A fantastic benefit of having diverse children in mainstream classrooms is learning about differences, compassion, and acceptance. When an AAC user is in class, their classmates are usually curious. Class discussions about why people use AAC and how to use it can go a long way to foster an environment of acceptance. Here are some ideas for introducing AAC into a mainstream classroom.
Training with teacher and school staff
The more the classroom staff and school staff as a whole understand why and how a student is communicating, typically helps calm any fears that the school staff may feel and can help provide an opportunity to problem-solve about having the student be an active participant in the classroom. This training should include the school staff the child may interact with, including principals, vice-principals, school secretary, and even potentially the school janitor, which helps promote an inclusive environment.
Have a Class Presentation about using AAC
If possible, have the student help plan and participate in the presentation. For some students, it may be going up and showing the class their AAC. For others, it may be picking parts of the presentation. It might be you helping, but the student is doing all the planning and presenting. Include polite ways to interact with the AAC user.
Have AAC available in the classroom and throughout the school.
Having AAC available throughout the school also shows that this school is an inclusive environment. It also provides opportunities for people to be exposed to and try to communicate other than using their voice.
Having other students model AAC use can be very powerful for AAC students who are still developing their skills. If you can, have an iPad loaded with the same system that your AAC user(s) are using. Allow students to use it to talk with one another, answer questions, and play.
Having an inclusive environment at school is essential for all students. For AAC users, having other people to talk with is critical for their education and quality of life. What do you do when introducing AAC in a mainstream classroom?