The parent plays an extremely vital role as the child's primary communication partner. This section has been developed to guide the parent, if the child is starting to use Avaz for the first time, and to help in implementing Avaz at home. 


The main purpose of this section (Part 1) is to get the child motivated to start using the app and to use single words to communicate. 


We believe that Avaz can be considered for any age range. It is not condition-specific (such as only for autism or intellectual disability) and can be successfully used by anyone with communication impairments. It has been our sincere attempt to put across experiences and best practices of families and professionals from diverse backgrounds backed by empirical evidence to create this guide. We do understand that no single solution fits all; however we do believe that  this document will at least give you the initial direction to begin with using the Avaz app. 


The app can be completely personalized to suit every child's unique preferences (e.g. favourite foods, toys, activities etc.) through simple, yet powerful customization options. The app also supports every child's individual support needs (cognitive, visual, motor needs) through a while extensive Settings. 


Main steps in this section

1. Starting tips

2. Teach Cause and Effect

3. Teach Choice-making and discrimination

4. Personalize Avaz with the child's favourite and familiar items

5. Repeat for multiple activities 


What's possible with Avaz?

Let's begin with the possibilities that Avaz can offer! 


The parent plays a very critical role in the child’s communication journey, as they are the primary communication partners in the child’s life and spend the maximum amount of time with the child. 


Watch this inspirational video by Smrithy Rajesh to see how she's used it to improve communication skills for her son Advaith. See how she has personalised Avaz for her child's needs, and how he uses it effectively to communicate his needs and wants. 




Watch more videos of Avaz users using Avaz to communicate, shop, play etc.


STARTING TIPS


Before you start using Avaz, it's important to go keep these tips in mind - Starting Tips


PART 1 -  Single word communication - 

Through understanding the purpose of Avaz and making a choice in real life situations. 


 Step 1 -  Identify your child's preferences 

Observe your child through the day and identify 2 or 3 items that your child asks frequently during the day. E.g. the child may ask for their favourite items "popcorn" and "train". You can choose their favourite foods or sensory toys and an activity to begin with. 

Make a list of their favourite items and activities, called Reinforcer List. You can gradually add some of these to Avaz. Seeing these items in the app will provide positive reinforcement and will motivate the child to turn to the app for asking for it. Keep this handy list so that you can add it in at the appropriate points. Also identify a set of non-favourite items that are useful for the next section, while providing a choice. 

Here is a sample Reinforcer checklist to help you - How to identify effective Reinforcers - (Courtesy: Akila Vaidyanathan, Amaze Charitable Trust, Coimbatore) 

For young adult AAC users, you can consider adding their favourite books, movies, songs, music, TV shows, sports activities etc. 

Another Reinforcer checklist 


Step 2 - Teach Cause and Effect

The first step of training a child to use AAC is to teach them the cause and effect relationship in communication, i.e. the concept that if they use a tool such as Avaz to communicate, it has a direct benefit to them.            

Click here to know How to teach Cause and Effect for using Avaz?


Step 3 - Teach Choice-making and Discrimination

After the child has learnt to establish cause and effect using Avaz, it is time to move on to teaching the child to make choices.

Click here to know  How to teach Choice-making and Discrimination)


Step 4 - Personalise Avaz for your child for more of their favourite items

Personalizing Avaz is one of the most important steps for successful communication intervention. 

Personalise Avaz for vocabulary by adding more of the child’s favourite items. Make sure you introduce one word at a time. 


Add more words that are the user’s favourites - e..g food, activities etc. Seeing familiar and favourite items motivates the child to communicate and helps them have more meaningful conversations. 

                What items do I add to Avaz to personalise (customise) Avaz for my child?


Follow the same steps to teach every new word added, as given in the Steps in Teaching Cause and Effect > How to teach a new word. 

  1. Add the new word

  2. Model the word

  3. Provide prompts to help the child learn to tap it

  4. Fade the prompt and make the child independent 

  5. Provide many more opportunities for the child to request/use the word. 

            For more details refer to Cause and Effect > How to teach a new word. 


Step 5 - Repeat Choice making for multiple activities

After personalising Avaz for other areas (as given in Step 4), introduce and repeat the choice-making in multiple contexts during the child's daily life.  E.g. Use Avaz for choosing what activity to play next, where to go, what songs to listen, what TV show to watch etc. 


Repeat Step 3 until the child has started using Avaz as their preferred means of communication, through the day for their daily needs. 


IMPORTANT 

Motivating Communication 

If your child is not motivated enough to get started, despite repeated attempts, try these simple techniques for initiating communication. 

Ideas and tips on motivating communication


Step 6 - Increase vocabulary by teaching Labelling or Naming objects

Learning to label or name grows the vocabulary as well as makes it more efficient for the child to start using the words to express themselves better. 


Start introducing a few words through labelling - once you teach around 20 words, you can move on to How to use Avaz - Part 2 and come back to Labelling for teaching more nouns. 

Labelling is mostly pertaining to nouns, which are not language builders. Hence it is important to alternate between teaching language through Core words and pragmatics, so that language development happens in parallel. 

What is labelling and how do I teach it?



Tips and guidelines for using Avaz 

  1. Use Avaz consistently everyday with your child, for at least 15-30 mins per day, to begin with. In school, get Avaz included in the school communication sessions or have it integrated with the school curriculum to ensure it is done everyday. 

  2. Let every family member use Avaz - Make all family members interact with the child (parents, siblings, teachers, friends) using Avaz. 

  3. Acknowledge communication attempts - If your child points at something or makes an attempt to communicate, don't ignore it, however insignificant or irrelevant it may seem. Acknowledge it, repeat it, expand on it and keep the conversation going.

  4. Give Time for a response - If you've asked a question or are waiting for a response, give you child TIME to respond. Wait for at least 10-15 seconds if they doesn't respond immediately. Don't repeat the question in different ways before allowing them a chance to respond.  

  1. Praise your child's attempt to communicate. Clap your hands, or say "good job", "great job", "wonderful" etc. “Good job, you said ‘want’”. This also gives them verbal feedback of 

  2. Don't limit your interaction to just Questions, requests or instructions - use more of comments, greetings, opinions, feelings etc. - a wide range of reasons for which we communicate. This is also referred to as communication pragmatics. Read more about it What are the various purposes or pragmatics of Communication?

  3. Motivate communication - Motivate your child to communicate more often, by contriving situations that provoke them to communicate. Read about Ideas to motivate communication.

            

Some commonly asked questions

  1. Some commonly asked questions 

    1. For how long do I use Avaz everyday ?

    2. What situations can we use it in? 

    3. If my child is asking through gestures for any item, how do we get them to start using Avaz?

    4. When my child is going to sleep, how do we use it before going to bed? 

    5. If my child is using a specific gesture or points to an object how do i react 

    6. How many categories do I start with?

    7. What if my child is not using Avaz even after repeated attempts?

For how long do I use Avaz everyday ?

In the beginning, you can start with about 5-10 minutes a day, to begin with, and then gradually progress to about 20-30 minutes a day, depending on the child’s interest and progress. 

Start with the child’s most frequently-requested and/or favourite items or activities during the day. 

Start by modeling it yourself repeatedly for each request until the child starts doing it on their own. 


What situations can I use it in?

Communication happens through the day “in the mess of daily life”. The day is filled with communication opportunities. You can turn every interaction to a communication opportunity from the time the child wakes up till they go to bed. You can start the day by asking the child for their choice of what to eat for breakfast, followed by lunch, and dinner,  their choice of activities / play, TV shows to watch, songs / rhymes to listen to etc. You can talk about the weather everyday, and gradually introduce them to more vocabulary. 


If my child is asking through gestures for any item, how do we get them to start using Avaz?
If the child is using gestures to communicate a request, accept and acknowledge the request first. Multi-modal communication is to be encouraged. Do not make the child repeat the request on Avaz by forcing them to show it again on Avaz. This is really important! If they say something that you understand, you don't want to make them say "Okay, now tell me on Avaz ..." since that means you're making them do it twice. People don't like that and you will see a lot of pushback. 


When she is going to sleep, how do we use it before going to bed? 

You can try Shared reading with the child. Shared Reading is a great activity that can help the child learn vocabulary, language, emotions and can really motivate the child to communicate. For more details on how to engage in Shared reading, refer to our blog: Tips for Shared Reading with Avaz

Bedtime conversations can include recalling how the day went by, for both the parent and child. Narrating specific incidents (sang a song, cooked pizza, met grandma etc.), discussing feelings / emotions (happy, tired, pain, angry etc.) etc. can help build vocabulary, language while also strengthening relationships. Similarly, you can talk about what’s coming up the next day - specific activities (painting / cycling ..), plans for breakfast (idli / omelette / banana etc.), - this helps the child be better prepared for the day ahead. 


How many categories do I start with?

You can start with just one category, to begin with. As the child’s vocabulary grows, you can add more categories and introduce them to the child, as you model the word in Avaz, so that the child listens to the word and observes as you tap. 

E.g. “I am tapping the People folder and here is Mama”. “I am tapping the Fruit folder and here is a banana”.


For proceeding to the next part click here - How to start using Avaz with my child - Part 2