In this video I share 10 ideas for virtual AAC modeling. We are keeping it simple so that no one gets overwhelmed. We want to bring engagement, authentic communication and joy.
We are going to cover:
Using low tech AAC at home,
how to model during teletherapy,
ideas for parents, special educators and speech language pathologists.
This session was an early part of AAC in the Cloud 2020 in response to the changes with COVID19, school closures and teletherapy. FREE Access to resources and links mentioned are here for you at: bit.ly/aacathomeishere.
Thank you to Coughdrop AAC for facilitating this training.Pin
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.
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.
Do you struggle with planning functional communication therapy?
Do you leave those sessions feeling frustrated and like it nothing is working?
I sure used to. And then I discovered the power of Core Vocabulary.
You can add structure, consistency and fun to your sessions by using Core Vocabulary. You’ll be amazed at how you can do more with less!
It’s not just for labeling. These words are used to comment, request and command.
Of course, you want students to learn many other words, these are fringe vocabulary. But by focusing on core words you are teaching them a vocabulary that is used most often throughout the day and that they can use throughout their daily lives from classroom to playground to cafeteria to home.
So what exactly is core vocabulary?
Core vocabulary is a small set of simple words, in any language, that are used frequently and across contexts (Cross, Baker, Klotz & Badman, 1997). These words make up 75-80% of the words we use every day.
I love to use big core vocabulary boards with my students. You can choose your core words from many sources and create your own board using symbols.
I just created this core vocabulary board. I spent months tweaking the size, the positioning of the symbols and using it with my students. Here’s what I love about it:
Big squares are easy for little hands to grasp and large enough to see clearly.
Made for classroom and/or speech room use
Uses DLM Core Vocabulary words which are evidence based
It’s available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store now. Included with the board are two different choices of backgrounds, one vibrant and one more subdued. There is also a smaller poster to put on the classroom door to help with carryover. And smaller squares to use for lanyards to encourage use of the core vocabulary words throughout the day.
If you’re sold on Core Vocabulary but wondering how to get started, I also included enough ideas to get you through a few sessions incorporating wind-up toys and movement.
Last week I shared 3 tips on how to AAC Like a Boss. They were:
You don’t have to know everything
You don’t have to start high-tech.
Good stuff, right?!
To continue along this line, today I want to talk a little bit about how I used all three of these tips to make a breakthrough for one of my students.
I’ve been doing group therapy with students who are working on functional communication for the past nine years. I don’t know about you, but I get really discouraged when my students don’t make progress. However, I think I was setting the bar too high too soon. Of course I want them to be able to communicate their wants and needs. There are just so many little steps to getting there; it can take a really long time!
This year I started using The Dynamic Learning Map Core Vocabulary; a list of 40 words that have been proven to be most effective socially and academically for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Developed at the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, these 40 words are based on AAC research.
My Core Vocabulary Board
This is both low tech and resourceful. Plus I really didn’t know everything about it, but I did do my research and know that it’s backed by evidence. I made a core vocabulary board for my room and decided to see what happened.
Let me tell you a little story to illustrate my point. I’ve been working with a little guy, let’s say his name is Benjamin (it’s not) for the last four years. Benjamin came to our school as a kindergartener with a diagnosis of Autism. He was nonverbal. His IEP from preschool had a following one step directions goal and an expressive language goal to “communicate his wants and needs using total communication”.
For the first two years, Benjamin had to learn to follow classroom routines and follow directions. His sensory integration needs were high and we were trying to figure out how to meet them. I felt like a total failure as an SLP. He didn’t say words, he didn’t use signs, and he didn’t have joint attention. He stayed in his own little world. But, he did learn to follow simple directions with visual and verbal prompts.
We have a little farm at our school and Benjamin was really interested in the animals. It was motivating and calming to him to be able to watch them. Soon he started labeling them. His parents bought him little plastic animals and taught him the names of over 100 animals. Progress, sort of. He still didn’t greet, comment, request or command. There was no joint engagement or joint attention. No pointing. He was just naming the animals for his own benefit. Not looking to see if we were listening, not wanting to share his discovery. If he couldn’t physically go get what he wanted, he would guide an adult’s hand to the item. Benjamin demonstrated echolalia and a lot of screaming.
Then we he was in second grade we taught him to request by labeling. We used beads, which he loves to roll and toy animals, which he loved to line up. I was able to get some eye contact by holding the item he wanted by my eyes. He had to look at me and say what he wanted. After a while, we (me, the paraprofessionals, the teacher and his parents) got him to add “I want” but he needed a verbal prompt each time.
Benjamin got an iPad with TouchChat that he was able to use but he hasn’t been too interested in it.
This past school year, he changed classrooms and it took a good four months for him to settle into the new routine. His communication progress was at a standstill. Actually, he even regressed.
I was so sad. I had just told his mom that I wasn’t making any progress with him in group therapy sessions. He was falling asleep, or hanging off of his chair or screaming; sometimes all three in one session. The other kids were so distracted. I made arrangements to see him for individual therapy for a while.
The next day, Benjamin’s teacher forget to tell the aides about the new schedule and they brought him to my room with the group. I said, okay let’s just try one more time.
I was introducing the new core vocabulary board I made and planned to teach the command “go’ through the use of the picture symbol. I set up a little miniature bowling game on the table. I noticed I had Benjamin’s attention, so I let him go first. Big Therapy Win! He participated with minimal prompts for the first time ever. He loved the Core Vocabulary Board with the bowling. In this picture, he’s waiting, holding the ball until we (his classmates and I) say “go”. We had joint attention, joint engagement with PEERS, and smiling. I wish I would’ve filmed it.
That was in January. Ever since then, he’s been participating. I keep the sessions really active with pop-up toys, wind-up toys and balls. So far he’s learned “go”, “stop”, “want”, “more”, and “I”. In April, he was able to put together this sentence “I want more go” using the picture cards and verbalizing. So exciting!
What is it that worked? I believe it was a combination of timing, high interest activity and the Core Vocabulary visuals.
I am really looking forward to seeing what is the next step for my friend Benjamin.
So my point is…Patience Grasshopper.
We have to keep trying new approaches. I knew Benjamin was really visual and had tried some pictures before with little success. The Core Vocabulary words are immediately applicable and they can be used for fun, functional communication.
I really encourage you to try using DLM Core Vocabulary Words. As I learn more about this, I will definitely share the information with you all. I made a little cheat sheet and resource guide for you to help you get started. I know it can be a little overwhelming when you start out, so I streamlined it for you.
(This photo is very tongue in cheek btw, just in case you don’t know me very well yet) I learn new skills in layers. I bet you do too.
First, I figure out the new vocabulary and jargon. Next, I figure out the general structure and maybe how other people have done it. Then I look at what the basic expectations are.
I spend some time practicing and with time build the skill. This applies to how I practice speech therapy, too.
My SLP journey was first get a bachelor’s degree, then work as an SLPA and SLT to get hands-on experience. I really thought I knew a lot (I did but not as much as I thought I did).
Then many years later I got my master’s degree. That was the layer of theory, clinical practicums, and clinical fellowship. This came with a whole lot of stress and a really HUMONGOUS learning curve. That was just three years ago.
Now I find myself moving to another deeper layer.
I’m calling it metatherapy. Thinking about thinking about therapy.
Instead of doing therapy and evaluations just to get them done, I’m asking myself a lot of big picture questions.
Questions like: I know my students need to build their vocabulary but what is the one skill that is going to help them the most? Yes, they need to know synonyms, antonyms, and categorization. But they also need to be able to transfer these skills to all the new vocabulary they will be exposed to throughout their school years. Of course, I look at best practices. And I’m thinking beyond that too.
How can I make them fall in love with words?
How can I make them love descriptive terms and all the beautiful nuances?
How can I make them excited that there are 16,000 different species of trees?
How can I make sure that when I ask them to tell me about a tree, they won’t just say it’s green and it grows.
I want them to be able to tell me a tree gives us shade in the summer, that we can climb it, that it can be a home for squirrels. It can have pecans or peaches or pine cones. It can be covered in pink blossoms in the springtime or flaming red leaves in the fall. That the leaves make music when they rustle in the wind. That trees shelter us and give us wood for fires. That some trees can tower to over 360 feet. That trees can have a multitude of different leaf shapes and shades of delicious green. That their bark can be smooth and cool or rough and scratchy. That trees can gather together to create a sacred space.
I want to open that world for them, to help them see and form beautiful word pools in their little brains. Such a beautiful, sparkling goal.
But of course, reality dictates that we have to write measurable, curriculum based goals. (And I do).
But is that our ultimate therapy goal?
Is it to have a student learn “x” number of new vocabulary words or is it to help him build a rich lexicon by inspiring him to read, ask questions and get excited about learning?
When I read Donalyn Miller’s book “The Book Whisperer” and understood how she thought outside the box with her approach to reading, I wanted to take that approach to language and language therapy. (I’ll put a link at the end of this post if you want to know more about this book).
I will keep digging, experimenting and exploring this juicy approach to therapy because it feels so right.
And of course I will share everything with you.
I do know that a good start is to share our love of words and language with our students.
We can find what really fascinates them and help them expand the subject and learn more. We can do that by walking them through our thought process, so they can start building those neuronal pathways for themselves.
This just makes me fall in love with speech language therapy all over again. I’m so meta (meta’s in the Urban Dictionary, check it out).
Meta Speech Language Therapy: it’s mindful, it’s looking at each child as an individual. It’s giving students a valuable gift not just applying a “speech band-aid”.