What is aided language input?
Aided language input, also known as aided language stimulation (ALS), is a strategy used by a communication partner to facilitate the understanding and use of symbols on an individual’s AAC system. The communication partner teaches symbol meaning, and models language by combining their verbal speech with vocabulary words on the AAC System. This can be done on low tech, mid tech, and high tech communication systems. On a low tech system such as a core vocabulary board, a communication partner talks to the person while also pointing to the corresponding symbols. On a high tech device, a communication partner may activate an icon while pairing that icon with their speech.
Why use aided language input?
Typically, developing children often produce “first words” around their first birthday. By that time, they have had approximately 12 months of exposure to language in context. Drager (2016) states that it is difficult to calculate the number of verbal models that children will have heard by then, but a conservative estimate is in the hundreds of thousands of models. In contrast, children who require AAC often receive far fewer models of the language form that they are expected to use, if any. There are far more limited opportunities to observe another person using an AAC to communicate (Drager, 2016).
Aided language input is an input/output method that teaches the understanding of language (symbols/icons on communication system), and teaches the use of these symbols. The more a communication partner models a symbol, the more a child will auditorily and visually pair speech with that symbol. With greater understanding, comes increased use of these symbols.
When we are using aided language input with any AAC system, we are not testing, prompting or telling a child what to say. Rather, we are modeling our language in a verbal + visual modality to increase icon association with verbal speech. For many of our children with complex communication needs and language delays, deficits in auditory processing make it difficult to process speech alone. A multisensory modality such as aided language input, can help strengthen the auditory-visual system and facilitate use of icons within an AAC system.
Is aided language input evidence based?
Yes. In 2016 Sennott Light and McNaughton did a review of 10 research studies and found that aided AAC modeling determined:
- Improved pragmatic, semantic, syntactic, and morphological development for young children who are beginning communicators
- With appropriate models within naturalistic contexts, paired with interactional techniques (time delay and recasting), individuals made gains in expressive and receptive language
- Positive findings of impact of AAC modeling align with major acquisition theories regarding the importance of language input (Gerken 2008, Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff 1996)
The use of aided language input also correlates to the research supporting the use of picture symbols for individuals with Autism spectrum disorder. We can use the visual spatial strengths of individuals with autism to teach how to use symbols for expressive communication, including the use of a consistent visual communication system to clarify grammar that underlies spoken or signed language through spatial cues (Schuler and Baldwin 1981).
How do I use Aided Language Input with CVES?
In part 2 of this series we will specifically look at how to use aided language input with the Core Vocabulary Exchange System. We will explore what language to model as well as how to use the Core Vocabulary Foldout to 1. Individually remove icons directly from the Core Vocabulary Foldout or 2. Remove single or multiple icons from the Foldout and adhere them to the communication card. In part 3, we will discuss how to use most to least prompting to teach access and exchange of core words, while continuing to use aided language input throughout a child’s day. In part 3, we will discuss using traditional language facilitation techniques as aided language modeling. Finally, in part 4, we will discuss how to use most to least prompting to teach access and exchange of core words, while continuing to use aided language input throughout a child’s day.