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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.

halloween communication board

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?  
making aac routine

Here is how to do it without needing to change what you are already doing throughout the day: routines.

using AAC in daily 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.

planning core words in routines

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.

describe, define, compare, contrast in speech therapy

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.