I’m glad you asked! Aided Language Stimulation (ALS) is also commonly known at Aided Language Input. ALS is a way for a communicator to provide a model for communication with the use of AAC. The model (teacher, parent, sibling, therapist, etc.) would select the icons/words on the AAC device and speak them while the learner is observing. In turn, the child would learn how to use AAC in a functional way. ALS is very similar to how we develop language, through models as communication is a two way street. However, it makes our linguistic structures visual so the learner isn’t just hearing the linguistic models but seeing them!
ALS is an evidenced-based strategy. Research conducted in 2004 revealed, “Three preschool children with moderate cognitive disabilities who were functionally nonspeaking participated in the investigation. The investigator implemented a multiple-probe design across symbol sets/activities. Elicited probes were used to determine whether the children increased their comprehension and production of graphic symbols. Results indicated that all 3 children displayed increased symbol comprehension and production following the implementation of aided language stimulation” (Harris, et al. 2004).
PrAACtical AAC is a fantastic website full of ideas for therapists and resources for parents for implementing AAC. In a video on Aided Language Input (Stimulation), the author notes “(ALS) is an easy to use strategy but on the other side, it is extremely powerful”.
Let’s talk about how to get started!
If you are new to Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC), a great place to start is reading this blog I wrote on implementing core words. It breaks down teaching core vocabulary in 5 steps:
- Identifying and introduce basic core vocabulary words
- Teaching the core words. That’s where Aided Language Simulation (ALS) comes in!
- Elaborating on core vocabulary
- Provide repeated exposure
- Checking for understanding and re-teaching
So, now that we know what AAC is, ALS is the how of AAC. Here are some tips to implement ALS into meaningful, functional activities:
- Use the same device/board! Using the same device to use ALS to teach new words is the best way to model. Most students will let you, but if you need to, you can use your device/board. Using the same device/board allows you to speak in the same voice. Showing your student how you struggle and process selecting the icons is another important model.
- Initially, expand on your student’s utterances by simply adding one or two words. For example, if your student communicates, “ball”. Respond with modeling, “throw the ball” with the device and speaking. Occasionally, use longer and more complicated linguistic structures, but expanding on simple one word uttereances with one or two more words is a great place to start! This video by CTEAAC.org shows you just how to do that.
- Use Aided Language Stimluation (ALS) often as you can. Obviously, the more opportunities the better but here is a list that makes it easy on where to get started because I know it can get overwhelming.
- Any daily routine like mealtime, arts and crafts, creative play play time, etc. I use AAC when I cook with my students. Here is one resource from my TPT shop that helps you complete simple cooking lessons for AAC users and other students working on developing language skills. It focuses on one core word per recipe. 7 Recipes are included in this set with recipes like Ants on a Log, S’mores, and Pizza Bagels. Yum!
- Start with a word of the week. My Word of the Week bundle found here describes opportunities for your student to use their new core vocabulary in different situations with different activities. The Word of the Week packet includes parent/educator letters and materials to use for each core word.
- Provide repeated exposure. This blog post on Implementation of AAC in the Classroom has several tips on ways to help coach and encourage teachers to use your student’s AAC device and core vocabulary in the classroom setting.
- Shared reading. Use AAC Core Adapted books to use repeated vocabulary and sentence stems. A tip is to encourage parents to purchase the books and to use them at home for repeated exposure. My spring set with 16 books is linked here.
- Everyone that spends a significant amount of time with the AAC learner should understand the importance of ALS and help implement this strategy. Help educate the child’s teachers, parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. on the importance of ALS. This handout from Saltillo breaks down the importance of ALS. In that handout, it is summarized that Jane Korsten, an SLP, was quoted to say that “it would take 701 years, at twice a week, for 20-30 minutes, for a child to obtain the same amount of language immersion on his/her device, as typical 9-12 year olds” (Jane Korsten, 2011 QIAT Listserv 4th April). A study done in 2006 revealed, “8 of 10 most frequently reported reasons for device abandonment were related to partner training and support issues” (Johnson, Inglebret, Jones & Ray, 2006). This visual by NSSED Integrated-Assistive Technology Services breaks down how important Aided Language Stimulation provided by a model (educator, parent, therapist, etc.) is:
- Have patience and have fun! We have to remember that language development takes time. We expect typical children to use their first words after an entire year of hearing that word modeled over different situations, in different settings, etc. Also, you can make mistakes too!
Let us know how you plan on using Aided Language Stimulation for AAC!
Reliable Resources for Further Reading Linked Here:
Harris, Michael & Reichle, Joe. (2004). The Impact of Aided Language Stimulation on Symbol Comprehension and Production in Children With Moderate Cognitive Disabilities. American journal of speech-language pathology / American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 13. 155-67. 10.1044/1058-0360(2004/016).
Johnson, Jeanne & Inglebret, Ella & Jones, Carla & Ray, Jayanti. (2006). Perspectives of speech language pathologists regarding success versus abandonment of AAC. Augmentative and alternative communication (Baltimore, Md. : 1985). 22. 85-99. 10.1080/07434610500483588.
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