Tablets, smartphones, and other digital devices are everywhere. They have even become an effective tool for ABA therapists to better enhance the communication skills of patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Known in the industry as “Assistive Technology Devices” they can be used strategically in all areas of life.
How To Use Assistive Technology Device for Communication?
There are many helpful apps that focus on developing language. A lot of families and professional educators have been increasingly interested in helping their children with communication challenges learn to talk via digital device technology. Though many of these techniques yield the best results when you work closely with your speech and language therapist. This will help incorporate assistive technology into the patient’s treatment plan.
Identifying Apps That Can Facilitate Communication Skills
There are a few things to keep an eye out for when looking for the best app to help a child with ASD to improve their communication skills. Early on, you will want to target an app that has lots of pictures.
A lot of apps use a plethora of pictures. Though the most effective ones let you upload your own images to customize the communication process with things the child already sees in their everyday environment.
You also want an app that can speak or sound out the word when the picture is touched. It also helps to have an app that can control how many pictures are displayed at a time, as well as one that gives you the ability to make your own categorization system, to track all the different pictures.
Setting Up An Assistive Technology Device App
While different apps might have their own special features and unique process names, there are techniques for introducing the app and using it to maximize the results.
Begin with modeling to help the child understand how to use the device and the app. Anytime they want something take the device out and touch the picture, so the device says the word. You then repeat the word before handing over the thing they are asking for.
Whenever they use the device to repeat the word or say the word, make sure to reward them with their preferred mode of positive reinforcement. As time goes on the child might start to use base sounds or the first letter of the word with increasing proficiency.
Once you have clearly established that they are trying to communicate with the device to assist in the process, make sure to reward them. When the child presses the picture, make sure to give the requested item in short order. This will go a long way toward helping the child with ASD to learn to associate pictures with objects. At first, you may want to have only one or two pictures up at a time on the device, until the individual learns how to use it. In most apps, you can increase and decrease the number of pictures on the screen at one time.
Tips For Using AAC Devices To Enhance Communication
There are a few basic practices and protocols to keep in place throughout the early stages of implementing an Assistive Technology Device in the ABA therapy plan.
Don’t Install Games On The Device
If you are using an Assistive Technology Device to teach language, it’s best to avoid putting games on it in the early stages. You want to wait to install any sort of learning games or entertainment reward apps until they are consistently communicating. This eliminates the temptation to open games when you want them to be communicating with you!
When using the device to teach and/or enhance communication, you need to make sure it’s easily available at all times. Not only does this encourage use, but it reduces the risk of communication anxiety in the child.
Work With A Speech Pathologist
Speech and language pathologists play a critical role in any ASD child’s support team. They can help you start to use the device in conversations once your child has the basics.
How To Use The Device for Daily Activities
The Assistive Technology Device can help an individual with ASD to better perform their daily activities and maintain self-care routines. It can be set up to help them stay on a schedule with timed alerts. As they become more adept at using the device you can even use it to carefully lay out the steps in completing activities by implementing the following steps.
Set up the child’s schedule on the device, with reminder alerts that pop up when it’s time for important daily activities.
Make sure detailed steps for all activities are included. Especially for tasks that they find difficult at their current level of skill development. It helps to start with self-care and daily hygiene routines like brushing their teeth or putting on their own pajamas before bed.
Maintain a visual schedule that will help reinforce timed daily routines. Having a picture of what he or she is supposed to be doing first and what’s coming next may help keep them focused. This includes things like having an after-school snack or remembering bedtime.
How To Use The Assistive Technology Device as a Reward
In the early days, the Assistive Technology Device should only be used for communication and scheduling skills. As the child progresses and becomes proficient with the device, you can use it for other things such as therapeutic learning games.
Many modern-day learning apps have a lot of entertainment value for a child with ASD, which makes them a great option for using it as a reward as part of their positive reinforcement strategy. Though this is only once they are completely fluent with using the device for communication.
You also need to establish that the games on the device are only a reward. This can be challenging sometimes since the device needs to be available at all times to facilitate communication.
It helps to choose a behavior you want to increase that is appropriate for the device user’s skill level. Then break down the behavior into small steps that you can reward. As time goes on, you can increase the amount of time the device can be used for non-communication purposes.
It’s important to always be consistent with these rules to ensure that they are followed, and the device is used appropriately.