Why Modeling is the Key to Helping Your Child Start Using their AAC System

by | Jul 5, 2019 | Speech

AAC stands for alternative and augmentative communication. There are many types of AAC systems that your speech-language pathologist might recommend. Some types of AAC will be “low tech,” which can range from using manual signs to using picture boards and PECS (the picture exchange communication system). Other types of AAC will be “high tech,” which include a range of iPad apps and other speech generating devices.  

No matter which type of alternative communication system your speech-language pathologist has recommended, modeling is always the best place to start. The key to helping your child want to use their device to communicate is showing them HOW. As your child watches you use their device to talk to them, they will start to learn the purpose of the device. Imagine if someone held up a board with a bunch of words in another language and said: “tell me what you want.” You would not know what to point to! This is how our children feel. They will not know how to communicate with their device without watching it happen.

Integrating modeling into your daily routine will take some getting used to. And remember, this device or system is new to you, so be patient with yourself as you get used to it, and keep it simple! You may be saying a whole sentence out loud, but just touching one picture on their system that matches this idea. For example, you may be saying “It’s time to eat!” but all you are pushing is “eat.” 

To get started, model the statement that will initiate activities throughout the day. For example, model “eat” when it is time to go eat, “go” when it is time to go somewhere, and “play” when it is time to play. As you get more comfortable, you can expand by modeling “play + cars” while you say “I want to play with cars.” As you become more comfortable with the system, you can start integrating modeling within activities as well, such as “go” every time you make a car go down a track, or “want” every time you request a new puzzle piece. And remember, the modeling comes first, so do not expect your child to say something with their system until they have seen you model it multiple times! Even if they are not expressing something yet, this does not mean they are not learning through your example.

For more information about AAC, see ASHA’s website:

If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech or language skills, please don’t hesitate to reach out to T.E.A.M. 4 Kids for a free screening or an evaluation with one of our amazing Speech-Language Pathologists here in Surprise, AZ, or at our new clinic in Peoria opening soon!

Karen Adkins M.S., CCC-SLP