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Potty Talk and Augmented Communication

Potty Talk and Augmented Communication


We started potty training a few weeks ago. Day one my focus was just on the task. Running to the potty, resetting the timer, running to the potty again fifteen minutes later. I signed TOILET to represent this process and I suspect this will be Nathaniel's first way to communicate the need. But I quickly realized we need potty language on the talker. Speak for Yourself (SFY), the speech generating app that Nathaniel uses, had TOILET pre-programmed. That will be helpful in years to come, so I made the word available. We may use it from time to time in modeling. But TOILET is not age appropriate language for all the stuff little ones learn about through potty training.

The words above were our focus words for speech therapy last week. The words many parents need to reduce the frequency of their young child saying, we just spent a week trying to encourage Nathaniel to say. Such is life with a special needs child. We have to purposefully teach everything. Even potty talk.

When titling this post, I had to look up the meaning of 'potty talk' and 'potty mouth.' I learned they are not interchangeable. The first is the stuff a three, four, and five-year-old typically says; the later is when much older people swear a lot. To me potty talk and potty mouth are closer related. The decision to someday offer Nathaniel swear words on his device has already been discussed in our home. Our teens were interested in our 'theories' on the matter. It is times like this that I am glad Rich and I had thirty years of parenting experience before Nathaniel was born, because while I do not have formal training on AAC theory, I have made a lot of parenting mistakes. We've tried the withhold-the-sought-after-thing with Nathaniel's older siblings. Not swear words on an AAC device, but we came through similar struggles with our older children to realize that sometimes withholding a thing increases a child's desire for and interest in the thing. Deceit is sometimes born in such environment. Teaching why we refrain from a thing and self-control regarding a thing are far better. So if I am still the one programming Nathaniel's device when he gets to the point of wanting swear words, a big if because I sort of assume he will figure out how to add words himself by the time he wants to swear, my 'theory' on swear words and AAC will likely be to offer the ones he wants to say, let him say them once or twice, and then teach him why they are not appropriate. Much like how a speaking child saying swear words is handled. Parenting involves a lot of teaching. One lesson after another. Last week's potty talk words have appropriate and inappropriate uses. In the bathroom, with a parent, it is extremely appropriate for a three-year-old to say PEE. So we add it to the talker and because all of the Nathaniel's expressive language has to be purposefully modeled and taught - we teach him to say PEE or POOP. Speaking to his peers on the playground at age seven, PEE and POOP will likely not be appropriate. We will teach those lessons when the time comes. Potty talk and potty mouth have a lot in common.

Our weekly therapist did an amazing job of introducing the new potty words with a hands on activity. She brought a Little People house, family, and pretend poop and pee. One at a time the family announced on the talker "I NEED TO GO POTTY!" and ran to the bathroom. "MOMMY PEE!" "DADDY POOP!" the therapist molded. And some pretend poop and pee were in the toilet! I am 100% positive I could never have come up with such a wonderful role playing activity. Never ever. AND I am 100% positive that all future pipe cleaner and bead crafts will make me think of speech therapy.

We have been reading The Potty Book for boys daily. Not only do I like the story line of little Henry transitioning from diapers to underwear and his experience with potty training, the book allows for emphasis reading of all five words. (Read this to better understand what I mean by word emphasis reading.)

After another week of potty training and using our first set of potty talk words, I think more potty talk words are need to be opened on Nathaniel's device: messy, puddle, smelly, and maybe TOOT!

Some specifics for those interested in how and where I added potty words to Speak for Yourself:

I added POTTY on the same page as TOILET. It is under the main screen word IN in the SFY app; many words for household items are located there.

UH OH! was already available under PLEASE with other cute, generic, age-appropriate phrases like I DON'T WANT TO!  and GIVE IT BACK!

I added POOP and PEE on the screen with body parts and fluids. Poop, pee, pus.... makes sense, right? That main screen word is BUT.

I NEED TO GO POTTY! was added to the screen that holds other phrases like I NEED SUCTIONED NOW! This is under the main screen word YOU on Nathaniel's system. We created this screen specific to Nathaniel's needs. I have written before about the words and phrases located here.

Finding appropriate symbols for the new words was a bit tricky. I use a different app, Custom Boards, to print the Smarty Symbols pictures used with the SFY system. Unfortunately some of the symbols have changed since SFY purchased their symbol set. This complicates transiting back and forth between the talker and printing. Other than POOP being a little pixelated, I am happy with what I settled on. If you use SFY and are interested in symbol names used or how I toggle back and forth between the two apps, send me an email.





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