Writing Smart AAC Goals in the IEP: 5 Tips

Writing Smart AAC Goals in the IEP: 5 Tips

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:

  1. Don’t be scared-it’s just language.
  2. Remember an AAC goal still needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound.
  3. Check for district & state procedures/requirements.
  4. Document the type of AAC in general descriptive terms.
  5. 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,

Beautiful Speech Life

FREE Speech App for Speech Language Pathologists

FREE Speech App for Speech Language Pathologists

Looking for a fun, engaging, interactive, FREE speech app for your toddlers, preschoolers, and young students with special needs?

I found an awesome one called Speech Blubs

This subscription-based app is free for SLPs for use on one device. Children mimic sounds and words while looking at videos of engaging kids. My primary functional skills classroom loved it when I used it as a reward activity during therapy. A couple of my students that generally won’t try to imitate words, actually tried this. I was sold right then and there.

The kids really enjoy seeing the kids in the app. It’s just so natural for them to imitate other kids.The colorful images are clean, super-fun and engaging. When you activate the camera the kids can see themselves on screen, which they love (it’s like looking in the mirror). In the Early Sounds section, the kids imitate an animal noise. When they do this, fun things happen. Donkey ears appear on their head or maybe even a duck.

You have to see for yourself in this short little video I made.

Isn’t that great?

If you feel you can use this with your students, go to the App Store and download Speech Blubs. Follow the prompts and make sure you indicate that you’re an SLP so you can get your free copy.

Guess what? For a limited time, I’m giving away 10 free codes for you to share with the parents of a student. I think this would be so great for practice and interaction at home. The code is good for a 6 month subscription. If you’re interested, just comment below with your favourite animal from the app. I’ll choose ten winners on Monday, September 18, 2017.

Building Language Supports Using Low-Tech AAC

Building Language Supports Using Low-Tech AAC

I’m still riding high from SLP Summit earlier this month. In case you missed it, my presentation was titled “Building Language supports through AAC”. I co-presented with Brian Whitmer from Coughdrop AAC. He handled high-tech while I spoke about low-tech AAC.
 The excitement, the connections, the information and the buzz was so uplifting and informative. I’m so thrilled to have been a presenter during this groundbreaking activity. The comments and questions, were so good, and I want to take the time to answer some of the really pertinent questions here. I’ll also provide many of the links and resources that I talked about.

No more FOUA (fear of using AAC).

So let’s jump right in…
As the year for me is gearing up, I was discussing some suggestions for low-tech AAC or no-tech communication opportunities with one of my colleagues.  I suggested to her that she might try some routines during sessions, and what came to my mind was the “magic wand” greeting and greeting song from the webinar you did during the Winter SLP summit.  I was just wondering if perhaps you had a list of suggestions for routines you might use that would have an expected or repetitive response, similar to those activities I mentioned above?”~Caitlyn
 
This is a great question from Caitlin. I agree that routines are amazing in the special needs classroom. Here are some of my favorites:
Use the magic wand to reinforce greetings when entering the room. A lot of our kiddos are not expected to greet anyone in any way. This is a really important social skill and a way for them to connect. Model waving and saying hi, hello. As soon as you get any type of response, give them some magic.
With the younger kids, integrate a Hello song and Goodbye song. The links to see them are here on my YouTube channel. (please excuse my bad singing, haha).
As the kids get older I like to use something more age appropriate such as Whole Brain teaching rules. We start each and every session with the “rules”. I use the posters for visual support,  hand movements, and consistency. We love them. Here’ a little video of us using them during our speech session.
I’ve had really good success with the use of a simple visual schedule, just three or four little picture cards to show what we’ll be doing during our speech time. It doesn’t have to be perfect or beautiful, just consistently used.
Incorporating songs and song choices into our group time has also been a big hit. I use a Go Talk (more low-tech AAC) with little recorded snippets of each song for each buttons. Some examples are: Wheels on the Bus, Looby Loo, Twinkle Twinkle and Head & Shoulders. Over time you get the advantage of the students learning the songs too  (especially if you incorporate hand movements and make it fun). Here is a link to my Pinterest board of transition songs.
Routine and predictably are your best friends. Last year, I followed the same basic routine in each of the three functional skills classrooms I work with. Here is my magic list.
Primary functional skills: Magic wand, hello song, criss cross applesauce, go talk song Choices, core vocabulary board activity, 3 – 4 minutes iPad time for the whole group as a reward, the Goodbye song.
Grade 4 5 6 functional skills: Say hello and shake hands as they enter the room, whole brain teaching rules all together, core vocabulary activity, 3 – 4 minutes iPad time for the whole group as a reward, age appropriate song on iTunes that we all chose together.
Grade 7 8 functional skills: Say what’s up and shake hands (or fistbump) as they enter the room, whole brain teaching rules all together with more age appropriate hand movements, therapy activity, 3 – 4 minutes iPad time for the whole group as a reward.
I hope this gives you some good ideas for your sessions.
“How do you print the Core Board so large?”
Great question.  You don’t need any oversize printer or Kinko’s.  Each page has four symbol squares, I have them in order, with really complete instructions. Just glue them to a poster board and then laminate. Easy peasy. Click here to learn more about the BIG Core board
Is there research to support the 10-second hold for pointing when modeling? Everyone loves research
to back up what they’re saying especially when trying to get ABA professionals on board. -Amanda

Another great question! I don’t have the answer yet. There are several references to the 10 second point, but as far as research for the exact time I’ll have to keep looking. I’d say it is a suggested time by some highly experienced AAC experts (see these references). 

“Can I get a handout of the slide presentation?”

So many people asked for a copy of the slide presentation, I apologize for not including it.  You can click here for the attachment. 

I’m also answering some of the questions on Facebook. Click here to see.   

Thank you so much to everyone who attended.  I’m working on another AAC presentation as we speak.

Remember feel the FOUA and do it anyway,

Beautiful Speech Life

Share the wins: School SLP Success Stories

Share the wins: School SLP Success Stories

As a school speech language pathologist (SLP) we are lucky to be a part of some wonderful  SLP success stories.  After all, that’s why we do this job; we love to be able to make a difference.
SLP Success Stories
This is a really cool little story with a happy ending. A few years ago we got a new student in one of our functional skills classrooms. He was really quiet and when he did speak, he was very difficult to understand due to a severe phonological disorder. Little Ivan (not his real name) had also gone for years with an undetected hearing loss.
SLP Success Stories
With time we were able to correct a lot of his phonological errors. As people begin to understand him, he became more confident and less shy. Ivan was a very kind student and quickly became the leader of the class. So much so, that we started to wonder about his diagnosis of moderate intellectual disability.
When he was reevaluated, sure enough Ivan’s former diagnosis did not fit. Turns out he simply had a learning disability. I guess that the learning disability paired with the extreme shyness, the inability to be understood, the language impairment and the hearing loss had all combined against him.
Our team slowly transitioned Ivan into the resource room and general education setting.  We took it slowly and had lots of supports in place. The first day he took the regular bus home (instead of the sped bus) the school psychologist and I followed the bus to make sure he was able to independently get off the bus and go straight home. (He was).
It wasn’t an easy transition and we had to stand up against a lot of people that didn’t believe us. But it was so worth it!
I’m happy to say that Ivan has is still in a general education classroom with resource support. I still get tears in my eyes telling this story, we were able to change the course of his life.  That is so powerful!
Let’s celebrate our wins together! Today is the start of a new feature. I’m sharing one of my SLP success stories today and in the coming weeks I’ll feature yours.  I’d love for you to submit a quick story, just email me at beautifulspeechlife@gmail.com if you’re interested. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
Shine Bright,
Beautiful Speech Life
 P.S. You can read more inspirational stories about SLP bosses here and here. I’d also love for you to come and join the fun on facebook, you can be the first to see live videos where I share SLP tips and tricks.
SLP Summer Planner for Speech

SLP Summer Planner for Speech

Do you love planners as much as I do? I created a special SLP summer planner just to help you make sure your summer doesn’t slip away.

SLP Summer Planner for SpeechAnd the best part…it’s FREE!

WE made it through another year! Now for a well-deserved summer break. If you’re like me you start the summer with very well-intended plans of projects, revamps and things-to-do. Sometimes the transition from flat out running and wrangling kids all day to summer relaxation can be a little tricky. SLP Summer Planner to the rescue.

So you take a few days to adjust. You make some vacation plans and you sleep in. Binge watch Netflix and before you know it, summer’s over.  If you’re happy with that then great.

But… what if you start the summer knowing how you want to feel at the end of it? What if we a take little time to reflect on the past year and celebrate our successes?  Let’s make time for what we really want to do with these precious months and use the SLP Summer Planner to make it happen.

SLP Summer Planner

What can you do to take care of yourself and refill the well? Who do you want to spend your time with? Figure out if you really want to do projects.  If yes, pick ones that will make you feel good. Maybe you just want to sit under a tree and get lost in a book.

Give yourself what you need. The work you do is so very important. You really do make a difference. Because you “SLP”-ed Like a Boss all year, you deserve to be the boss of your summer.

I hope you use this SLP Summer Planner with a sense of play and intention. Then when summer comes to an end (which it always does) you can use the final sheets to transition into the coming school year.

Wishing you an incredible summer,

Beautiful Speech Life

Beautiful Speech Life

P.S. Watch for the SLP Like a Boss School Planner coming soon.

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