Step 1: Record Your First Button
General recording tips:For best audio quality, experiment with the room you record in, how close you hold the button to your face and how you say the word or phrase you’re recording.
- Pause a split second after the beep so you don't cut the beginning of your word off
- Hold it around 2 inches from your mouth (not too close or too far away)
- Don't breathe out into the mic as you record
- Articulate your words while maintaining natural rhythm and tempo
- Avoid background noise––don't stand near appliances, fans, windows, air ducts, etc. that might contribute to static.
Step 2: Place Your Button in a HexTile
Setting Down Your First Button
This is a great time to engage your learner. Try the following:
Get excited! Enthusiasm is contagious, and you want your learner to pay attention. Your energy should be at: oh my gosh, kiddo, you’ll never believe how cool this thing is. You’re gonna love it! I can’t wait to play with it! It’s gonna be so much fun! It’ll be great for us! I’m telling ya, it is SO cool.
Set the soundboard down and see if your learner wants to interact with it right off the bat. Get down on their level and face the soundboard while encouraging them to come “see it” with you. “Let’s check it out together!”
Are they engaged? Try waving your fingers and lightly tapping on top of the button and on the HexTile near the button. Give their “okay you can have it” cue. Let them think about it and see if they’ll investigate.
If they really seem into it and sniff the button or HexTile but don’t seem to know what else to do with it, try sliding the HexTile back and forth in front of them in quick motions like you might a toy you are trying to get them to interact with. This can trigger them to naturally reach out a paw to steady it or move towards it with their nose.
- If they make contact with the board like this, even if they don’t hit the button, tell them “yes, good” so they know to try a similar move again.
- If they actually manage to touch or press the button, praise them profusely, tell them “yes!” and immediately do whatever super fun thing was recorded on that button.
5. Let them know how absolutely amazing they are when they show any interest in exploring the soundboard!!!
If they seem uninterested or disengaged, don’t worry. Give them time to think and process at every single stage. Don’t rush them or come on too strong––it might push them away.
Step 3: Choose a Starting Soundboard Location & Strategy
Choose a Soundboard Location
- Select somewhere you can hear any presses from. You need to be able to hear button presses from wherever you spend most of your time.
- Pick a central location in your home. Make it easy to respond to any presses and you’ll frequently be using the soundboard yourself to model concepts for your learner.
- Choose an area with plenty of space. Ideally, your learner can approach the soundboard from multiple angles and easily move around it to reach all the buttons. Pull HexTiles at least 3-4 inches away from the wall.
- Don’t put your soundboard too close to furniture or anything breakable. They may struggle to navigate the board if it feels too cramped. Be mindful of any sensitivities to different types of flooring your learner might have.
- Plan ahead. Think about where there’ll be room for expansion. This will happen gradually, so focus on where you’ll be able to hear presses and conveniently model from to start.
Worried about missing your learner’s presses? Our new Connect soundboard system is Bluetooth enabled, so you can receive text messages for your learner even when you aren’t home.
Worried about not hearing button presses? FluentPet’s Speak Up button has a speaker facing up, which allows you to hear it from farther away.
Starting Soundboard StrategiesThere are two basic approaches to starting out with your first few buttons. Starting with one central soundboard or spreading buttons in HexTiles out so that they’re physically near the concepts they refer to. We see success with both and it’s up to you to decide what will work best for you and your learner in your current learning environment.
This is generally the recommended method for introducing buttons. Starting with the HexTiles connected in a central location saves you the trouble of having to transition to it later. If this works for you and your learner, it saves you steps and jumpstarts your learning journey. This approach is likely the most practical for those starting with the FluentPet Connect system.
Spread-Out HexTilesThis method involves placing each starting button on its own HexTile next to the concept it refers to. So, OUTSIDE by the door, WATER by the water dish, and PLAY by the toy box. The advantage of this is that you make it easy for your learner to learn and convenient to model regularly. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of starting out this way.
- This can be useful if you live with other people who may not be as gun-hoe about button teaching and you want everyone to be as consistent as possible in using the buttons regularly as they go about their daily activities with your learner.
- The shortened distance between the button and the concept it refers to may make it easier for some learners to form associations. Expect a relearning period when you consolidate all the HexTiles into a central soundboard later on.
- Eventually you have to consolidate to a central location anyways. This adds an extra step and requires additional patience. They’ll likely have to relearn that each button means a different thing when they’ve been relying on just pressing a button near that thing.
Transitioning From Spread-Out HexTiles to a Central Soundboard? As with all soundboard changes, we recommend gradually moving HexTiles closer and closer together from the locations they initially started out. Similar to the advice given when starting out with a central soundboard, it may be strategic to move button-related items into a central area where you plan on having the soundboard located. This will make your transition from spread-out HexTiles to a central soundboard easier.
Should I plan ahead for our soundboard?
Yes. Quick question: without looking at your computer or mobile keyboard, can you guess where the “a” or “e” keys are?
This ability comes from what’s called motor memory. Like us, your learner learns how to press accurately by practicing and strengthening their motor memory. Because learners are sensitive to button location changes, planning ahead helps you avoid unnecessary setbacks or relearning periods further down the road.
Leaving room for planned buttons allows your learner to focus on learning new concepts instead of relearning new locations of old buttons.
See Planning Your Soundboard for more information on setting your learner up for success.