How do you do an AAC assessment with children who are nonverbal with little to no receptive-expressive language, decreased attention span, and decreased joint attention?
That is very challenging. You can start with an interest inventory to find out if they like watching videos or having a snack or playing music, etc. Use words like “more, stop, help, go,” and just show them. For example, “I am going to play this music that you love. I will hit the ‘stop’ button on the device, and I will wait for you to indicate to me in some way that you want more music.” Then I might say “more” or “go” on the device and I will play the music. I might do that numerous times to show them that is what we are doing. For the most part, they usually catch on. I start with showing intentionality with this device; that it gets them what they are after.
If you are working with a child who is non-verbal, it is hard to know what receptive and expressive language skills they have. You want to presume competence and start with the belief that they have a lot of ability, and work down from there as opposed to working up. Joint attention is very important. That might be something that you spend some time concurrently working on while introducing the concept of AAC to develop joint attention.
Stephanie Meehan is currently a doctoral candidate and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. Her primary research interests include augmentative and alternative communication and school based services. She facilitates the PACCE (Promoting Access to Communication, Community and Education) team in the Schiefelbusch Speech Language Hearing Clinic.