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Picture This: Chatting Without Words

Written By April Preston, Director of Behavioral Sciences

Picture this: Your child has so much to say, but the words are just out of reach. Whether it's due to communication delays, autism, or any condition that makes traditional talking a challenge, every child has a voice waiting to be heard. Enter the work of pictures and Alternative Augmented Communication (AAC) devices, a colorful bridge between silence and expression. For parents starting this journey, it feels like learning a new language – one that’s surprisingly simple and profound.

Starting the journey can be as simple as incorporating picture cards into the daily routine. Begin with pictures or symbols to represent their most loved items or activities – think ‘bed’, ‘blocks’, ‘snacks’, etc. Use these visuals during relevant moments, pointing to them, and encouraging your child to do the same. This visual exchange opens up a new channel of conversation. It’s not just about making requests; it’s about sharing experiences. Imagine the joy in ‘seeing’ your child ask for their favorite toy or saying, ‘goodnight’ through pictures.

This method of communication is clear and effective, supported by scientific research. Researchers Xiaoyi Hu and Gabrielle Lee found that using picture exchange systems can increase vocal responses in children.

But communication is more than just talking; it’s about connecting. Create a storybook of your day-to-day life using these pictures and symbols. Go through it together, allowing your child to ‘tell’ you about their day, one picture at a time. Remember, patience is your best friend. Every child progresses at their own pace, but every picture shared is a step closer to understanding and being understood. As you both learn to navigate this pictorial language, you are not just teaching your child to communicate, you are giving them the tools to share their world with you.

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