Released April 1, 2022
The MWSF Community Advisory Board would like to share some tips and resources for caregivers:
- Nonverbal does NOT mean that your child cannot communicate and that they don’t understand – you have to find a way to give them that communication – and there are many avenues and different ways to communicate
- Start communicating now – as in immediately
- The Hanen Centre provides a number of courses and supports
- Build on whatever type of communication that your child can use
- Help your child find their voice
- Some children find it difficult to use communication devices – a tactile button device might help
- Green circle or red x – place on table for yes and no
- Communication can be very low tech
- It is important for children to learn cause and effect – you need to find what will motivate your child to want to communicate
- Some children are deaf/blind – which will allow them to access more services
- Eye-tracking communication might be helpful – Eyegaze. Some found it was very hard to control. Some of these devices (Toby Eyegaze) are very heavy – can download customized language onto a tablet. Some of the Eyegaze devices can be connected to a wheelchair. You can customize the icons and even their size.
- Parents can either focus on only one approach or use a total communication approach with both high and low-tech resources: objects, communication develop picture cards, iPad with picture cards, some spoken language tactile approaches, using a sticky board with pictures/photos, plexiglass with Velcro that you can stick picture/photos to, make a little flip-card booklet
- It can be beneficial to use a total communication approach because some families have tried only one approach and it did not work – then they had to start with all new modes of communication
- Outside the US, check to see if there is a governmental (or NGO) that can help provide communication support
- Sometimes programs outside the home (such as in school) have more success teaching children something new
- It helps to read to your child every day – this will introduce them to hearing words and language and help children learn and understand how to communicate and use words and gestures.
- Keep talking – if you don’t talk, your child won’t talk
- Music and singing can also be very helpful
- Find a speech therapist that is familiar with augmentative communication
- Assistive Technology specialists can be very helpful
- For some children, it is important not to change the placement of the pictures or words when using boards or booklets.
- It can be helpful for the parents to use the communication tools, because the children will emulate the process – modeling is very important. Help your child learn how to get what they want
- Include your child in the conversation when you go to the doctor – don’t just talk about them, include them in the conversation
- Some children respond negatively when they are being talked about instead of being talked to
- Some children can be very loud – they like to express themselves
- Some children can really understand most everything you say (pay attention to what you say), but they have difficulty communicating back
- When getting in the car, some children want to be told where they are going, or they become very anxious
- Yes/no communication has many forms – 2 sided pictures, can hang on a yarn necklace – and even use right hand for yes/left hand for no
- High-tech and dynamic communication devices are appropriate for children with even very limited communication ability – don’t think they are only for children that can communicate more
- Teach the power of communication. Give your child a picture of a preferred object or action. Have them give you the picture or point at it and give them the desired object. Play over and over again.
One of the members of the Community Advisory Board, Carolina, shared a story:
At the first MWS Convention, there was a SLP talking about Augmentative Communication and she said to “Expect Excellence” all the time, meaning, set the bar high and let your children show you what they are able to do. That message has stayed with me forever. My daughter was very little, and I didn’t have expectations that she would communicate, and I was OK with that. Now she does. Not in the conventional way, but she does! And that’s what “total communication” is all about, so I don’t think it’s optional. In my opinion, we have to give our children all the options and let them show us how they will use them. Otherwise, we will be wasting time – precious time. As many parents have noticed, our kids will use and stop using things they learn. For example, Duda will only say “mom” if I am not around, because she doesn’t find it necessary to call me if I am there, but when I am not, she asks for me. She stopped saying “water” because now she doesn’t want to drink it anymore, so there is no need for that word in her vocabulary. She knows that “nomnom” means any drink or food, so she is not limited to only one thing. She says “nomnom” and walks to the fridge and chooses what she wants.