When I returned from my month away, Joey had all sorts of new words added to his device. At first I was surprised to see so many new words had been added in such a short period of time, but as I watched him maneuver around his screen I was excited by his growth. He seemed to quickly understand that these new words gave him a greater capacity to communicate with us.
As teachers we tend to want to see that a child has mastered a specific skill before moving on to the next skill. In the realm of communication this can mean we are hesitant to add additional words or vocabulary if we don’t think a child has mastered the words he or she has. But we don’t limit the words we use around our typically developing students until they use specific, basic words correctly. We continue to surround them in a language-rich environment, modeling language and supporting them as they explore new words and phrases.
Joey’s use of his AAC device increased once he had access to the new words. We could have waited until we felt he was more secure with the words he had, yet adding new words allowed him to say more. This increased vocabulary gave his device even more meaning than it had previously had. His use of his older words seems to have increased, and he is being more purposeful with his language. Now he has more words to choose from, which means he can expand his message, be more specific, or just make his request more from him, and less from those of us who provide him access to the device.
Joey has been exploring all the new words, but a lot seems to be one of his favorites. So is neither (although I’m not quite sure he understands what it means. The icon for it is the same as the word more).
Adding the phrase a lot to his vocabulary seems to have given him an ability to express himself in a way he couldn’t before. I’ve been surprised at how often he selects it, either to ask for more of something he wants, or to emphasize something he is saying. He might say frustrated a lot, which lets me know exactly how he’s feeling.
If I’d sat down and started thinking about words I’d want to add to Joey’s device, a lot wouldn’t have occurred to me as one that would have had such a large impact on his overall communication. Yet now that I watch him use it, I realize that it is giving him even more power with his words to express himself. It enhances his words and makes his meaning even more powerful.
It’s fascinating to me to watch Joey’s language unfold and notice his word preference and communication style.