Many students with moderate-severe disabilities benefit from using low-tech AAC tools to help them communicate. Helping parents at home with easy ways to work on communication can be tough. That’s why showing them how to work on functional communication during meal time is great. Meal time is a common routine in the home and children are pretty motivated to communicate around food. Even if the child protests, this is very empowering for them to know that someone understands they don’t want something! Today, I am going to share how you can coach parents with using a meal time communication board to build language and expand functions of communication.
Meal times are a great way to help train parents and staff at school to work on CORE vocabulary and communication functions.
It can be hard to find ways to work on more than just requesting with our students. Using CORE vocabulary can help you work on answering yes/no questions, requesting more, protesting, sharing opinions (i.e. like/don’t like), social functions (i.e. turn taking, waiting, saying polite communication forms.)
CORE vocabulary are those words that can be used across many activities and speakers such as the word “go” can be used to tell the parent to “go get the milk,” or “go to the car,” or “go away.” The fringe vocabulary is at the top of the meal CORE board in the picture. The fringe vocabulary are specific words that can be used for a certain setting or activity. You wouldn’t have a spoon or fork on a page for math because it isn’t specific to that theme or category.
Tips for Coaching Parents with the Meal Time Communication Board
When helping parents and staff with using the meal time communication board, you want to remember that this might be very new to them.
So, instead of telling your parents 5-10 ways to use the CORE board, give them one actionable step or goal for the week.
It might be as simple as, “Put the communication board on the fridge and bring it over to the table for 1 mealtime.”
Then, next week, you can give them a coaching assignment of modeling “more” with the CORE board. Every week, you want to give one actionable tip. As your parents/staff get the hang of things, you can add in more elements.
Remember, we are trying to establish routines and habits of using it, so that takes time. We don’t want to overwhelm them because then they won’t feel empowered to use the CORE board.
You may have to show your parents what it looks like to model and invite their child to use the CORE board. You can film a quick video with the CORE vocabulary you want them to use and give them tips about providing “wait time,” and “using the board themselves to communicate with their child.”