As a parenting counselor, I know that one of the most important skills for preschool age children and their families is communication. Parents, of preschool children with disabilities, need to understand how to support their child’s use of communication technologies around the house. There are many types of technology that can be used in the home of a special needs preschooler. The technology to do this is called augmentative communication and there is a broad range of these devices available. It is important for parents to know that some are more appropriate than others for use at home.
Preschool Technology & Parenting: Buttons and Switches
Parents of preschool children with special needs can benefit greatly from knowing what kinds of technology will help their child communicate with them and the family most effectively. One example of a devise is using buttons and switches. These are large and small colorful button or switch devices that can hold recorded words and phrases. Children touch the button to communicate a prerecorded word or phrase such as: “more”, “please,” “Thank you,” “Hello/goodbye.” Often times the buttons and switches are set for specific words or phrases and the child learns which color corresponds to which word or phrase. This technology can really empower a child to initiate communication with family members at home when speaking isn’t an option for them.
Preschool Technology & Parenting: Choice Boards
Preschool age children like to feel they are in control of their environments, especially in their home. Parents, who understand this, look for ways to give their child some ownership of their world. Offering the technology of choice boards is a way to give them power and independence. A choice board is a device that typically has 2-10 buttons. The buttons are made of a clear plastic so a picture can be placed behind it to serve as a label. Each button can have a prerecorded word or phrase recording assigned to it. The child pushes a button to make choices. The buttons can be set up to use words or phrases that will help a child and family communicate such as: foods, clothing, toys, TV/movies, songs, books, colors, numbers, etc… This technology is useful in the home as it let’s children tell their family what they want or do not want.
Preschool Technology & Parenting: Personal Talkers/Computers
Parents who have an older more experienced preschool child may want to consider using a personal talker or computer in the home. These are typically smaller devices that can be 8″ x 8″ inches to the size of a large laptop computer. These computers utilize the technology of touch screens for the child to make choices. The screens can be programmed for 2-20 or more choices. Each screen contains buttons to touch that have pictures of what the child wants. This technology can be used to help the child form sentences with the computer. They can push a button for “I want” and then touch a choice. This type of technology is for children who are ready to carry their device around and can be taught to navigate through the screens with ease.
Parenting for Learning: Stop, Think, Play and Learn