I am always on the lookout for verbal messages that I can program into a single button, voice output device. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, a single button voice output device looks like this button (with the picture coming from this website):
The child pushes the button and it says whatever verbal message you have recorded into it. It is a simple way for a nonverbal or limited verbal child to experience communication. When you are limited to a single message, communication is--well, limited, and creating a great social activity with a single message takes some thought. I try to get away from using the button simply to request food, although that can work, of course. Here are some single messages (and reasons for communicating) that I have used on a single button:
Calling: "Mom!" or "Dad!" or even calling the family dog if you can train the dog to come when called this way. You can also call toy characters--which I have done with the word "Puppy, come here!" so that a child could collect a large number of the 101 Dalmatian Puppies.
Requesting a social game: "Hug me" as pictured here, "Tickle", "Kiss", "Chase me", "Go outside"--any game that the child likes can be represented by a picture and put on the device so that the child can request a favorite game.
Commanding someone/something to do something: "Go away!" I often find items that are slightly scary and let the child command the item to go away. A family member wearing a mask or even just a silly nose can be scary enough that a child wants to order them to "Go away!" or "Take off nose!" I often record the word "Go" on the button and let the child command an adult to start an electronic train, drop a puzzle piece down a slide, move forward pulling a wagon that the child is sitting on... the possibilities are endless for the word "go". "Sit down!" is fun for a child to say to dad or mom or siblings. I set chairs in a row and family members stand in front of the chairs and sit when commanded to do so.
Label: As compared to children who do not have autism, children with autism protest and request more and label items less so I recently put the words "What's that?" on the button so that a child who is mostly nonverbal but clearly understanding more and more words, could ask his mother and I to label things that we held. We hit the jackpot with a clear ball that I have that has a little slice of plastic pizza in it. When his mother would say the word "Pizza" it was almost too exciting. Sometimes he had to look away before she said it but he asked her to say the word over and over--often trying to say the word with her.
A single button that talks or even better, two buttons that talk will provide a nonverbal child with many more communication opportunities and I highly recommend that parents of nonverbal children buy at least two of these devices and find creative ways to use them.
Single Buttons like this can range in price from about $12.00 to over $115. 00. The difference in what one gets is durability and clarity of recorded speech.
Disclaimer: I have no financial ties to any company that sells these devices.