Using Highlights Magazine as a Therapy Activity for AAC Users
Highlights Magazine is an iconic children’s magazine that has been in publication since 1946! As a child, I remember reading this magazine in the waiting room before going into an appointment with my doctor or dentist. As a parent, getting a subscription to Highlights was an opportunity to find new activities, stories, and craft ideas every month.
Highlights knows how to provide a variety of activities for children who have different interests and abilities. It spans many ages, with four different magazines ranging from babies up to children in early middle school. In this article, I am going to give ideas on how to use and modify activities in the Highlights (ages 6-12) for AAC users. These activities can be done in the classroom, therapy room, or at home. As a note, these suggestions align well with a core vocabulary page set.
Check out my ideas below and please share your comments!
1. Program the jokes from Highlights Magazine on your AAC communication system. Add picture cues to help your child recognize specific jokes with the questions and answers.
2. Look at and compare the drawings submitted by children found in each issue. Encourage your child to comment on the drawings he or she likes best. Comments such as “I like that,” “That is pretty,” and “My favorite” are excellent ways to encourage communication and language expansion. This exercise can help a child improve sentence-building via creating a sentence like “My favorite is this one because…”
3. Read a short story or nonfiction article from the magazine. Create a communication board with visual cues to allow for aided language stimulation. You can also create an adapted book with PowerPoint or use an app such as Symbol Writer by Attainment Company.
4. Tear out and laminate the visual scenes. Add a sentence starter such as, “I see ___” on the bottom and encourage the AAC user to tell you what he or she sees. This can be done on a communication device or with a no-tech communication board created to be used with the visual scene.
5. Read and discuss the comics. When reading the comics, read the text and comment on the actions in the comic strips. Retell the story and then ask your child to recall the details by using the visual cues and giving prompts as needed. Ask your child to recognize the emotions of the characters by navigating to the describing page on the communication system. For example, in one “The Timbertoes” comic, a storm is coming at the end of the story. Ask your child, what is the weather like in the beginning of the story? How about the end? Why did they stop fishing? Encourage sentences such as “She is scared because…”.
6. Modify a craft activity by creating a sequencing board. You can make a visual communication board with programs like Boardmaker Online or Smarty Symbols. Don’t have these programs? No problem! Do the craft yourself and then take photos of each step or use the visuals provided in the magazine. Break the steps down and take turns.
7. Work on categorization. Many children need help with categorization, which can also help with more effective communication. Cut out some of the pictures in the Highlights Magazine and put them in a bag. Take turns choosing pictures and encouraging the child to create sentences. Comment and combine symbols for more effective communication.
8. Work on “same” versus “different” with the “What’s different?” activities. Model the language on the communication device. Modeling the terms “same” and “different” can be important—they are core vocabulary words that can be used in a variety of contexts. Teach these concepts!
9. Cook and follow along with a recipe in the magazine. There are many simple and child-friendly recipes that can be used as a therapy activity and a communication opportunity. These recipes also contain excellent visuals to help a child along with the recipe. Work on sequencing, sentence building, expanding vocabulary, and core actions.
10. Write to Highlights. If your child can’t write, that’s okay! Have him or her use the communication device to write a letter. Many communication devices can copy and share the message via e-mail. This can be an excellent activity for a child with complex communication needs.