Saying ‘No’ is an important skill for emergent communicators to learn. The ability to refuse/ reject builds choice-making and paves the way for self-advocacy. It also gives a sense of control which leads to intrinsic motivation and encourages an individual to communicate more.
Teach one negative word at a time initially. You can start with commonly used negations such as ‘No’, ‘Not’ and ‘Don’t’, which can be used in statements as well as in question forms. Gradually, introduce more complex negations such as Never, None, etc. and model them on the AAC device.
For example, when you are beginning to teach negation such as ‘NO’, shake your head while pointing to the word in the AAC system. This helps them associate meaning with the word. When you demonstrate negation in different settings, it helps the communicator learn to use it in different situations.
Over time, the communicator can learn to use negation for different functions such as Rejection, Denial, Non – existence, Prohibition, etc.
Activities to teach negations:
Real Life examples –
This is the best way to generalize the concept and also help the communicator use negation in day-to-day situations.
- “Let’s make an omelette. Oh! but we do NOT have any eggs. Come, let’s go to the market and buy some”.
- “Today is your friend’s birthday and you have NOT wished her yet”.
- “My face is covered in soap bubbles and I am NOT able to see anything”.
The secret behind teaching negation is all about finding a motivating, functional game. Remember to consistently model the phrase/question with the negative word so that the AAC learner successfully learns and masters the concept.
Barrier Games –
Barrier games are excellent tools for language learning and can be used for teaching negation. Just put a form of a physical barrier such as cardboard between two players. One player gives verbal instructions to create a scene and the other player follows the instructions.
“Put the nest on the tree, but NOT touching the branches”
“Put all the toys on the table, but NOT the books.”
The ‘N-O-T’ game –
- An item (object’s feature – shape / colour)
- Ex.: Show me an object that is NOT round in shape
Keep a few familiaritems before the AAC user and ask questions using the ‘not’ negation. The question can be pertaining to either:
(Options given: TV / Globe / Ball)
- Ex.: Point to a picture that is NOT blue in colour
(Options given: Sky / Sea / Sun)
- A person / living being
- Ex.: Show me a person who does NOT stay in the house
(Options given: Grandmother / Sister / Firefighter)
- Ex.: Show me an animal which does NOT eat meat
(Options given: Tiger / Hippopotamus / Wolf)
- A category:
- Ex.: Show me an object that does NOT belong to the group
(Options given: Ball / Owl / Crow)
Ex.: Point to a picture that is NOT a vegetable
(Option given: Kiwi / Carrot / Potato)
- An activity / an object’s function:
- Ex.: Show me an item that is NOT used for cleaning the house
(Options given: Broom / Dust pan / Plate)
- Ex.: Show an item that is NOT used for cooking
(Options given: Pen / Stove / Cooker)
Following instructions –
You can ask the AAC user to follow instructions containing negatives. Make it a fun, silly game of having to listen extra hard to the directions..:
‘Can you bring the spoons from the kitchen that are NOT washed’
‘Get a cup with NO water in it’.
Reading books –
You can read books or stories that focus on the negation concept. Ask simple questions to see if the communicator has understood the story. Some books that focuses on negation are:
- But Not the Hippopotamus
- No, David !
- Dogs Don’t Brush Their Teeth!
- No No Yes Yes
- Don’t Push the Button
- I’m Not a Chair !
- The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
Social Stories –
Social stories are one of the best ways to teach negation. You can teach the negation concept while discussing the following topics:
- Good touch & Bad touch ! (Do NOT remain silent / fear to tell others, etc.)
- When I am angry…. (Do NOT throw temper tantrums / hurt others, etc.)
- When there is a fire….. (Do NOT use the elevator / try to touch or go near it, etc.)
Speech Language Pathologist