The other day someone asked me how I got into AAC.
I have to say, I didn’t always love it like I do now. It was more like a love/hate relationship. Love the possibilities, hate the reality. Okay not hate, that’s harsh.
Either way, AAC has always fascinated me.
But I can tell you, I was not “good” at it when I got started. I did NOT AAC like a Boss-it was more like AAC Like An Indentured Servant. 😂 I didn’t know what I was doing (and I felt really bad about it).
However, I did know I wanted to help these kids and I needed to up my skill set.
So, I took every online AAC course I could find and started reading articles, blogs and research papers. When I went to ASHA conventions I would soak up all the AAC sessions.
I’d take the ideas to work and give them a try. Some things worked, a lot of things didn’t.
One thing I noticed, again and again, was that I would learn so much in a course I’d get OVERWHELMED with information and not even know where to start.
Fast forward 11 years to 2018. Finally! What I was doing was working. Time to relax right? Haha not me.
I started thinking… “I learned all this good stuff, I can’t just keep it to myself. I don’t want to help just a few kids, I want to help all the kids“.
That’s when the idea for AAC Academy was born. I opened the doors in May 2018 and I was SCARED.
Scared no one would join,
scared people would say who does she think she is,
scared it wouldn’t work.
I squashed the doubts (actually just muffled the noise). Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.
Now it’s exactly one year later and hundreds of people have been through the door!
I’m just thrilled to share this AAC journey with them and would love to share it with you too!
I’ve used everything I’ve learned to give you an AAC Roadmap to confidence and success. And it’s all in bite-sized, easy to implement pieces.
The joy that comes from helping a child expand her world through communication is priceless!
You and I are in the process of helping our kids shape their one wild and precious life with their communication.
Ready to find out more?
Let’s do it! Click here for details. (Don’t wait too long, doors are closing soon)
This May I hit the one year mark for meditation. That means I actually showed up every day for ten minutes for me. That’s kind of monumental.
I think I was able to do it because ten minutes isn’t a huge time commitment. Really it’s ten minutes less social media scroll time, which I can certainly spare.
I wish I could say each meditation was perfect, blissful and ohm-inducing, but not so much. There were a few days that I stayed in the zone a little longer than others. But honestly most of the days it’s just like life: scattered, imperfect, and random with moments of clarity and genius.
What I got back from the ten minute a day investment has been really invaluable; little subtle lasting changes in my approach to every day life. For example, I have more patience. I’m not sure how that happened. Maybe it has to do with a better knowledge of time.
I have more pockets of calmness. I think it’s because I am more aware of how busy the mind can be and how random thoughts are always passing through.
I have a better awareness of the ability to change gears and how easy it is. I can remind myself those are just thoughts, they don’t have to be real.
I am more present more often; which makes me feel more grounded in gratitude. By that I mean instead of rushing from experience to experience, I get little reminders to breathe, be in this moment and soak in all the good stuff. And that goes for the bad stuff too. I know it might sound counter intuitive but now when I am in physical pain I let myself really feel it. Instead of panicking, I focus on where the pain is occurring in my body and give it a number on a scale of 1 to 10. I breathe into it. It really works.
Best of all I feel like I have an increased capacity for every day joy. It’s that feeling of being in the right body at the exact right time in your life. Those moments are fleeting but so delicious.
So how did I do it? I used my phone, ear buds, and a meditation app called Headspace.
They pretty much walk you through everything. Selling features for me were: really cool teaching animations, Andy’s cool British accent and it’s all backed by research. Watch Andy’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon here.
I’ve tried other forms of meditation but for some reason this is the right one for me. You can try it for 10 days for free too, that’s how I got started. Click the link here to learn more about Headspace.
Would you like to try Headspace for a whole month for FREE? Just comment below and tell me what qualities you want to cultivate through meditation. I’ll pick a winner on June 30, 2018.
Where did you learn about AAC? Hopefully, if you are a recent SLP graduate you took an AAC class as part of your master’s degree program. But what if you graduated a while ago? Or what if you find yourself suddenly needing to know more? AAC Academy is a new way to learn more about AAC; it might be just what you need.
Of course, you want to help the kids who have AAC devices (or desperately need AAC devices), but you just don’t have the experience, or the knowledge base, or the confidence-never mind the time it would take to get caught up on the latest EBPs for AAC intervention. So you tell yourself you’ll get to it later. Only later never comes, and those kids are out there waiting for you NOW!
Why is it we feel so confident when it comes to almost all of our amazing scope of practice, yet when it comes to serving kids with complex communication needs, we feel our SLP self-confidence slowly slipping away?
I know just how you feel! When I started out in this field a decade ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I had so many questions.
Now, I can see you struggling too. We all feel bad for the kids because we want the very best for them. That’s when I knew I had to do something. Something had to change.
I’ve seen AAC build amazing communication bridges. If the people in a child’s life are afraid to use AAC, I hate to think of how many children are really missing out. It’s time to change that.
So I had to create AAC Academy.
Imagine feeling truly confident in your ability to bridge that communication gap. See yourself helping families connect and children become more successful in the classroom.
Imagine giving a student the gift of increased independence and expressive language. Now, instead of throwing a tantrum when he wants his favorite toy, he’ll be able to use AAC to “say” “I want my toy”. You’ll be giving him the ability to clearly express “I like” or “I don’t like”. You’ll opening a whole new world for him.
It’s time to AAC Like a Boss.
My academy-stye group AAC “coaching” program will build your SLP skills, increase your confidence, and allow you to help ALL of your students strengthen their communication skills.
AAC Academy will answer your AAC questions:
With AAC Academy you’ll confidently jump in
- What core words do I start with?
You can feel on top of your game with a complete plan and the support you need
- How long do I teach each core word before I move on?
Understand the theory and research behind modeling language for your students
- How do I model and teach core vocabulary?
See video modules with specific easy to implement example
- How do I deal with multiple different devices in a classroom?
You’ll gain knowledge to make group therapy work for all devices
- What if my student just wants to push buttons?
Learn strategies and techniques that allow time for exploration and time to “work”
- Confidence-build knowledge of AAC
- You’ll have support, no more going it alone
- Help kids find their voice and truly make a difference
- Expand your skill base, overcome technology fears
- Save time-videos and modules are bite-sized (no huge time commitment)
- Connect with like-minded SLPs/educators in the Facebook group
To join the AAC Academy click here.
Note: Early Bird pricing is in effect until May 15, 2018. This is a great chance for you to lock-in at a low price.
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,