We’ve said it before- communication is key!! For the children who have difficulty communicating their wants and needs, there are ways to aid them verbally (ex. mand training) and non-verbally (ex. visual aids), as well as devices that serve to be their voice and enhance their communication skills.
Mand training is a crucial piece of the verbal training puzzle. A mand is a verbal response that is controlled by an establishing operation. To put it simply, manding is requesting a desired item, activity, or information. This request can be made through vocalizations, hand gestures or sign language, picture exchange systems, or devices. There are multiple training strategies including using a highly preferred reinforcer and having the child mand or request the item or activity before gaining access to it. Another strategy uses prompts and prompt fading to help children learn to request items.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is another key piece, especially for children who do no vocalize and benefit from the use of visual aids. This involves learning to exchange a picture of a desired item or activity in exchange for the actual item. PECS start with single pictures and build into making sentences with these pictures.
There are many devices that also serve to help with communication. There are GoTalk’s which allow you to add pictures and record a word relating to the picture. These devices are limited to how many pictures/words can be accessed but are great for simple communication, such as “hello”, “all done”, and “drink”. Proloquo2Go is another good example of a symbol based device. This particular app is through Apple and is limitless in its customization and number of pictures and words that can be accessed.
This is only the tip of the iceberg in helping a child establish and build upon their communication skills. There are so many ways to teach language in everyday settings and to use the aids, mentioned above, to assist a child in being able to express their wants and needs. Giving a child a voice can do wonders for their world!