Sometimes when I am working with Joey it is easy to forget that there are other aspects of communicating with an AAC device that we don’t naturally think about. The device gives Joey access to words, which makes it easy to focus on the words themselves. After all, words are how we communicate.
Yet one aspect of using the AAC device fluidly for Joey includes the clear button. Hitting this button erases the words from the top of the screen so that Joey can start a new sentence, new idea, or thought. Although those of us modeling for Joey use it fluidly and without even thinking that we are clearing the screen. It took me a bit to realize I needed to actually teach Joey how to use the clear button, when to use it, and then to prompt him to do so.
I have to catch myself from hitting the button when I’m ready for Joey to start a new activity or share a new idea. Clearing out Joey’s words – even if they are nonsense to me – is like ignoring someone’s request or telling them not to share their ideas. Because Joey often takes multiple attempts to hit the correct word, it can appear that he is sharing a string of random words when in fact he is carefully placing together a message he wants to tell me. It feels random and off task, and I have a sudden internal need to clear the screen to get back to work, but I have to stop myself and remember that Joey has a message hidden here.
Instead of clearing his words, lately I’ve been trying to ask him to do it for me.
“Hey, can you clear those words for me so we are ready for our next book?”
“I want to hear more about this later, but now it’s time to work. Can you clear your words when you are finished with your message? We can talk about trucks afterward.”
“I think you are trying to share a new idea. Let’s clear those words so you can start your new thought.”
I’ve been surprisingly pleased at how well Joey has responded to this. He has happily cleared the words on most occasions – and on the times he hasn’t it has been because he has a message he wants to share with me.
I’ve also been pleased at how much Joey is now using the clear button automatically, without being prompted to do so. He is beginning to internalize those “I think you have a new idea now” prompts, and is doing it himself. It makes it easier to understand his ideas, and follow his thoughts.