By Chesney Ballantyne, M.A., CCC-SLP
In my second to last internship during Graduate School to become a Speech Language Pathologist, my supervisor told me, “If you are bored with what you are doing, your students will be bored with it too.”
The simplicity and reality of this statement stuck with me and I have always thought about that while planning therapy interventions, developing trainings or giving presentations.
Especially when working with children who are emerging communicators, I keep this in mind and even level up a notch in order to have emerging communicators avoid merely being ‘not bored’ but actively engaged.
I dabbled in acting in high school, playing small roles in a few high school wide productions. My greatest acting achievements though, by far, has been working with emerging communicators and introducing them to the AAC systems.
If they select STOP- I am stopping with such over the top dramatic emphasis that the only thing to get me going again is going to be another word from the emerging communicator.
If they select LIKE- I am going to hug and like the item so much that it will think I am Elmyra Duff from the Looney Tunes.
Communicating should be fine and bringing over the top dramatic responses into the sessions with our emerging communicators can change it from a kill and drill task to a fun, dynamic, engaging session.
Here are more tips to help our communicators go from unengaged to actively engaged:
- DO-Errorless Learning Opportunities- No matter what icon they select respond to it and respond BIG! Over the top is the name of the game! Channel your inner Billy Porter and bring the DRAMA.
- DO-Focus on Core Words- Using Core Vocabulary makes having errorless learning opportunities and responding to what they say easier.
- Go, stop, like, different and, more can all have BIG engaging dramatic responses.
- Fringe vocabulary- such as Armadillo, may be motivating but what if you don’t have access to that Armadillo when they say it?! It is easier to improvise with Core than Fringe!
- DO-Teach Natural communication opportunities. Include highly engaging toys that communicators can use core words to engage.
- Toy car launchers are a great one. They can be surprising, interactive and the clinician can control the fun (hold the launcher) while the communicator tries on their new word (G0).
- A windup frog is another crowd favorite. The communicators are curious about this wind-up toy, but they usually need help winding it up. Here enters the communication system- go, more, and play are all great words to use to request the frog to be wound up.
- These types of activities are not only motivating and engaging for early communicators, but it allows them to initiate communication.
- Far too often, our early communicators are only in respondent roles during communicative opportunities because of kill and drill exercises or having to answer referential/closed ended questions.
- It is time to put these communicators in the director’s chair and have them initiate communication. The dramatic responses from their communication partners and engaging toys will be hard to resist as they step into their directing debut!
As an SLP, I may be biased, but communicating can be loads of fun! Let us share that fun with our emerging communicators by giving them a front row street to the most exciting show in town. Let them be the directors and their communication partners are playing the award-winning role of their lives!
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