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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Have You Read My Story?

Recently I was contacted by a local magazine who wanted to interview me as part of a series of local women to know. I was flattered, of course, and readily agreed.  Me, a woman to know? Lovely thought.

So, the article is live, and it tells my story in brief. How I ended up where I did, doing what I do.
So, I am posting a link to the article here, in case you'd like to read about my voyage to AAC.

'til next time, keep on talking!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Stuck on AAC Implementation? My Five Step Plan for Intervention

Communicative competence was defined by Janice Light (1989) as:
"– the state of being functionally adequate in daily communication and of having sufficient knowledge, judgment, and skills to communicate effectively in daily life."

I advocate for a 4 step process to building AAC use: Choose, Plan, Prepare, and Implement.

Step 1: Choosing vocabulary - We want to make sure our AAC user has a robust vocabulary so that he can say whatever he wants.  We don’t fill the system with preprogrammed phrases that may not represent what he wants to say; but we may use some often-used phrases for speed of interactions in social situations.

Step 2: Once you have the vocabulary set in your AAC system, you wan to plan your intervention strategy.  Think about what words you want to target first. Are you going to focus on core words used in a single activity or those identified core words whenever they occur in the environment naturally?

Step 3: Next, Prepare. Prepare with a modeling plan. Become comfortable with the child’s AAC system sufficiently to be able to model the words you have set as targets.  This is important. You might even want to practice ahead of time.  But don’t worry if you make mistakes or have to stop and think about where a word is.  These are perfect times to use verbal referencing and talk about what you are doing.

Step 4: Implement.   Provide Aided Language Stimulation (ALgS)/Modeling.  The AAC system needs to be available at all times. The partner will model each of the words, showing the child how the word is used in that context and where to find it in the AAC system.  Be careful not to give directions, test, make the child perform.  Don’t ask the child to “Show me _” or “What is _?” or “Where is _?”  Remember that communication for real purposes and messages is the goal, not trying to find out how much the child knows.  Use expectant pauses, natural cues.

Step 5: Collect data.  Assess and revise the plan as needed.

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.

Looking for more information about AAC implementation?  Take a look at my book: Make the Connection!  Available on Amazon. (affiliate link)

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Are You Drowning in Alphabet Soup?

We all use acronyms way more than we’d probably like.  There are acronyms everywhere; television stations, directions, and, of course, in our professional language.  
And sometimes we forget that not everyone knows the acronyms we use; especially in our clinical capacities.  Even using SLP can confuse some people.  Many call us Speech Therapists and have no idea of the full professional title.

So, I am going to clear up some of the confusion around acronyms used in AAC.  Let’s start with that one:

AAC - Alternative - Augmentative Communication; those modes of communication that replace or supplement natural speech.

PAS - Partner Assisted Scanning; a process by which the communication partner scans through the selections either auditorily (saying the words), visually (by pointing to the symbols) or both.  The partner scans through the choices available on the (no/low-tech)  AAC system, always in the same order, looking for an agreed-upon response from the individual to accept an option.  Partners present the choices in the same sequential order every time.  This strategy is usually used with an individual with significant motor or visual problems who has difficulty accessing an AAC system independently.

ALgS - Aided Language Stimulation is also called Aided Input (AI) and refers to the process of modeling use of the AAC system to the user while speaking.

AT - Assistive Technology; an umbrella term used to talk about assistive and adaptive devices or systems for individuals with disabilities. It includes any piece of equipment or software program or app that can be used to increase the functional abilities of students with disabilities.  This umbrella includes AAC.

CCN - Complex Communication Needs; used to refer to those AAC learners who have significant disabilities and needs beyond simply replacing their speech. These AAC users have a combination of physical, sensory, and other challenges that make communication difficulty

CVI - Cortical Vision Impairment; refers to a brain based vision disorder

SGD - Speech Generating Device; or VOCA (voice output communication assistant)
Voice output can be either digital (recorded speech) or synthesized (computer-generated) speech.  

Those are my top 7 picks for confusing acronyms I hear in IEP meetings that leave some people shaking their heads.  Do you have any others?

If you're looking for more information about AAC, morew terminology explained, and a step-by-step guide to implementation, try my book Make the Connection!  (affiliate link)