Sunday, December 4, 2016

AAC From A to Z: A is for Aided Language Stimulation

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I talk a lot about AAC implementation and best practices for getting your aac users to communicate.




This week, I'm posting a link to a quick video in which I explain aided language stimulation - yes, again!  It is so important that it bears repeating and repeating.  It is sometimes difficult for staff or parents to wrap their heads around doing this crucial step of modeling the AAC system use.


So, enjoy the video and find a single activity in which to practice this skill.  It's easy once you get the hang of it, and it will make a world of difference to your aac user.

Keep on Talking!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Be a Winner!

Tomorrow, Monday, November 28 (2016) starts the 2-day Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Sale!  Not only will you be able to find great resources for your therapy room, classroom, home, or other facility, but now you can win one of many $10 Gift Cards from TPT!



The great folks at TPT have been giving away $10 Gift Cards to sellers at random, so that we can pass them along to you, our faithful customers!  What could be better?

Some of us have joined up in a blog hop, so that you can hop along (wait, it's not Easter yet, is it?) and enter to win more than once.

I've uploaded a gift-giving guide in my TPT store, to help you search for just the right resource for someone on your list - or for yourself!  After all, you deserve something special, too, don't you?





I have some favorites for winter, like a book companion for "The Snowy Day" or my Following Directions in Winter, which includes several different activities with a winter theme and a focus on following directions.




I've been trying to bundle some of my resources together for bigger savings on some of my most popular items.  I just uploaded a bundle of all 5 of my sets of interactive books for teaching core vocabulary to AAC (augmentative communication) users.  These books are really popular, and now you can get all 5 sets at a fabulous price - especially with the sale!




I've also just uploaded two interactive books about Christmas and Hanukkah holidays, so you can get to work practicing holiday vocabulary.




So, leave a comment here or on my FB fan page, telling me which of my resources you most wish for.  I'll pick a lucky winner at random from all of the entries, and announce who it is at 10 am Monday, Pacific Time, on my FB page.

Head on over to Sommer's Lion Pride to finish the loop.
Have a great holiday, catch some great bargains, and above all else ---- Keep on Talking!


Sunday, November 20, 2016

My SLP Story: How the Heck Did I Get Here?

I am joining up with the Frenzied SLPs for a blog linky this week.  We are all sharing the stories of our journey to becoming SLPs.  How did we get to here?


I knew some SLPs in graduate school who had known in college that this is what they wanted to do.  They started out as Communication Disorders majors, and went straight to graduate school.

My journey was a little bit different, and far from the straight path.  I became interested in Autism before I even got to high school, after seeing a special on t.v. about kids with the disorder.  This was way back when Autism was still considered Childhood Schizophrenia.

So, in college, I became a psychology major, and got to do some work with kids with autism throughout college by way of some special education classes.  And I actually thought I had a chance at a job after school.
But then PL94-142 passed.  Just as I was finishing my undergraduate degree and the local public schools took over the students I had been working with and.... POOF!  End of job prospects.


I searched for a job for a while, but I was young (19) and nobody really wanted to hire me.
I worked as a special ed substitute teacher for a little while, but it was tough bouncing from one special education class to another every other day.
So I applied for graduate school.  Thing was, there were only 5 graduate programs in the whole country way back then that offered a specialty in Autism.





To make a really long story short, I ended up in New Orleans in a special ed Master's program that was terrible.  So, I looked at Tulane to see what they had to offer, and found the speech pathology program.  
I had been working with teaching signs to the kids I worked with in college, so I was basically teaching communication skills already.  So, I knocked on the door and they took me in.


I have now been a SLP for 38 years.  It has been a varied, interesting, and sometimes wild ride.  But it has never been dull.  And I have never been unemployed.
For the past 19 1/2 years I have been running my own private practice, providing independent evaluations and AAC implementation consulting and training.
And what's next, you ask?  Retirement is around the corner and I can't wait.  I have other fun things planned for my retirement, and I'd love to get to them.  My art studio is beckoning daily.

In the meantime, I'm still passionate about what I do and why I do it.  Every child deserves to have a voice!
So, Keep on Talking!



Sunday, November 13, 2016

What Goes with Fall? Apples. And Apple Pies!

We’re in what should be the crisp, cool days of Fall.  Well, some of you are enjoying the cool.  I was recently in Boston and it was beautiful.  The leaves had turned, and the days were cool without being cold.  

But now I’m back in San Diego and it’s in the 80’s.  Is that crazy, or what?  Everyone knows you need cold snap nights to make good apples.  And who can resist a good apple pie?


There is a fun book by Marjorie Priceman called “How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.”  It takes kids around the world to find all the best ingredients for an apple pie; giving them the chance to see where the produce, spices, and other ingredients come from (other than the grocery store, that is).
Best of all, for a speech-language pathologist, it offers some great opportunities for working on sequencing skills.
Just follow the link below and it will take you to the sequencing freebie:

I have a complete book companion resource in my TPT store, but am offering you 2 versions of a sequencing activity for free.  So, have your students sequence how to make an apple pie, and maybe even make one with or for them to try.

The full resource includes shared reading activities for a week,  and there are a variety of activities, including: sequencing before and after activities, making a shopping list, filling in a passport with countries and ingredients, matching countries with how you got there and what you got there and the order in which you got there, a map activity, sequencing pie making, and sequencing sentence strips to retell.  
There are also 46 vocabulary cards and picture matching cards for lots of vocabulary building fun.

Either way, have fun and enjoy a apple for me.



Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and……..Keep on Talking.





Tuesday, October 25, 2016

7 Tips and 1 Communication Board for Halloween

It's almost here - the spookiest time of the year.  For kids with disabilities, Halloween isn't always so much fun.  Costumes can be difficult to get into, uncomfortable, or have too many parts to keep track of.  Trick or treating may not be fun if you can't eat most Halloween candy.  And all the hype in class isn't much fun if you can't join in the discussion.

Enabling Devices has a great post on their blog about making the day accessible for everyone; including advice to think outside the box, incorporate a wheelchair, make the costume comfortable, incorporate the child's interests, prepare the child for what will happen, prepare for dietary restrictions, and incorporate a service animal.
You can read their post with all the tips here.



And, if you missed it last year, here is my Halloween communication board, to supplement your student's AAC system, or to use for the holiday if the child does not have his/her own system.
Just right click and download.

Keep safe, don't eat too much candy, and.... Keep on Talking!



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

5 Easy Ways to Implement AAC in Daily Routines

Are you unsure of how to create daily opportunities for AAC implementation? Afraid you need fancy tools or expensive resources?  Here is how to do it without needing to change what you are already doing throughout the day: routines.

Typically developing children first learn a lot of early language based on the routines and familiar activities within their environment.  Routines by definition are predictable; they use predictable vocabulary, predictable sequences, and occur frequently.  They create a structure onto which children can build language; especially vocabulary words.







Choice making is also an early language opportunity that is already, or can be easily, built into daily activities and routines.  Offering students choices of what is done, where and when it is done, and/or with whom can provide students with opportunities to exert control over their environment and learn about the usefulness of communicating.

By taking a look at how the classroom day unfolds, we can create simple scripts for routines that help build communication by providing communication partners with the vocabulary needed for each step within the routine for a variety of communication functions.

Every classroom day begins with students arriving or, in a more structured activity, specific greetings and acknowledgement during circle time or morning meeting.  This is an opportunity for students to learn greetings exchanges, make comments, express feelings, and learn names.

Every student’s day has at least 1 mealtime, and often students also have breakfast and/or snack at school.  Again, this is a daily routine with specific actions and opportunities.  Students can express choices, make requests, protest, comment, express opinions, ask for help.  Students who purchase lunch have more natural opportunities for communication than students who bring their meal, but either way staff can provide opportunities for talking about not just the meal, but how the student feels about it, what he likes or doesn’t, and what he is going to do at the break time that typically comes after lunch.

Additionally, students typically wash their hands before lunch and often after it, as well.  Staff can provide input in the form of directions and can sabotage the process by moving the soap or towels out of reach; so that students need to ask for help.  Describing words, like clean and dirty, can be modeled, as well as the vocabulary for each step in the sequence.



So, to recap, it is easy to implement AAC in the classroom by
  1. offering choices as often as possible
  2. using consistent vocabulary and sequences within frequently repeated classroom routines
  3. sabotaging the environment during a routine task so that students need to communicate
  4. utilize simple scripts within routines so that staff are consistently modeling the same vocabulary and sentence types
  5. make sure to model vocabulary used during routines that goes beyond requesting; to include commenting, providing information, asking questions, and other communication functions


AAC implementation does not need to take a significant amount of planning time or equipment.  Just think about the language you use routinely.
Keep on talking!



Sunday, October 2, 2016

3 Ways for AAC Users to Get their Game Face On

Speech-language pathologists are known to often play games in their therapy practice.  There is some debate about the effectiveness of  games in intervention, but generally speaking, if you can combine best practices with fun and engaging format, why not go for it?


But then the hapless SLP suddenly gets an AAC user on his/her caseload.  Many SLPs are unprepared for AAC users.  Augmentative - Alternative Communication is not a required course for getting a degree or license.  Most schools do not offer such a course, and there are simply not enough qualified professors in this area to fill all of the positions that such a requirement would create.

So, what's a clinician to do?  Don't panic!  Just keep on doing what you have ben doing.  Simply change the mode of response.  
If, for example, you have a group of 4 students, all working on building vocabulary for describing and defining, and one of them is an early AAC user who knows basic verbs and nouns, but not many describing words, it's No Problem!  
Use the same activities you're already using.  But instead of trying to retrieve the words needed from memory, your AAC user needs to retrieve them from his AAC system.





1. What can we describe? Anything.  Take a look around the group.  Can the students describe each other?  Start off easily with shirt colors and designs.  
2.  Once you have some descriptions, start to compare and contrast them.  I have a red t-shirt.  Bobby has a blue t-shirt.  They are different colors.  That is one way they are different.  They both have short sleeves.  That's one way they are the same.
How can your AAC user participate?  Find the "describing words" folder or page in his AAC system. You'll find red and blue, and you should also find size words; like big and small, long and short, stripes and dots.
3.  Turn it into an "I Spy" type of game.  "I see something that is red, that is made from fabric, that you wear. What is it?"

Looking for a more formalized activity; one that provides you to with specific questions to ask and a variety of types of responses?  Try my "Define, Describe, Contrast" resource.  There are 10 different scenes, each with 2 versions.  Students can describe a single scene, or compare and contrast two similar scenes.
There are multiple opportunities to expand descriptive language, whether you are simply looking to build up single adjective use, or want a student to expand sentences with rich descriptive vocabulary.



Some scenes have "silly" elements and I try to see if students can tell me why they are silly or out of place.  I also use the pictures as starting points for stories.  The resource has several graphic organizers and visual cues to use.

Have fun with your AAC users and, as always, Keep on Talking.