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)
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,
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,
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,