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4 Tips to Keep Communication Skills Sharp During Summer for Children Using AAC

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Life changes in the summer. For many children, the regular, daily routine goes out the window in favor of relaxed days, less structure and little formal learning.

Often, that change can lead to a backslide when it comes to concepts learned and good habits created. And that goes for a child’s hard built communication skills, too. In the relaxed sprawl of summer, it’s easy to move away from goals and routines that have created strong communication, and fall into the backslide of easy-living, hoping to just coast until fall. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

If your child uses an augmentative and alternative communication device (AAC), what if a few simple adjustments could turn your child’s summer AAC speech into a learning avalanche instead of a language backslide. Here are a few easy ideas that could be placed in the summer routine to help keep language learning sharp until the new school year.

1. Get Booked!

Not only are books an incredible gateway into language, but many local libraries have summer reading programs complete with activities and awards.

  • Make a trip to the library part of your weekly routine.
  • Use your home computer to help your learner look up book topics and titles before you head out, so you know just what you are looking for.
  • Create a chart where readers can add a sticker for each book they read and a prize when the chart is full.
  • Make a habit of reading one story or one chapter aloud before you leave the library or before bed each night.
  • Ask your child their favorite character or what they would do if they were part of the story.
  • Remember CoughDrop can pair with TarHeel Readers to allow communicators to access books straight within their AAC program.

2. Get Outside!

Being outside gives children the chance to stretch their bodies as well as their minds. Chances to communicate abound outdoors. Even one activity a week can keep minds sharp and provide opportunities to use words and address concepts that might be ignored otherwise.

  • Go to the park and encourage interactions with others. Ask questions like, “What should we do first?” “Who should we invite to come with us?” “Would you rather swing or go down the slide?” “Do you want to wear a hat?” or, “How many children can you see?”
  • Head out for a hike or nature walk. Imagine all the things you could discover and discuss. Do some bird or animal watching and keep a list of all the creatures you find. Visit a lake or go fishing, talk about the plants and rocks nearby.
  • Take pictures and create a photo book, let your learner choose captions for the images.
  • Cool off at a splash pad or pool. Although electronic devices aren’t the best fit for water, activities like this give children great stories to tell. Print and laminate speech boards to give learners the chance to communicate even while getting wet.


3. Get Scientific.

Not only is science a great chance to learn and experience new things, it is also a great chance to learn and experience new words. Plus, you get to see cool stuff happen. A science day once a week could keep your communicator’s mind churning.

  • Head to the local science museum or planetarium for some hands on fun. Many museums offer discounted or free days so keep an eye out. Let your child help you prep a speech board ahead of time with words you might need while there.
  • Do a weekly science experiment. You can find tons of simple, but fun, experiments like these which can be done at home with very little effort. Have your child keep a log of what they learned or share their findings on social media.
  • Start an insect or rock collection. Keep an eye out for bugs and display them on pins or in a box. Look up your creepy crawlies or stones online or in a book to learn more about them.

4. Get the Write Stuff.

Help your learner keep language skills on point by encouraging them to compose writings of their own whenever possible.

  • Help your child keep an online blog or journal to make note of the things they do each day. This doesn’t have to be big. Even just a sentence or a few words each day can be a good start. It’s also fun to review the things you’ve done later on.
  • Craft a story about places you’ve gone, books you’ve read, or things you’ve seen. Use images from the web to spice up your tale or take turns, each person in the family chooses one sentence to compile a funny plot line.
  • Send a letter or email. It’s fun to keep in touch with people, and who doesn’t love to get something in the mail? Find a person (grandma, cousin, teacher, friend) who can act as a summer pen-pal with notes going back and forth each week (or even more often). Letters are great motivation for writing and sharing thoughts and ideas.
  • Make a treasure hunt. Let your child help you create a treasure hunt for younger siblings, neighbor kids or classmates. Let your learner help to craft the clues and choose the location of the treasure. (You can even use AAC in the hunt like this example.)

Summer doesn’t have to be a time of lost learning. With a little bit of planning and a spritz of fun, summer can become a time to maintain and even grow language and communication. Set the language avalanche in motion!

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Thinkstock image by maroznc

Originally published: July 28, 2017
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