Welcome back to Let’s Talk About It! This is the time and place where we talk about augmenting language in order to develop language through an alternative communication system.
A question I get asked a lot is, “Why am I not hearing about augmentative communication sooner? Why do I have to seek out augmentative communication resources myself?” I hear this from parents an awful lot where they feel like they are the ones initiating the conversation about augmentative communication.
Why is that? I think there are several factors for it, and here comes in a personal impression. I think some key factors are that therapists, educators, and interventionists feel like we need to give each child every opportunity to develop language verbally. That is the truth and we want that, but what happens is we delay the conversation about the introduction of augmentative communication so long that we increase the gap between when a child understands and what they are able to express.
There is nothing about time by itself that is going to improve a child’s ability to be able to produce speech when that speech is physically difficult, emotionally difficult, or for some other reason that speech is not coming in. Time is not going to help it by itself; intervention helps it, and the opportunity to incorporate a symbol system that is more accessible — picture symbols, object symbols, tactile symbols — those provide another way to be able to develop that language.
So the answer to the question of, “Why am I not having or hearing the conversation about augmentative communication sooner?”, the answer to that sometimes is, “We’re hoping that time will improve the situation.” But the bottom line is that language will improve the situation, so we want to be making every effort to be developing that language, whether that language is verbal and/or that language is developed through an augmentative communication system.