Want solid AAC and Assistive Technology ideas and tips for school speech therapy? Watch this engaging interview with AT Specialist Chris Bugaj. We talk about the importance of presuming potential, core vocabulary, motor planning, aided language stimulation and AAC in the IEP. You’ll also learn the AAC mistakes we both made.
Click below to watch or click here.
I was lucky enough to spend two days at an Assistive Technology workshop for school districts across Arizona led by Chris Bugaj. Chris is a Licensed Speech – Language Pathologist in Virginia with Certificate of Clinical Competence. He is also the founding member of the Loudoun County Public Schools’ Assistive Technology Team.
Chris is not only knowledgeable, he’s an engaging speaker with contagious enthusiasm for all things AAC and Assistive Technology.
Big AAC Takeaways You Don’t Want to Miss: (or advice for the new SLP who’s a little scared)
- You have to own this! If you’re inspired, you can inspire others.
- Believe in your student; presume potential.
- Understand the fundamentals of AAC.
- Aided Language Stimulation is a must
- You don’t write an AAC goal, you write a language goal. Lean on your language expertise to be able to write better goals.
Check out these highlights:
The staircase analogy 11:00
Core vocabulary and the cell phone analogy 15:23
Mistakes Chris and I both made 17:00
How to approach AAC and AT in the IEP 23:00
My “aha” moment (a different way to look at back-up AAC) 25:00
Where to find Chris Bugaj:
Want to get started with Core Vocabulary but aren’t sure how? Click here Quick Inexpensive Way to Get Started with Core Vocabulary.
I learned so much at the ASHA convention in Los Angeles that I just had to share it with you. After attending outstanding presentations on AAC, I have to let you in on some of my biggest aha moments and takeaways. These five free AAC Resources will make your SLP life easier.
1. AAC for students with visual impairments
This year I’m working with several students who not only have complex communication needs but they also have a visual impairment. These are the kids that I think about a lot. Trying to strategize and come up with some type of a communication system for them is really challenging.
Laura Stone gave an amazing presentation that included resources for purchasing tactile communication systems using Core Vocabulary and suggestions for how to create your own.
STACS: Standardized Tactile Augmentative Communication Symbols Kit is available online
Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired has standardized a Tactile System (FREE guide) http://www.tsbvi.edu/images/attachments/Tactile-Symbol-List1.pdf
And you can make your own symbols too using corrugated plastic or cardboard. I’ll be diving deeper into this subject in an upcoming interview with Laura.
2. Low-tech AAC Gems from Gail Van Tatenhove
” Low-tech doesn’t scare the crap out of people.”
” Low-tech is a rich environment in which you can do language.”
” You can have more than one motor plan.”
” Low-tech can temporarily reduce the cognitive load.”
” Look at access, intentionality, and motivation.”
Learn more wisdom from Gail Van Tatenhove, the Queen of Core at https://gvantatenhove.wordpress.com/
Kristen from The Daily Dose of Speech and I with Gail Van Tatehove
3, 4 & 5. Classroom-wide Core Vocabulary from Project Core
Project Core is a Stepping Up Technology Implementation Grant, directed by the Center for Disability and Literacy Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Here are a few of the highlights.
- Teach teachers and classroom staff how to teach AAC (this is huge and something I’m always working on)
- “Encourage communication without requiring it.” ~Karen Erickson
- ” It’s not a model, if the child doesn’t see you do it.” ~Karen Erickson
- Make sure there’s a worthwhile topic to communicate about.
- Project Core uses Communication Matrix (which I’ve been using for the past 3 or 4 years) This is a FREE assessment tool that I find invaluable. I’ve included a link on my Resources
- Project Core has free professional development modules http://www.project-core.com/professional-development-modules/
- And FREE posters http://www.project-core.com/teaching-core-vocabulary-posters/
I hope you can use these AAC resources. I know it can be a confusing area with a lot of different resources, devices and vocabulary sets. We just have to keep ourselves informed, reach out to other SLPs, look at evidence and use our best clinical judgement.
I think one thing that all the AAC experts agree on is the importance of Aided Language Stimulation or Modeling.
So, let’s hold that point,
Who’s going to the ASHA Convention in LA this year? That’s where I’ll be November 9-11 and this will be my 5th ASHA convention. Honestly, with over 15,000 people atteding, it can be a little overwhelming. If you’re a first-timer (or even second or third), I’ve put together 10 tips to getting the most out of ASHA convention 2017.
Tip #1 Plan your courses ahead of time
I know sometimes it’s fun to just wing it, but this is not one of those times. You’re probably spending a lot of money on registration, hotel room, meals, and travel. Let’s get the most bang for your buck, grab your program pocket planner (you should’ve received it in the mail) and highlight some of the courses that look really interesting. Then you can look them up online here.
Tip #2 Plan to make some connections
Think about what specific topics you’re most interested in. Maybe this is an area where you’d like to connect with like-minded SLPs. Show up early for the course so you can talk to some of the people sitting next to you. Even if you’re shy, it’s to say something like “I’m excited about this course” or “how’s the convention going for your so far?”, just break the ice.
Talk to the presenters after their talk.
When you’re walking around if you see an SLP blogger or TPT seller that you follow on social media, say hello.
Tip #3 Show up Early
Some of the courses fill up quickly, so there early and grab a good seat for yourself. It’s no fun standing against the back wall for being in the overflow room.
Tip #4 Bring snacks
Your brain is going to be on overload with all this great new information and just from the energy of being around so many people. You’re going to want to feed it and lots of times the lineup for snack items is really long. I like to bring almonds, trail mix, protein bars and a water bottle. (You’re going to thank me for this tip.)
Tip #5 Plan lunch
Plan ahead for your lunches. If you have back to back courses it’s pretty tricky to leave the convention center and get back on time. Because, let’s face it, everyone’s got to eat, so the restaurants get really crowded. I usually do a combination of the ASHA prepaid lunches and snacks. Or you could plan to skip one of the 1:00 sessions and have a fun lunch with some of your SLP friends. Yes, it’s okay, you don’t have to go to every time slot. It’s important to connect and network too.
Tip #6 Remember shoes are everything
Really consider your footwear. You’re going to be walking a lot and standing a lot in the Exhibition Hall, so keep it comfortable and profesh.
Tip #7 Bring layers
Of course, you can dress however you want. Remember you’re going to be sitting a lot, so you want to be comfortable. But you’re going to want to look professional too, (at least I do). I plan to dress in layers, because you never know what the temperature’s going to be like in each room. There’s nothing worse than trying to concentrate when you’re freezing or roasting.
Tip #8 Plan your Exhibit Hall Attack
The first few times, it can be a little overwhelming because it’s HUGE. Get the floor plan that comes with your registration packet and have a look. (Or look at Tip #10) Does that sound geeky? I just remember my first time. I didn’t have a plan and I ended up getting completely overwhelmed and exhausted. Now I do it differently. I go through the floor plan and highlight all of the booths I know I can’t miss. Then, I make sure I go to those first. I also schedule myself a nice block of time to look at things.
This is a great opportunity to check out some of the big vendor’s booths. There’s always tons of swag. Super Duper has a huge area (it’s like a store), where you can actually purchase therapy materials. They also give you a big huge tote bag to carry everything in. Again, plan ahead, you don’t want to be caring that huge bag with you all day to all your classes.
Tip #9 Explore and have some fun
Take advantage of being somewhere different. Go to some of the meetups, check out a fun restaurant, and maybe you’ll even have time to go to the beach.
Tip #10 Get the ASHA 2017 Convention app.
This free app allows you to sync your schedule and see your friends schedule. It also has maps and a What’s On Now feature to keep you totally in-the-know.
That’s all for now. I hope you find these ten tips helpful and I would love to see you in Los Angeles! I’ll be posting on Instagram (Beautiful Speech Life) and maybe even Facebook Live.
One of the best things about going to an ASHA convention is connecting. We all work so hard, it’s nice to have time to socialize with people who speak our language.
Do you get a little scared when you are writing AAC goals in the IEP?
As in, you’re just not quite sure how to word the goal, let alone make it smart? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
It’s easy to get a little overwhelmed and stuck here. I’ve been there. I remember the first time a teacher said ” Oh by the way, Johnny has this talker device thingy in his backpack, what do we do with it?” I knew we had to push buttons to make it talk but honestly that was about it.
When I thought of writing goals and how to include the device, I was really lost.
So now, a few years later, I’ve figured a few things out and done a lot of investigating when it comes to AAC in the IEP. It’s really not a black and white area but here’s how I do it.
Tip #1: Don’t be scared! It’s mostly just language. You’re an expert in language, (remember you’ve got a master’s degree). You’ve got this.
Don’t freak out about the AAC part. Just focus on what you want your student to communicate. Then look at the how. Look across all areas of language not just labeling. If you get stuck, a helpful tool is Communication Matrix (I’ll include a link at the end of this post). You can use it not only for assessment but also for looking at the areas of language use for emerging and beginning communicators. These are: refuse, obtain, social and information with detailed information on the hierarchy of each.
Here’s an example situation:
Currently when Johnny wants an item he points to it and/or physically takes an adult and to the item. We want his next step to be using core vocabulary words (verbally and/or through AAC use) to obtain a wanted item.
Sample goal from Kate Ahern that I really like:
“Given his communication system of 9-12 core words and ongoing aided language stimulation across the school day Johnny will communicate for three different purposes (such as greeting, commenting, requesting, labeling, asking and answering questions) during a 20 minute group activity with no more than two indirect verbal cues (hints).”
Also you can refer to 1988 Janice Light et al who wrote of four competencies for AAC users: Linguistic, Operational, Social, and Strategic. Kate Ahern lists good examples of these in the linked article below.
Tip #2 An AAC goal still needs to be SMART. (A S.M.A.R.T. goal is defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timebound). You’ll be including time frame, conditions (modeling, cuing, prompting), measurement, assessment and baseline; just like you do in your other goals.
Tip #3 Check to make sure you know your district and state’s procedures and requirements. They aren’t all the same. Talk with your lead SLP, Assistive Technology Consultant, School Psychologist or Special Education Director to make sure you’re including all the required information. Find out where your district wants you to document the type of AAC a student is receiving. It could be listed in the goal OR it might be in the Supplementary Aids and Services section of the IEP.
Tip #4 Document the type of AAC equipment, software or low tech AAC in general descriptive terms. You don’t want to name the specific devices because then you’ll be out of compliance if you’re not using that specific piece of equipment. Think about all the times devices are left at home, aren’t charged and even are broken. You want to make sure you have access to an alternate (such as a laminated photo copy of the main screen on a speech generating device). Here are some suggested terms:
Try this: Communication system including coreboard, choice board, and fringe vocabulary
Instead of: Boardmaker, Lessonpix, etc.
Try this: portable speech generating device
Instead of: Ipad
Try this: dynamic speech generating touch screen device
Instead of: Accent 1400
Tip #5 In the IEP present level section explain why your student needs AAC in school and how your student uses AAC. Here’s an example:
“Johnny uses an augmentative alternative communication (AAC) system to request and to comment. Johnny’s AAC includes a 40 symbol core communication board, 6-8 symbol choice boards and a 10-12 symbol comment board. He is using this system in a variety of settings. This AAC system impacts his progress in the general education curriculum because it allows him to participate in class discussions and activities. This allows for assessment of what he knows. “
Then, of course, you’ll include all the rest of your information on goals and progress.
So there you have it, I hope you found this useful. To sum it up your 5 tips to Writing Smart AAC Goals in the IEP are:
- Don’t be scared-it’s just language.
- Remember an AAC goal still needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound.
- Check for district & state procedures/requirements.
- Document the type of AAC in general descriptive terms.
- Back up your goals in the present level by stating why your student needs AAC and how it impacts his progress in general education.
I have to say this is just a quick summary to get you thinking. As always, use your clinical judgement, do your research and reach out to other SLPs.
Here are links to helpful articles I’ve found:
Kate Ahern’s Meaningful and evidence based goals: here.
Gail Van Tatenhove’s AAC in the IEP: here.
Lauren Ender’s Writing Goals for AAC Users: here.
The Communication Matrix: here.
My Three Tips to AAC Like a Boss for Beginners: here
My BIG Core Vocabulary Board: here.
If this is information overload, just bookmark these, so you’ll have them when you need them.
All right let’s all go AAC LIke a Boss,