who doesn’t have a favorite holiday song or jingle?

Using Pre-recorded Longer Messages on AAC Devices

Typically, AAC devices are programmed with single words or 2-3 word phrases on a single button. However, in some special events, there may be benefits to including an entire sentence or sentences on a single button. This may include a specific prayer or saying. An individual can say or lead a prayer using their AAC device. They may also want to have a longer message that tells a story about something they have done recently. A longer message can accompany a photo or favorite song!


We hope that you find some of these suggestions helpful and are able to include them in some of your future special events and celebrations!


Do you want to write AAC goals that incorporate some of these ideas? Check out our AAC goals article and comprehensive AAC goals packet for more information!

Feel free to reach out to us at hello@communicationcommunity.com or communicationcommunity on Instagram if you have any questions or comments.


Citations/further resources:

https://praacticalaac.org/praactical/10-ways-to-have-an-aac-holiday-season/

https://blog.mycoughdrop.com/10-tips-for-an-inclusive-holiday/

https://www.dsrf.org/programs-&-resources/learn-at-home-5196/top-3-tips-for-using-aac-at-home

https://aaclanguagelab.com/materials/100highfrequencycorewords21.pdf