We don’t need to create special activities for our students to use their AAC devices. We can incorporate AAC into anything we do. Sometimes something as simple as playing a game really gets my students motivated to use their devices. I wanted to share about 3 simple games I have been using recently with my students to help them practice using their AAC devices in a fun way. Pop The Pig, Pop Up Pirate, and Ants in the Pants are some of my “go to” games I use all the time in therapy and so I figured I need to start using these games with my student who use AAC devices too. I have seen a lot of success with my students requesting their turn, commenting on the activity, and expanding their utterances all while having fun with these game!
Pop the Pig
This is probably the most requested game from all my students! My students love this game and it’s super easy to play. The students pump the pig’s belly until he pops. To play the game you roll the dice. The dice has different colors on it that correspond to the four different color burgers. After you roll the dice you pick one of the burgers that matches the color you roll. Turn the burger over to see how many times you need to push on the pig’s head to make his belly expand. For example, if you roll yellow then you get to pick a yellow burger. Turn over the yellow burger to see how many times you will get to pump the pig. So if you have a 2 on the burger you feed the pig the burger and pump him 2 times.
You can focus on many different communication skills depending on your student’s skill level. Your students can work on just requesting “my turn” on their devices. Before I let my students roll dice and take their turn I have them request “my turn” on their device. Sometimes I need to provide models multiple times before they can start independently requesting their turn.
For my students who can request “my turn” I also have them tell me the color they rolled on their device. If they rolled green then I have my student tell me green on their device before they get to pick up a green burger and feed it to the pig. You might need to hold the burgers back and not give them a chance to grab the burger until they tell you what color they want.
You can also practice expanding those utterances. Some of my students would say “I see yellow”, “I get yellow” or “I have yellow” with their devices after they rolled. I will take any combination! I’m not worried about the grammar at this point I want the student to practice expanding those utterances and combining different icons on their device.
I had one of my students also tell me the number on her burger. She said “I get red 3” independently on her device one turn and I was so excited. This was a huge breakthrough for my student. Again they use the phrase “I get” instead of “I got” which is fine because my student is not at the level to change the verb tense. I also had a student say “my turn roll” on their device. It is really amazing to see them combine different icons together.
Pop Up Pirate
Another favorite game of my students is Pop Up Pirate. Who doesn’t love a game where you can stick in swords and wait for the pirate to pop up? For this game usually each student gets a different color set of swords and they take turns putting in their swords. I changed the game a little to make my students have to request for each turn. For this game again you can work on your students requesting “my turn” before they get to put one of their swords in the barrel.
When I use this game with my students I make them request what color sword they want each time. They can just find the color word on their device such as “red” or “green”. If this is easy for your students make them use an “I want…” phrase to request. I had some of my students say “I want…” each time they requested. The “I want…” phrases are usually easier to teach because I model that phrase a lot when working on requesting. After they request the color they want I hand them only one sword. Then another student takes a turn by requesting their turn and the color they want. This is also good practice turn taking. If you have a student who is verbal in the group they can verbally request and the other student can request with their device.
After the pirate pops out of the barrel you can find some of those descriptive concepts on the device to describe what happened. I usually model “silly” and “surprised” on my students’ devices. I might even modeled “I feel surprised”.
Ants in the Pants
This is another easy game to play with your students and you might already have this game. I have the regular ants in the pants and a Sponge Bob version. I definitely have gone through a few of these games over the years! For this game the student needs to jump the ant into the dog’s pants or whatever version character you have. This game is also good to practice those fine motor skills.
I play this game the same way as Pop Up Pirate. Instead of giving the students all their color ants I make them request what color they want on each turn. The student can just say “yellow”, “want yellow”, or “I want yellow” on their device depending on their level. I like using these games in particular because after the student does request they immediately get rewarded by taking their turn in the game. These are also more motivating games than some other board games I have tried to use with my students. For me a like to sometimes use games during part of my therapy sessions because my students get to practice turn taking with peers and it helps facilitate some more natural communication intents.
Hope this helps give you some ideas of how to use those AAC devices more and make it motivating for your students to want to use their devices!