Parents play an extremely 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. This section has been developed to guide parents, if their child is starting to use Avaz for the first time, and to provide strategies and methods to help implement Avaz at home. This guide has been developed under the guidance Octave Speech and Hearing Clinic, Bangalore.
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 an appropriate set of options in Settings.
Let's begin with the possibilities that Avaz can offer!
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.
Every child has a right to communicate! Communication is not limited to merely getting their needs met, but consists of a whole host of other forms of expression - expressing feelings, thoughts, socialising with people around, commenting, asking questions, stating preferences, narrating, joking etc. These are referred to as Functional communication - the various purposes for which we all communicate or have an interaction with others, where the user is communicating spontaneously and with purpose. Click here to know more about What is Functional communication?
Note: Withholding communication for your child or denying them a chance to express themselves results in regression of emotional, behavioural, social and cognitive areas.
What method do I use to teach my child? - Learn to model Avaz (Aided Language Stimulation)
The core strategy which is most effective for teaching the child to communicate is called Modelling or Aided Language Stimulation or Aided Language Input. Simply put, it means that you or the communication partner has to "model" the use of the app to the child, by using it yourself to demonstrate the use. The child learns to use App and pictures by observing how you tap various words for expressing yourself. Click here to know What is modelling.
Remember: A typically developing child hears 4000 words a day for 365 days in a year before they utter their first word. Similarly a child with AAC needs, needs to hear the same word spoken to them using AAC at least 50-150 times before they are able to start using it themselves. So modelling the same set of words through the day is critical to the child's learning.
How do I learn to use Avaz:
Before you teach your child how to use Avaz, you (the communication partner) need to know how to use it yourself. So practice with Avaz, when the child is away or asleep. Explore the vocabulary and practice communicating with Avaz, with a partner so that you feel comfortable while using it with your child. Let parents use Avaz to communicate with each other, for better practice. Remember that unless you know where the words are located in the hierarchy, you will be fumbling to find the word while modelling. Click here to know how to Practice modelling words in Avaz.
What words do I teach my child?
To express ourselves through each of the communicative functions (the main purpose for which we all communicate with each other), we require a bunch of words to be stringed together in order to communicate. These words are a combination of Core words (80%) and Fringe words (20%).
Core words are the building blocks of communication and are at the heart of language development. Core vocabulary or Core words refers to a small set of simple words that are used frequently and across all contexts. They can be taught and reinforced through a variety of activities in daily life. Hence it is most essential to focus on Core words, rather than Fringe words, which do not help in developing language.
Here are two key strategies that are the most important ones for daily communication exchanges.
a) Modelling - Model, Model, Model the use of AAC everyday
Every day is filled with communication opportunities for the child, through your day-to-day interactions. As you go about your day with your child, speak to your child, while also showing them how to use Avaz to express themselves.
We suggest different approaches or streams to developing the child's communication, emotional expression, while also developing language. You can follow either of these streams or a combination of both, as you may find suitable for your child's needs:
It is very natural tendency to provide a prompt to guide a new user to learn a particular action. But there is a method and science to providing prompts. There are different types of prompts that you can use to motivate the user to learn and succeed.
The daily activities of the child provide a great opportunity for developing language and communication for the child! Model the use of core words for each activity. With consistent usage, the child learns the use and meaning of the various words modelled to them.
Some children require prior preparation for what is about to happen. Hence use the of social stories or visual schedules can facilitate in helping them be better prepared and also settling them down, preventing behavioural issues later. These can be designed within Avaz app or in low-tech form as well.
Use Avaz consistently everyday with your child. Start small. Use Avaz for about 15-20 mins a day, during an activity or daily routine, till you as a communication partner feels comfortable. Gradually increase the time and the number of activities or daily routine. In school, get Avaz included in the school communication sessions or have it integrated with the school curriculum to ensure it is done everyday. The ultimate goal is to have AAC at all times and use it at all times.
Let every family member use Avaz - Make all family members interact with the child (parents, siblings, teachers, friends) using Avaz.
Acknowledge all forms of communication attempts - If your child points anything or makes an attempt to communicate, don't ignore it, however insignificant or irrelevant it may seem. Acknowledge the child's non-verbal communication by modelling on Avaz what the child has communicated through gestures or other means, expand on it and keep the conversation going. Click here for How do I respond to the child's attempt to communicate?
Give Time for a response - If you've asked a question, give your child TIME to respond. If they don't respond immediately, wait for at least 10-15 seconds or even upto a whole minute, depending on the child. Don't repeat the question in different ways before allowing them a chance to respond.
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?
Some commonly asked questions
For how long do I use Avaz everyday ?
What situations can we use it in?
If my child is asking through gestures for any item, how do we get them to start using Avaz?
When my child is going to sleep, how do we use it before going to bed?
If my child is using a specific gesture or points to an object how do i react
There is no specific duration - we recommend that you avail all possible communication opportunities to use Avaz everyday. In the beginning, you can start using Avaz for about 5-10 minutes on a specific activity during the day and then gradually increase the usage of Avaz for various other activities, depending on the child’s interests.
You can model more during the child’s most favourite activities during the day.
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 model core words during all activities and routines during the day. E.g. :
While brushing teeth - you can model "wash", "open", "close" etc.
At mealtime, you can model : "eat", "more", "want" etc.
Modelling these words repeatedly across all activities during the day helps the child get familiarized with the word and its concept and gradually introduce more vocabulary.
How to start using Avaz, if my child is already using gestures for a particular word? 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. Instead, respond by using Avaz to add more words to their communication Click here to view Response strategies.
How many categories do I start with?
You can start with as many categories as your child is comfortable with. E.g. Food, Places, People, Play activities etc. As the child’s vocabulary grows, you can add more categories.
E.g. “I am tapping the People folder and here is Mama”. “I am tapping the Fruit folder and here is a banana”.
Model what you want and how you want your child to tell on Avaz. If the child finds the larger number of categories overwhelming, you can hide some of them using the option of How to Hide and Show icons.