For years now, I have described myself as a “part time AAC user” but beyond my preference for communicating by text and email whenever possible, I’ve never taken any steps to communicate multi-modally outside the home. (At home, I use a combination of gesture, sign, objects, facial expression, and cat sounds in addition to speech. My husband has become an able translator over the years!)
I have the same communication software as my students use downloaded on my phone and tablet. (Ostensibly, I got it for school.) I’ve tried using it, but it’s way too slow to ever be functional for me. Also, I find myself simplifying my language in order to use the vocabulary that is available instead of choosing the exact words and sentence structures I want, which slows me down further and can obfuscate my meaning. And so, I do use it for school, but I don’t use it for me.
This past week, I finally purchased a text-based AAC app. I hadn’t been able to justify the expense to myself. After all, I talk. A lot. And I wasn’t really sure if I would ever use it outside the house. So I found one that had almost all the features I wanted and didn’t cost as much as the ones with all the bell and whistles. The first thing I noticed about it? I liked it a lot better once it was purple. In fact, when I set up my second device, getting the color right was higher priority for me than getting my vocabulary set up. That’s particularly interesting because I’m usually not a visual person at all. I tend to ignore avatars, backgrounds, etc. (My NLD exacerbates this tendency.) Yet, if it made that much difference to me, who usually doesn’t care about such things, how much do our students care? Our students who we bombard with color choices at every corner “to provide language opportunities?” How often do we even pay attention to the cosmetic aspects of their device? We use vocabulary color coding, but what about background colors? Case colors? Fonts? There are a lot of ways to personalize a device beyond content that we often overlook.
I hear a lot that “we have to motivate the student to use the device/to communicate (or they won’t.)” What difference might it make if the student was able to set up the device to be more visually pleasing (or interesting) to them? I haven’t used mine in the wild yet. I haven’t needed to. (It’s vacation week. I haven’t actually gone out much!) But I’m motivated to. I keep wanting to add vocabulary that might be useful. I haven’t had that before. I never would have thought that being purple would have made so much difference.