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. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Spooky Scary Spectacular Speech for the Season

October is almost here.  Can Halloween be far behind?  It seems to me that Fall has become one hurried-through round of holiday celebrations after another.  Last year, I got the impression that stores went straight from Halloween to Christmas without even taking a breath for Thanksgiving.  
There are tons of fun ways to work on language around Halloween.  With costumes and characters and monsters galore the opportunities for stirring up stimulating adjectives abounds. 
One of my favorite therapy activities has always been barrier games.  There are so many speech and language targets you can work on, and kids tend to love the almost competitive aspect of the games. 
Barrier games tend, historically, to focus on giving and following directions and using good, concise descriptors.  But you can also use them to target speech sound production; just make the images to be placed in the scenes all use the target sound in the target location. Can you put happy pigs in the pen with the sheep?

I have barrier games in my store for both Fall and Halloween, and last week’s blog post talked about how to turn simple stock photos into barrier game opportunities.
Last year I also wrote a post on how to create and set up your own barrier games.  You can read it here if you missed it.

I’ve also found that most kids love to play “Memory” or “Concentration”-type games; even kids whose short term memories are pretty……well, short.  I have a free set of pumpkin describing cards for playing this type of game; with a variety of funny and frightening pumpkins to describe.  While not strictly Halloween-themed, this pumpkin card game can last through the Fall season from now until Thanksgiving.  Grab it for free here.

If you’re old enough to remember the old Highlights kids’ magazine (do they still publish it?), you’ll remember that one standard feature of every issue was a compare and contrast activity.  There were 2 scenes that were pretty complex, and the trick was to find all the ways that they were different.  Often one scene was missing elements of the other.

I love to do compare and contrast activities like that and, again, I’ve found that most kids love the challenge of finding the differences.  In that vein, here is my latest free resource, just for readers of my blog: a set of compare/contrast cards using monsters from Krista Walden at Creative Clips.  Pick up your free copy here

And just in case you were thinking that your AAC users couldn’t participate in these activities, take a look at their AAC systems.  Do they have colors, shapes, sizes, and other adjectives in their systems?  They should be able to say “red, not blue” or “stripes, not spots,” in response to monster cards.  Or “2 eyes, no teeth,” in response to the pumpkin cards.  
Just another reminder that AAC intervention doesn’t have to be different or require different materials, and that AAC users don’t need to be seen alone - communication is a social act. Have fun with it.
And, keep on talking.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Top 5 Uses for Stock Photos in Speech - Language Therapy

I recently discovered a photographer on TPT (Teachers Pay Teachers) who was offering a fabulous deal of a one time payment for literally dozens and dozens of beautiful stock images to be used in resources or for marketing or your therapy or class rooms.

I am always on the hunt for good photos that I can use both personally and commercially.  Thinking about how I could use Elizabeth’s photos really sparked some thinking (which, I admit, still hurts my head some days).

So, what are my top 5 tips for using these photos in therapy?

  1. Describing skills: tell me about this picture
  2. Compare and contrast skills: how is this picture the same as that one? How are they different?
  3. Barrier games: give 2 students the same photo and a group of other objects to place in the photo to play a barrier game (see this post on barrier how-to’s)
  4. Labeling skills: tell me what it is (my least favorite, by the way)
  5. Association skills: where would you find this? What else would you find there?

Let’s start with describing.  I want students to tell me everything they can beyond the label(s) of the item(s) in the photos.  I always have visual cues for students who need the visual reminder to tell the category, location, function, size, shape, color, amount, texture, taste and sound and smell (if applicable).

Then they can compare and contrast.  There are multiple photos of the same object(s0 in this resource, so there might be a picture with 10 colored pencils laid in a neat row across the top of the page that can be compared to a picture with a hand grasping those colored pencils in a bunch.  The pencils are the same, their colors and sizes and shapes and even degree of sharpening are all the same.  Their location is different, and the addition of the hand in the second photo is different..

How about a barrier game?  Barrier games are played by having two students facing each other, but with a barrier between them that prevents them from seeing each others’ papers.  Both have an identical group of smaller pictures or objects to place on the page.  One student tells the other which of these smaller objects to place on the photo, and where to put it/arrange it.  At the end, the barrier is removed and students can compare their two pictures to see if they are the same.  
If not, where did they go wrong?  Were the directions not clear enough?  Did the listener not process the directions correctly?  Help the students figure out what each did well, and where they went astray.
 And here is a link to a bundle of fun barrier games in my store.  I also have seasonal and other fun themes.

Labeling and association are the easiest of the skills to work on.  Can students name the familiar, every day objects in the photos?  Can they name pencils, pens, markers, rubber bands, pumpkins, leaves, and more.  Can they tell you what other things you might find in the same places?  For example, if you have pencils and paper clips, can you tell me where you would find them, and name 3 things you would also find there?

Bonus: You can also use clip art and symbol cards to create more therapy activities from these photos.  For example, I might use one of the leaf photos and one of the pumpkin photos and have pictures of kids raking, jumping, carving, choosing, etc.  Have students sort which actions go with which photo, then use a sentence to tell about what the kids are doing.

Have fun with these great photographs.  You can find Elizabeth Coller’s Stock Photos store on TPT.

Check out my activities for describing and defining and my visual cues for telling about.

And.... keep on talking!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Can Your AAC Users Join in on Talk Like a Pirate Day? Try this!

I’ve joined up with Sweet Southern Speech and other SLPs (speech-language pathologists) for a linky party for Pirate Day fun. If you read this post all the way to the bottom, you will find links to more blogs with fun ideas and resources that are pirate themed.

“Talk Like a Pirate Day” just keeps growing in popularity.  I have friends who are way into the whole anachronistic experience, including a couple who fence.  Kids, especially, love the opportunity to be silly and the excuse to act like the ‘bad guys’ for a while.

But how do your non-speaking kids take part?  Does this become just another experience that they observe but can’t join?   Not if they have a speech generating device and 10 minutes of your time.  Don’t have 10 minutes to spare for programing?  Then give them this communication board to use.  If you and other students provide Aided Input and reciprocal vocalization, everyone can sound like a pirate!
If you’re looking for pirate themed resources for your therapy session, you might like my companion resource for “There Was an Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish”  This is another story where sequencing skills take center stage; similar to the “I Know an Old Lady Who…” series.  This time, it’s a pirate who swallows all sorts of pirate-y things, until he gets so big that he sinks.

My favorite activity is the pirate game, where students roll a single die that has symbols for 6 of the items in the story.  They collect pirate-like ‘gold pieces’ until someone gets all the pieces and has to put them in order to re-tell the story.  I have students play until everyone has all the pieces.  This gives every student the opportunity to sequence the pictures and/or tell  or summarize the story.

I spend a lot of time working on building narrative skills with students, so that they can build their skills in relating experiences, having conversations, and retelling stories.  Those skills are crucial for both social and academic success.

The resource also contains activities for describing, building vocabulary, labeling parts of a whole, and phonological awareness (including alphabetizing, recognizing and using rhyme, identifying the initial or final sounds in words and counting syllables in words and words in sentences).

Here is the die, which you can use to have students retell the story or repeat the line that goes with the item they land on.

Avast ye (Stop right there) and Keep on Talking!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Top 10 Traits of an AAC Classroom

Back in January, I wrote a guest post for the News2You blog in which I discussed 3 key issues in AAC implementation and support.
First, I listed the Top 10 Traits of an effective AAC classroom.  I was asked this question by an advocate during an IEP meeting.
Second, I summarized the Top 3 Issues of AAC classrooms.  They included programming, planning, and organizing.
Third, I discussed the 1st Best Thing to Do in an AAC classroom at the beginning of every year - Back. It. Up. Now.

So, because I think it is important to remember these things at the beginning of a new school year, here are my Top 10 Traits of an AAC Classroom:

1. Students who do not have sufficient verbal language skills to meet all of their communication needs have an AAC system that offers them at least basic core vocabulary.

2.  Staff are consistently using Aided Language Stimulation and modeling, and are familiar enough with the students’ systems to do so effectively.

3.  Staff redirect students to their AAC systems if they are not understood, or if they are relying on gesture and body actions when they are able to use more standard modes.

4.  Staff model and require communication for a variety of functions - not just requesting.

5.  AAC users are being taught literacy skills using effective teaching strategies.

6.  Staff repeat, affirm and then elaborate student responses.

7.  AAC skills are taught and reinforced in natural, contextual activities, not drill formats.

8.  Core vocabulary is taught, reinforced and expanded continuously, and topical materials for the classroom are modified to use core words.  Teachers are teaching descriptively, not referentially.

9.  Student narrative skills are a focus of classroom activities.

10.  Conversational interactions are a focus of classroom activities.

So, those are my top 10.  How do your rooms add up?
Start the year right for your AAC users and...
Keep on Talking.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Who Doesn't Love a Sale?

Hurray!  A bonus day for the TPT sale.  Now I can go and grab whatever I missed from my wishlist the first sale days earlier this month.

But, because I try not to post too much sales-y stuff here, rather than helpful information and tips, I am going to join the Frenzied SLPs’ linky party and talk not just about 1 resource of mine, but why I made it, how I use it, and how you can benefit without even buying it!
Tantalized yet?

OK, here goes.
I am excited to start this school year off with my 10 Weeks to 40 Core Words for AAC Users resource.  

Periodically, people who have purchased any of my 6 Core Words book sets ask if I am going to expand them, and make the interactive books for all of the basic core words.  
Now, that could be anywhere from 32 to 100 words, depending on how you think about core and what population you’re working with.  

40-50 core words gives you enough to start to build some phrases and language skills. 100 words account for about 50% of what we use as adults.  From those 100 core words one can create a tremendous number of phrases and both simple and complex sentences.

I chose to use 40 core words that were originally delineated by Dr. Karen Erickson's DLM work group at UNC-Chapel Hill.  I broke them down to groups of 4 words, and suggested targeting 4 words per week; but that can be per month, too, if that fits your group of students better.

For each 4 words, I created an interactive book to read with the students, games and routine activities in which to model and use the words, and suggested phrases.  

The resource provides and/or suggests activities for each 5- day week.

Years ago we created aac systems and boards with phrases we thought the user would want to say.  The problem, according to aac users now who can - due largely to improved technology - tell us what they want to say and how they want their words organized is that those messages were all too often not at all what they wanted to say.
“I want an apple,” is helpful as a request.  But what if what I want to say about the apple is that it fell, or it’s bad, or someone took it, or I actually hate apples.  I can’t tell you that something is wrong, or that I have an opinion, or use any other function of communication.  I can only make a request.

Now, we know that most of the words we use are core words.  And so, in keeping with research, we switched to systems that are based on core - high frequency - vocabulary.
However, as Carole Zangari pointed out in this post;    we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Those “fringe” words that are important to each individual aac user ought to be on their systems, too.  They still need to talk about apples, or doll clothes, or monster trucks.  They just need more single words with which to build their messages.  
Generating our messages from single words is what language - communication - is all about.  We call is SNUG - spontaneous novel utterance generation.  

If your aac user doesn’t have his or her own robust aac system with sufficient vocabulary just yet, you can find one in my TPT store here.    
Or, try any of my free core word-based communication boards.

To help you with your purchases, I am throwing a giveaway of a $10 gift card from TPT here*.  The giveaway includes a resource from my store, too.

*(This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to the owner of this Facebook page and not to Facebook.)

Want to read more about core vocabulary?  Try this previous post.

Have a good school year and…….Keep on Talking.