“But, I don’t want to stop her natural speech from developing!”
It's a refrain we hear often from parents who have children with language impairments. And it's understandable; in a perfect world, every child would have an easy, direct, and intuitive path toward growing their language capacity. The bad news is that we don't live in that perfect world. The good news is that there is a lot we can do to support students who struggle with communication, starting with an AAC solution. So, the next time you hear this sentiment, try out one of these responses that comes directly from research:
The introduction and use of AAC improves natural speech even when no speech therapy has been given!
You don’t need to have any specific cognitive or communicative skills. Research continues to reinforce the idea that cognitive development is closely impacted by language development and vice versa. Communicative ability emerges at birth in many natural, pre-conventional forms (e.g., crying, cooing, gestures, etc.). This means that natural actions and behaviors are the only prerequisites.
No one communicates independently! When was the last time you struggled to find a word and your communication partner chimed in with it? Then, think about the various ways that you have been communicating non-verbally (nodding, wrinkling your forehead, pointing etc.) and people have understood you. Communication is socially constructed and sustained; it does not occur in a vacuum.
AAC can play a pivotal role in supporting a child who struggles to communicate in many ways, including:
Keep these things in mind the next time you have a conversation about the need for AAC. And remember: nobody is too young to start communicating!