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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things Linky Party. My 3 Favorite Resources

I am taking part in the "Few of My Favorite Things" linky sponsored by  Teaching Trio. 

I am posting my 3 favorite resource websites for AAC.  For the most part, they speak for themselves.  These are 3 of the top sites I recommend to parents, teachers, and SLPs wanting to learn more about AAC from A to Z.

Have fun exploring these great sites for more AAC information!
And of course - keep your kids "talking" however they do it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Can You Listen to One More Word About Cortical Vision Impairment?

Whether or not students have vision issues is a big consideration when you're trying to provide them with an alternative mode of communication.  After all, if they can't discriminate the pictures you use - whether they're photographs or line drawings - they're going to need an additional modification to the system.

Initially, most of what I knew about C.V.I. came from Linda Burkhart.  Then I read Christine Roman-Lantzy's book.  And since then I've run into a number of developmental vision specialists who have added to my knowledge base.

So I have added to my tool-box of things to try and do and look at during AAC evaluations if there is the least suspicion of a cortical vision issue.

I have little red lights.  I have communication boards and device pages in an assortment of contrasting colors and sizes.  I even found a little red Koosh ball and mounted it on a stick.
(Unfortunately, with everything I cram into my traveling bag of tricks that met with an untimely end. I have to find another....)

Many parents I encounter aren't sure if their child has a cortical vision impairment.  They haven't been given sufficient information by their medical caregivers, or haven't had an adequate explanation, or don't have an ophthalmologist near them who can assess.
I found an informative blog post my a mother of a child with C.V.I. and thought I'd share it here.

I hope everyone has taken advantage of June's National Children's Vision Month to make sure your students' vision is accounted for.

Keep on talking.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

What's the Number 1 Way to Improve Early Literacy and Language Skills?

I just read an interesting article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on-line that I found interesting only because it was so affirming for me.

I have been a proponent for many years of using Read Aloud strategies and Shared Reading strategies to build langauge - and early literacy - skills; particularly for kids with language delays and disorders.

When I was an SLP in the public schools I worked primarily with students we used to call "Language-Learning Disabled."  
They had significant language disorders and the associated difficulties with learning reading skills.

Most of my intervention revolved around reading books and building language skills through literature.

As I've kept up with the research coming out of UNC-Chapel Hill from Karen Ericsson's group, Penn State University from Janice Light and David McNaughton, and Janet Sturm's research (she's now in Michigan) I've continued to try to gear my intervention materials to the types of Before-During-After activities and comprehension questions that build language skills for kids.

So, imagine my piqued interest at the title of an article, "Program challenges, improves listening comprehension on Kindergarten through second-graders."
The article then goes on to say that a project involving Read Alouds with text-dependent, language - based questions and activities has been successful in improving comprehension skills.

If you haven't seen my Shared Reading handout (it's free), you can download a copy here. 

If you're looking for more in-depth materials and information, I have more background and templates for activities with visual cues to use in this resource here.

Keep reading.  Keep talking.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Love Berries? How About a Berry Red t-Shirt?

It's here!  My free blogger t-shirt from the folks at A+Images.  I posted yesterday that I would upload a better photo of the shirt when it arrived, and here it is:

I picked the color - red is my favorite, but I decided to go with a variation - a great fuchsia.  
They gave me the option of full color or black line.  I wasn't sure how well the colors of the original image (it started out as a watercolor) would work on this background.

I also decided I liked the idea of  just black. (You should see my wardrobe.  Black.  and more black).

It fits perfectly - and it's on it's way to the Blogger Meet-up in Vegas next month!
Maybe I'll see you there.

Keep talking.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Life's a Picnic......and Check it Out!

Who doesn't love a picnic?  As long as I can avoid the ants, I'm there!

Here is a free picnic picture communication board, as promised, just in time for summer!  
When my kids were small, we went on lots of picnics.  My son loved to go to one particular park when he was very little.  It had a pond complete with ducks and one particular aggressive goose.

My son was - and continues to be - my challenge.  Keeping him entertained and containing the energy but without overwhelming him was always .... shall we say "fun?"  Okay, let's say fun. Sure.

Anyway, he loved that park, although he was not so fond of that goose.  
I would spread out the Disney beach blanket (that lives in my daughter's car trunk to this day), unload the food and Gatorade (a must - by the gallon), and he could spend a couple of hours running with the ducks.

We moved away when he was almost 3, and had a hard time finding just the right park for picnics - one complete with ducks - when we moved.  But picnics continued to be a staple of weekend afternoons when the weather was nice.  
That was year-round in California.  Not so much in Massachusetts.  The joke there is that there are 3 seasons:  July, August, and Winter.

Language skills were not my son's area of difficulty, so I never had need of communication boards.  He could talk a blue streak.  
But for all of my clients that is exactly the area I focus on.  

So, to get summer off to a fun start, here is a communication board to take with you!  As usual, it is core word based, for flexibility of communicating.  (Sorry, not enough room for ducks).

Enjoy it!  And feed a duck for me.

Keep talking. Life can be a picnic.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

June is Vision Health Month. Are You Looking at Your Student's Vision?

June is Child Vision Awareness Month. Vision is a very important sense for all of us, but even more so for our AAC users.  Those who need to use pictures to communicate rely more heavily on vision to maintain their attachment to social interaction and engagement.

Yet many of the students we see with Complex Communication Needs have vision issues that are not related at all to their visual acuity.

Vision, more than any other system, allows the individual to take in massive amounts of stimuli from the environment for the brain to act upon.  In the process, the individual gazes at things, does so in specific sequences, and focuses on specific details in order for the brain to make decisions about what to do.
Vision develops as a process of neurological development and maturation.  Our ability to process visual stimuli and attach meaning to them - called “seeing” - involves not only a healthy vision system, but also healthy neurological system.  When a child is born with a neurological disorder, it is likely that a visual impairment will exist.  Development of the visual system, learning through interaction with the environment, is also impaired when a child has motor impairment.  Eyes do not tell the individual what to do.  The brain’s experiences do.  Without these experiences, or when the experiences are impaired in some way, the brain cannot tell the individual how to act and react.

“The current leading cause of visual impairment among children is not a disease or condition of the eyes, but Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI) - also known as cerebral visual impairment - in which visual dysfunction is caused by damage or injury to the brain.” (American Printing House)

CVI is a neurological visual disorder.  It results in unique visual responses to objects and people in the environment. 
A child with CVI may see a world full of colors and shapes with perfect acuity, but he may not have any idea what he is seeing.  The child may not make meaning from the visual images and may not know that the colors and shapes are a car, a hat, or his mother.

Christine Roman-Lantz has written an excellent book with loads of information to guide any of us working with these students.
I am including the Amazon link here.  Please note I am in no way affiliated with either the author or Amazon.

I am also providing a 20 core word communication board adapted for students with C.V.I. using the colors and high contrast that are most often found advantageous.

Take a look at your students who have neurological impairments, and make sure any vision issues are being addressed.

Keep on talking.

What Kinds of Questions Can You Answer?

I spend an awful lot of time and energy on Wh-Questions.  I always have.  Being able to answer Who, What, What doing, When, and Where questions is so crucial for:
  1. being able to answer questions in class about the curriculum
  2. being able to answer questions about oneself and one’s experiences.
Which leads to:
  1. being able to have conversations
  2. being able to retell and talk about stories 
And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you take a look at the Common Core State Standards (and everybody is looking at them, these days) you will see that the very first standard for Reading is the ability to ask and answer questions about books.  The very first standard for Speaking and Listening involves participation in conversations.
Even when I’m working with older adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder or developmental disabilities I often focus on developing these skills so that they can participate as much as possible in social interactions, as well as telling support staff what happened to them during the day.

In my many decades working with students with Autism one of the most difficult skills for them to master has always been correctly answering Wh questions with the correct word type.  If I had a nickel for every time a kid told me “In bed,” in answer to When do you sleep?”  I could retire now.

Many years ago I created my own activity for teaching kids how to answer these questions.  I had parents telling me over and over that it was the only thing that had ever worked, and that I should publish it.
Well, who had the time?  SLP by day, mom and wife by night.  Waaaaay too busy.

Just a few years ago I finally got the idea that, with the iOS revolution, maybe it was time to give it a try.  As many of you know, the result was Question It, an app for iPad that uses a variety of teaching strategies; like faded color cues and errorless learning.
I’ve also made a paper-based version available for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  And, I make and use some additional answering questions materials.

So, for this summer’s free keep-up-the language-skills materials for parents, I’ve made a couple of Wh question games. 

You can find the whole resource HERE

The past two years I’ve offered calendars with a variety of tasks and questions.  
From 2013:

From 2014: 

And if you wander back to last summer’s posts you will find several other sets of free language materials to get you through the summer months HERE  for a phonological awareness activity and HERE for vocabulary fun.

Stay cool!  And keep talking

Monday, June 1, 2015

Shared Reading Strategies Again - Did You See My Guest Post?

This week I was a guest blogger at One Stop Teacher Shop, talking about one of my favorite subjects - Shared Reading to Build Language Skills.

Yes, I've put that all in caps for emphasis.  I think this is one of the most important things we can do with kids, especially those with language delays or disorders.  Research bears me out on this, and I've always tried to follow the research in my practice.

When I worked in the public schools, most of my intervention with kids with significant language disabilities revolved around books.  (I spent a fortune at the little local kids bookstore.)
I used books with themes, books with messages, books that just had great vocabulary or great pictures.  Some days it didn't matter which book, because I can use just about any book to build language skills in multiple ways.

So, here is a link to my guest post: Shared Reading to Build Language Skills
You will also find a link there to my free handout about shared reading strategies.  

If you are interested in a more in-depth discussion of shared reading strategies, and a variety of forms and visual cue sheets to use with your students or children, you can check out this resource in my TPT Store:

Shared and Guided Reading Strategies and Templates - Using Storybooks in Intervention. 

Keep on talking and keep on reading!