Feel Confident with Expert AAC Strategies

Feel Confident with Expert AAC Strategies

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. 

Beautiful Speech Life

12 Gifts for Speech Language Pathologists

12 Gifts for Speech Language Pathologists

12 Fun Gifts for Speech PathologistsStruggling to find a gift for your SLP friend that they’ll actually WANT? These speech language pathologist gift ideas are so fun and useful that they’ll probably be on her favorites list.

SLP gift ideas can be tricky. Whether you’re a parent giving a gift to your child’s SLP or you want something special for your SLP bestie (or wife or CF supervisor). I’ve got you covered for all price ranges. Especially if you’re buying for yourself my SLP friend.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.


1. A Magic Wand to help her with her littles. This is always a hit in my therapy room.

2. The Seven Year Pen. SLPs do sooo much paperwork and signing their names to IEPs, what could be better than a fun pen, that writes smoothly and lasts for seven years? I can’t get enough of these.

3. SLP Like a Boss Mug. Most SLPs are fueled by coffee. What could be better than this big, inspirational mug that’ll remind her she’s got everything covered.

4. A pink donut phone grip.We’re on our phones a lot! How about a pink donut grip to keep her phone accessible?

5. The Five Minute Journal. Time is always a valuable commodity. With the small commitment of 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night, this journal will help her stay present and grateful.

6. Flair pens because you can just never have too many.

7. Planner stickers. You know we love to plan, sometimes it’s just too hard to by a planner for someone else. But these stickers will brighten up her day all year.

8. SLPs love words. Get her this amazing light board for her desk so she can stay inspired.

9. Another pen? Yes! Because this cactus pen will help her stay on point.

10. More Tea Please mug. And another mug? Yes because maybe she likes tea instead of coffee. The sign language makes it perfect for the SLP or Special Education Teacher.

Here are a couple of bigger ticket items for the SLP that’s at the top of your nice list (or maybe for yourself if you’re an SLP)


1. If we’re talking about a school SLP, she has to do progress reports. Buy her a subscription to SLP Toolkit. It’ll make her progress reports smooth and stress free.

2. Maybe she’s always wanted to learn Sign Language. This online course is perfect for SLPs and special education teachers who need to know basic Sign Language vocabulary to use with clients, students, or patients in their speech therapy sessions.

Happy shopping, I know your speech pathologist will love one (or two) of these lovely gifts,

Beautiful Speech Life

10 Tips to getting the most out of ASHA Convention 2017

10 Tips to getting the most out of ASHA Convention 2017

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.

ASHA 2017 Convention

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.

Beautiful Speech Life

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.

Pin It on Pinterest