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It’s important that your child quickly develop ownership of his device and learn to keep it near him. When he is away from you (e.g., at school), teachers and staff will not always remember to bring his device or keep it near him. For this reason, your child needs to learn to carry his device with him when moving from room to room, out in the community, or at school.
Most devices will include a carrying strap that can be worn over the shoulder. Teach your child to carry his device by placing the strap across his body. When he is seated at his desk, playing on the floor, or engaged in other stationary activities, he should remove the device and place it near him. If your child enjoys swimming or needs access to communication during bathtime, your therapist can assist you with creating a laminated paper communication board from a screenshot.
At first, you will need to remind your child to keep his device near him. As he learns to use it to communicate, he will likely need less prompting. If your child is resistant to carrying his device, your ABA therapist can help you with how to shape and reinforce this behavior. Avoid carrying the device in a backpack or other bag out of your child’s reach. Likewise, when at home, your child should have constant access to his device during waking hours.
If your child is using an AAC application on an iPad, it is tempting to allow him to use the device for videos and games as well. Please do not do this. If your child is watching shows or playing a game, he will not be able to communicate simultaneously. Additionally, we have consistently observed that children who have access to games on their device are much less likely to use the device to communicate.
It is critically important to your child’s communication skills that his device be used only for that purpose. Many families choose to have second device available as a “play tablet” that the child may use for games and videos. Low-cost tablets such as the Kindle Fire may be appropriate for that purpose.
The “guided access” features on Apple devices are an excellent tool for ensuring that your child’s device stays locked in the communication application, and that he does not make accidental changes to settings or vocabulary. If you are unfamiliar with the “guided access” settings, your therapist will be happy to show you how to set those restrictions.
We are excited that your child is beginning his communication journey with high-tech AAC! We would love to hear from you about what AAC-related topics you would like to read more about in future posts. Please comment with your suggestions and questions.
Written by Cresanna Kahrl, RBT