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Sunday, April 9, 2017

More Thoughts on Word Relationships and AAC Use

Last week I wrote about classifying words and how the need to organize and find words within AAC systems can put a strain on the metalinguistic skills of our AAC users.
And, since I often talk about how your AAC users can do the same activities in intervention sessions as your other students working on related skills, I thought I’d demonstrate by using a basic receptive/expressive language game today.

Given that Spring is finally here - and not a minute too soon for some of you - I’m going to talk about a resource I’ve made dubiously named “Bunny Hop Through Spring.”  it is, otherwise, just called a game for expressive and receptive language.

If you want a no-commitment look at it, there is a free sample in my store here.  You can take a look at it and follow along without even having to make a purchase.  How cool is that?

Anyway, there is a fairly standard game board and even little bunny game pieces.  If you are going to use these with students who have some motor difficulties, I suggest taping the bottom strip of the bunnies around a glue stick to help make them easier to grasp and more solid to hold onto.

I am, of course, going to expect that your AAC user has a robust communication system.  That way, you can build word knowledge along with knowledge of where those words are in the system itself.

So, taking a look at the first page of cards, you can see that students are asked to name opposite adjectives.  Adjectives are among the important core words we want to teach our AAC users.  And most AAC systems have a special folder for pages of descriptive words.  Working on that task is fairly straightforward.

Look at the next page of game cards, there are 6 cards from the categorizing skill set, where the student needs to name members of a specified category.  
“Name 3 animals with stripes,” is one task.  Ok, so, where are the animal words in the system?  Often the user navigates to “groups” then to “animals” and then may have folders of pets, wild animals, farm animals, sea animals.  So, what are 3 animals with stripes and where are they in here?

In the “wild animals” page I can find zebra and tiger.  What else has stripes? A skunk?  That is probably in wild animals, too - unless there is a forest animal page.  Some cats have stripes (but not all - so be careful).  If I am talking about one of my cats, then, yes, he does have stripes.  But the other one doesn’t, so it does not hold that all cats have stripes.

There are any number of wild animals have stripes, but they are probably too obscure (unless you live on the plains of Africa).  Some snakes also have stripes.  Ringtails, as their name suggests, also have stripes.  They are the state animal in Arizona.  Our fringe vocabularies, or the frequency of use of them, varies by our experiences, our environment, and our level of knowledge.

In talking about how to ask questions of AAC users that encourages core word use and descriptive thinking, Gail Vantatenhove has warned us about only asking referential questions whose answers are nouns that may, or may not, be in our users’ AAC systems.
So, think carefully about what you are trying to teach your student.  If you are building vocabulary for topics that are necessary, or teaching how to navigate the AAC system, many language games are on equal footing in intervention.
If, however, you are helping students build on their use of core words to demonstrate knowledge of a topic then concentrate on more descriptive vocabulary (see last week’s post).

Whatever you’re working on, keep on talking.

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