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Sunday, February 28, 2016

February is National Children's Dental Health Month (NCDHM): Can Your AAC User Talk About It?

Routine activities are a great way to build language skills for any child.  These activities are predictable and familiar.  Children know what is coming, and learn to anticipate the steps or parts of the activity.

For kids with language disorders, they are especially useful for developing language skills because of the routine nature of….well, routines.
By adding language to the actions, we build receptive language.  Then, adding delays and expectant pauses, more models and some visual cues, we build expressive language, too.

So, in the spirit of this month’s posts on building AAC skills in every day activities, with no special materials, let’s talk about tooth care.

Think about all of the great language involved in brushing teeth: up and down, back and front, side, inside, outside, wet, put on, turn on, turn off, rinse, spit out.  That’s a great list of core words just to be starting with.

Of course, you’re not going to start with all of them for the beginning AAC user, but just targeting a few in an activity that occurs every single day, gives you lots of opportunity to work on core words in just that one routine.

There’s been a lot of debate over the years about whether to teach opposite concepts at the same time, or separately.  Recent wisdom tells us to teach a concept and “not” the concept.   Then introduce the opposite at a later time.  
“Not” is such a great word on it’s own, and a very important core word, so we often teach it relatively early.  Then we have it, ready to use with words like “on” and “hot” and “wet.”

Can you think of some other routines where you can use some of these same core words?

While you’re thinking, here is a free picture sequence for you to use with your students/child for sequencing tooth brushing.  Practice the sequence in the class, put it up as a visual cue in the bathroom.

Have a good, well-brushed February.  And…. Keep on talking!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

More Core Words Every Day: How Else Can We Use Them?

One trend I’ve noticed over the years is the frequency with which we use snack and meal times for focusing on communication.  No wonder our kids are stuck with “I want ….” as their most-used phrase in their aac systems.

The other day I had an interesting slightly different opportunity arise at snack time, as two young boys “fought”  over an item one had brought to school.

The second boy reached over and grabbed the first boy’s snack. Before the first boy could retaliate physically, the teacher intervened by modeling, “Stop thatThat mine!” as a way to get the item back.  An aide picked up on the interaction, and modeled for the second boy “I want that.”  

Teacher modeled for the first boy again, “NoStop. That mine,” and he picked up the refrain, using the phrases appropriately.  

It took a couple of models and both sets of adult arms and hands to get the snack back to boy #1, but I thought they did a super job of not only keeping the episode from escalating or becoming more physical, but of modeling the appropriate communicative responses and expecting the boys to use them.

In March, I’ll talk about integrating core words into your shared reading/read aloud sessions.  If you want a head-start, check out this terrific post 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Using Core Words Every Day: How You Can Do It

Let's talk about using core words effortlessly.  No fuss, no special materials, no prep time.  Just the AAC system - whatever it is, as long as it has the core words you target - and the communication partners (the student and you/staff/family)

I’m going to start with the core word list for January from  (Carole Zangari’s terrific blog for all things AAC) :  again, all done/gone, more, mine, different, help, not/don’t, stop, that, want, what, you.

While many of the students I work with are at the very beginning of their AAC journey, and my focus is on getting them started, I do get to follow some students as they grow their language and more beyond single word requests, protests, and comments.

One pattern I work on with students - and have their teachers and caregivers follow-up with - is:
“What do you want?”    “I want that.”

While I push very hard to get beyond requesting, students do spend a good deal of time making requests, and as long as they are going to do so, I want them to move beyond simple “Want.”  or even “Want __.”

I want communication partners to be modeling 3 word phrases, and then recasting or reinforcing using 3 words, too.

At the beginning of any activity there is an opportunity for engineering the environment so that students need to make a request for the items they need to complete the task, or the items they want for reinforcement, or what they want to eat or drink.  It’s really easy to utilize these opportunities, by asking, “What (do) you want?” and reinforcing their response, “You want that.”

At any time you’re not sure what they want, ask for clarification, “(Do) you want that?”

And of course, for each of these opportunities, there is the opportunity to ask, “(Are) you all done?” or “(Do) you want more?”

Think about how often during these activities the student might need help accessing the items needed or desired.  Do they need help with reaching, opening, finding?  Again, don’t forget to model, “(Do) you want/need help?” “(Can) I get that?”

I watched a young man at home one afternoon, who was looking all over the family room for something.  Here was the perfect opportunity:

What do you want?” I asked. “Do you need help?”   Then I had to back up, since he didn’t have his iPad out.  To save time, we used mine, with the same AAC app and the pages I knew he used. 

“Do you want…?” I turned to the toys and games page and raised my eyebrows (that "expectant" look).  He pointed to “puzzle.”  I found a stack of puzzles in the corner. “Do you want that?” I asked.  He found the one he wanted. “You want that,” I confirmed. He pointed to “puzzle” again, so I modeled “want puzzle” for him, and he repeated the phrase for me.
“Ok,” I said, “Let’s do the puzzle.” 
Every time he picked up a piece and seemed to have trouble finding a spot for it, I asked, “Do you need help?”  I know he’s capable of using the phrase, “I need help,” or “I want help,”  so I waited for him to ask, using my best “expectant pause” look, eyebrows high and shoulders shrugged.  He got the message, and asked “I want help.” multiple times.

When he was finished, I looked at him again, with that “look.” “All done,” he said.  “Yes,” I said, “you’re all done.”
"A different one?"  
"All done," he repeated.  OK, we were done.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

If This Spells “Dead” How Can You Spell “Head?”

Manipulating sounds in words can be a very difficult task for students who just can’t figure out how the individual sounds go together to make words, and how they can come apart.

This is the 5th week in my Phonological Awareness skills series.  The posts ran through the 4 weeks of January, and ran over this week.  The last skill is manipulating sounds in words; that is, adding or substituting sound to make different words.

We start this task early on in a simple way when we teach word families, and making new words by simply changing the onset sound: cat -> mat -> hat -> bat -> rat -> pat -> sat -> fat.   It becomes more difficult when the sounds are in the middle or end of the word; particularly when we change vowels.

This manipulating of sounds was the basis for the app SoundSwaps, which I developed a few years ago.  It also became the basis for my Swapping Sounds task cards.  If you’d like to check out the cards, here is a free sample in my TPT store.

If you’d like to check out the app.  You can get it on the iTunes store here.

What is your favorite sound manipulation task?  Share it with us.