Catch the Wave: AAC in the Water

For many families, summertime means time at the pool.

While there is a ton of fun to be had in the water, getting things wet can often bring up some major concerns for those who communicate using augmentative communication (waterlogged iPad anyone?).

Yes, there are "waterproof" cases available for tablets and phones, but often those options work better to prevent damage from spills or accidental dousing than constant submersion over an extended period.

If your summer plans include fun at the pool, here are a three simple ideas that might help you keep communication constant even while you're in the water.


1. Include pool staff in your plans

While you may intend to be with your AAC communicator every moment at the water park, it can be a big benefit to give park staff the down low on the needs and norms for your crew.

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If you plan to be at the pool regularly, ask management if you can meet with staff for a few minutes sometime or even just share an email to let them know a bit about AAC communication. You might want to create a simple, laminated speech board that staff members can have on hand in case they need to (or want to) interact with your child. This could also become essential if your sweetheart somehow gets separated from you. Knowing the abilities and options for communication could become very important very quickly.

You might even consider adding a picture of your communicator and a bit of information about them to the back of the laminated communication board (their name, your contact info, etc).

Often pool employees are very willing to help you have the best experience possible. For example, one pool adopted a special colored wrist band that parents can request for their kiddos which alerts staff that the wearer may need additional support. Lifeguards know if they see this person without their supporter they should step in and check to be sure all is well and be aware that the person may not communicate or behave in the same way most others do.

2. Make your own waterproof communication system

While an iPad or tablet may NOT be a very good option for communication when you are at the pool there are definitely some simple ways you can take your words straight into the water.

You can always choose to simply laminate a speech board to prep it for a water landing. For speech boards that will be a frequent partner in the pool it is probably good idea to do at least two rounds of lamination. Laminate the board, cut the excess paper and plastic from around the board and then laminate a second time. If you need a printable speech board find one here

Another good option might be this great AAC kickboard idea from Special Crafts for Special Kids. This dual purpose item could be the perfect fit for swimming and speaking.

But if you don't happen to have a kickboard on hand, don't despair. Just get a bit creative. Head straight to your recycling basket and grab and empty milk jug or soda bottle and you can get much the same speech opportunity from bits and pieces you already have on hand.

These floating communication tools are a simple, cheap, and portable solution -- and you won't be too upset if they gets lost or broken because they're so easy to make. Just laminate the printed speech board, then hot glue, tape, or use glue dots to attach the board to the bottle. Now your words won't sink and you can chat about everything going on around you.

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These ideas were submitted by an AAC parent (thanks Maja!) showing how she keeps language ready to go when she and her daughter are near the water. Something like this is another great poolside solution.

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3. Keep it simple -- and on hand

While a full speech board on a floating tool might be a nice way to keep conversation going, it might also be a good idea to consider speech solutions that cannot float away (or get nabbed by naughty neighbors).

For this need, a wearable AAC opportunity might be just the thing.

You might want to consider bracelets like this. These slap bracelets were less than $5 for a set of 12 online. By laminating a row of important words and then attaching that strip to the bracelet (try packing tape or a stick on velcro strip) you ensure that basic communication options will always be on hand.

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Athletic swim shirts like this can be found at most clothing stores and just about anywhere online. Using iron on transfer paper you can quickly turn any shirt into a communication tool.

Print a speech board onto the transfer sheet and then iron that onto the shirt (don't forget to print the image in reverse so that when you iron it on the shirt it reads correctly).

This option will help prevent sunburn and will also keep words close by for easy access.

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Make one for your AAC user, wear one yourself -- soon everyone at the pool may be asking where they can get their own (you trend setter you).


While excursions to the pool, water park, or splash pad can make AAC a bit tricky, with a bit of preparation they don't have to leave communication out of reach.

Catch a fun AAC communication story at the pool in the video here.