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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.

top ten traits of an aac classroom

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.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

You NEED These Top Tips for AAC Implementation

Are you an average speech-language pathologist or special education teacher who wants to be able to teach their nonverbal or minimally verbal students how to communicate and who needs to integrate students who use AAC into every day classroom activities and situations, but can't get past the requesting stage?

aac introductory course

Are you struggling with not knowing the crucial strategies to teach AAC use and how to apply them?   Do you feel like this is a huge hurdle for you, because no one has ever shown you how to use these strategies and how to move one step at a time?

Then I've got the solution for you. 
I have a set of resources for AAC; including communication boards and books, curriculum and speech therapy materials to teach use of AAC, as well as an on-line course for parents and other communication partners to learn to teach AAC to their child/student.  
aac 101 introductory course

You will learn how to teach students to use AAC effectively with resources that provide the communication system, contextualized and decontextualized communication experiences, and strategies and templates to make your communication opportunities valuable.

So if you're serious about how to teach you emergent communicator to learn to communicate effectively, then give my course a try.

The coolest feeling is when you see your student(s) communicating something they really want to say to you - by themselves! AND, the knowledge that you have provided a students with a way to communicate effectively is the most amazing feeling you can have.  So, take a look at this.

Many people believe that AAC use should start slowly and with a very small vocabulary for kids who are just beginning to learn AAC use.  However, this is just one more myth of AAC.  AAC users and their communication partners need a large, robust vocabulary in order to model use of a variety of functions of communication. 
My course will provide you with a system to use if you don't already have one, as well as the resources to get started with Evidence Based Practices for implementing AAC.

Are you scared that this is a huge hurdle for you because no one has ever shown you how to use these strategies?  

Then here's the solution you've been looking for. AAC 101: Getting Started and Moving On with Core Words will give you the tools and strategies you need.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I Have My AAC App/Device/Picture Board. Now What?

The key to successful implementation of AAC with a new user is partners’ use of Aided Language Stimulation (ALgS).   ALgS is a specific strategy, whereby the communication partner teaches the meaning of the symbols and models language by combining his own verbalizations/speech with the selection of key vocabulary on the AAC system.  

AAC and Aided Input

The intent is not for the partner to use a symbol for every word in his/her sentence, but rather to highlight the key, core words by using those symbols on the AAC system while talking to the student.

planning form for core words

Why do we use Aided Language Stimulation?  Think about learning to use AAC as if it were like learning a new language.  

If you want someone to learn a new language to have to expose them to it, speak it with them so they get practice with it, give them multiple opportunities to see and hear it.  It also gives us the opportunity to become familiar with the AAC system, so that we can use it with the student in interventions competently.

It takes time and practice to get good at this.  Allow yourself some wiggle room and don’t get down on yourself if you find it difficult and you start out inconsistent.  
I recommend starting with a single, easy activity.  One where you can predict what you’re going to want to say and, most likely, what the student probably will want to say in that context.

Plan it out.  Write down those word, phrases, sentences.  Look for them on the AAC system.  Practice finding and using them.  Then….. Go for it!  With just that one activity start modeling symbol use.  

Provide models that are at or just above the student’s language level.  For new users, who are just starting to find single words - or even those who haven’t used any - I recommend starting by providing 1,2, and sometimes even 3 symbols when modeling.

Don’t worry about being slow.  Yes, there are those users whose attention is fleeting and, if you’re not fast enough, you can lose them.  That’s ok, just keep modeling.  Many students will appreciate the additional time they have for processing linguistic input, which often moves too quickly for them.

Take a look back at this post to get an idea of what I mean.  (Pretty colors and fancy shapes not needed.)

Keep on Talking - verbally and with pictures!