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 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.

Get Free Better Hearing and Speech Month Helpful School Posters

Get Free Better Hearing and Speech Month Helpful School Posters

Want to do something for Better Hearing and Speech Month (every May) and don’t have time to prepare something? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a school based SLP who decided May was the best month for this.
I’ve got you covered with these free handouts/posters. There’s a black & white version or four pretty color options. Use them as posters or handouts, they’re actually great all year!
Better Hearing and Speech month is the perfect time to place these posters in the staff room, on your speech room door, and anywhere else that teachers may congregate. These are actually great to use as handouts (the b&w version). They’re also great for in-service days to help new teachers understand how we can all work together.
After working in the schools for many years, I’ve noticed several common factors. Teachers are over-worked. SLPs are over-worked. Teachers have too much paperwork. SLPs have too much paperwork.  Teachers want the best for their students. SLPs want the best for their students. 
The students who make the most progress are generally the ones who have a team behind them.
The more we can work with the teachers to help our students take their newly learned communication skills into the classroom, the faster our students will have success across all environments.
I hope these handouts will spark ideas and stimulate discussions.  I know there are some great teachers our there who fully understand what a speech language pathologist does and how we can work together. I also know there are some well meaning teachers who think we “just work on articulation.”
It’s our job to help bridge that gap.
To get your free printables just click here.
Or use this link:
I hope this helps you out. Remember summer is almost here, we can do it!
Happy Better Hearing and Speech month,
P.S. Need a fun low-prep year end activity that will take you through at least two therapy sessions and works for multiple goals?
How an SLP can help an Autism Mom: A Candid Interview

How an SLP can help an Autism Mom: A Candid Interview

With April being Autism Awareness month, I thought this was the perfect time to do this interview.  I’ve been following Nicky on Instagram for the past two years. She has an inspirational, positive feed (Nickys Day) showcasing her days as a mother of a child with Autism.  Her son, MJ is 12 yrs old. I can tell from his photos that he has a loving, sweet disposition…that face!
So let’s jump right in. (I’m AP and she’s NB)
AP: Nikki it’s so great to finally speak with you,  I feel like I already know you from your Instagram feed! Why don’t you go ahead and tell us why you started your blog.
NB: My son MJ is 12, he’ll be 13 in May. He’s funny sweet and loving. He’s an amazing kid. I’ll just be honest, I didn’t know a lot about autism when he was diagnosed.  I’ve been blogging for two years, because now I can talk about it. I thought about how I felt and decided if I can help someone else then I’m going to do it I want to give other parents hope. There is light, they just have to hang in there.
AP: I feel like I’ve learned a lot about you listening to your interview on The Skinni podcast. There you talked about what it felt like when MJ first received the diagnosis of autism. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
NB: The first time you hear it, you think your life is over. You think, why is this happening. I went into a shell, trying to process and accept.  I let myself cry for a day and then it was time to move forward and help my son.
AP: How did you do that?
NB: I was doing research and wondered,  did I miss something?  But I knew I had to do what I could do. Looking back I didn’t reach out for help, I didn’t feel like anyone could understand. You feel helpless. But day by day it gets better. 
AP: I am an SLP who works with many children who have autism. I’m so interested in your point of view (as a parent),  about the IEP process and working with the school. Most SLPs participate in 60 to 80 IEP meetings every year. It’ll be so beneficial for us to hear what it feels like sitting on the other side of the table.
NB: This is the first thing I thought of when you asked me about doing the interview. Thinking back to when we were at MJ’s first IEP meeting…you all use a lot of terminology.  Expressive, receptive, echolalia. I figured that one out because echo was in the word. But a lot of these terms were new to me. Social language, semantics, apraxia, syntax. And what does four out of 10 trials mean?
AP: I know, it’s a lot of information.
NB: MJ’s first SLP said to us, ‘he may never speak. And if he does it might not be intelligible speech.’ She explained the process well, but there was no hope.
A parent might be sitting in front of you nodding, but inside they’re thinking oh my God.
(Anne’s Note: You guys, this makes me cry! I want to make sure I offer hope and support to all the parents I work with.)
AP: As a mom, what would you like SLPs and special education teachers to know?
NB: Tell us what you actually do. We want to know what happens while you’re with our child, so we can implement it at home.  I need to see it.
It’d be great to have a 20 to 30 minute training on this. Handouts explaining the terminology, so we can look at them at home. A weekly progress checklist or even a text. I know you all are busy and I know about the caseloads, I’m a middle school teacher myself.
If you don’t tell me, I don’t know. It’s not like he’s going to tell me. So many more things happen at school than they do at home. When  we say our child is different at home, he really is. The MJ at school is not the MJ at home. To him school is for work, home is to relax.
You do start to feel Hope. Especially when the school shares his progress. One of MJ’s SLPs typed his first sentence and sent it to me. THOSE are the things that help you keep going.
AP: Now that MJ’s got his big 13th birthday coming up, what are your hopes for him when he goes to high school?
NB: I want him to be safe, continue to make REAL friends, improve in social skills, and continue to learn as much as he can.  He’s a genuinely happy kid and I want that to continue. JOB SKILLS would be amazing as well.
I think I can speak for all of us when I say thank you to Nicky for letting us learn from her journey.  I truly admire her for her candor, optimism, determination, grit and fierce love for her son.
You can find Nicky on her award winning blog Nicky’s Day with Autism . To hear more, catch her interview on
If you’d like to learn more about autism, look at these statistics from
  • Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys
  • Autism prevalence figures are growing
  • Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S.
  • Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average
  • Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism
I hope you found this information helpful and inspirational. Every child needs a powerful, caring team of adults working together to empower him with education, love and knowledge.
Together we can change lives,

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