Sunday, October 6, 2019

AAC: Let's Talk About "I want"

I want is not a word. However, if you were making overlays for speech-generating devices when I was first introduced to AAC (a long time ago), you may have created similar boards. Commonly used word combinations, such as I want, were put on one button and communication on a speech-generating device was often about requesting. 

Modeling on a core board (a manual board) or on a speech-generating device shows 
our students how to use language for a variety of communicative functions such 
as commenting, asking questions, protesting, requesting, and directing actions. Read 
more about communicative functions at Pat Mervine's blog post, Colorful Language
I have learned much in the last 15 years. Core vocabulary and aided language input are terms I use in my everyday speech. We use core boards in our special education classrooms worldwide and dynamic display communication software for many students needing devices.  We model a variety of communicative functions and strive to see our students use novel utterances. 

Unfortunately, even with robust vocabulary sets provided in the dynamic display software, there are still those routinely using the devices for only requesting and I want is a frequently used phrase. 

It is suggested that children taught to use basic requests (such as I + want + object) are at risk of limiting their ability to combine words to generate a variety of novel utterances (1).

While requesting is one of many communicative functions of language, all requests don't need to begin with I (2). Get more, want go, eat now, and, my favorite, not want tell us so much more.

Think about how often you say I want.  When someone asks, What do you want for lunch? you might say pizza or how about pizza. How would you respond when asked, Do you want the red ball or the blue ball? Maybe with the red one or red. A young child might respond with that while pointing. We do not always use complete sentences when talking. 

Below are links to other sites with thoughts on using I want and some good suggestions about placing the focus on increasing the variety of communicative functions. 

Moving Beyond “I Want…” in AAC; What do You Want? from SLP, Susan Berkowitz 

Moving Past “I Want” - A podcast found at The Speech Space

Beyond Requesting: A Week of Routines to Increase AAC Use at Mealtime from PrAACtical AAC  

Core Word of the Week: Want found on the Facebook page for The Center for AAC and Autism.  

Rachel Madel, SLP, suggests moving away from I want in her blog post, GET FROM SINGLE WORDS TO SENTENCES USING CORE WORDS (PART I). This would be a nice post to share with parents. 


© 2019


1. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (2018).“Best Evidence Statement (BESt). Aided Language Stimulation Leading to Functional Communication Gains in Children Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication.” Accessed 5 Oct. 2019.

2. The Center for AAC & Autism (2019). "Core Word of the Week: Want." Accessed 1 Oct. 2019.

3. The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2019 by Tobii Dynavox. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.  Boardmaker® is a trademark of Tobii Dynavox.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Farm Animals Come to Speech - 25+ Links

While labeling farm animals is not a functional
communication skill for those students with no or
limited expressive language, the language taught
while playing with the barn and animals can
be functional across all environments. Use core
vocabulary words and phrases such as go, in,
out, eat, walk, run, go in, you get,
and want drink
The farm animal theme has always been one of my favorites to use in therapy. Below you will find 25+ links to therapy activity ideas covering a wide range of speech and language goals. 

I like 5 Language Goals to Target with a Farm Set from Teach

The post by Dabbling Speechie, Farm Themed Speech Therapy Toys and Materials, is full of good ideas. 

Read Talk with Derby's How to Use Farm Toys for Speech  

Look at WhitneySLP's room transformation on Down on the Speech Farm.

Allison Fors tells how she uses a toy farm in speech therapy at WHY YOU SHOULD BE USING A TOY FARM IN SPEECH THERAPY and click on this link to see her FREE Interactive Book.

Play the Animal Fun Game at Use a switch and switch interface to access this game and 11 other infant games. 

Play Peg + Cat's Chicken Coop at while working on spatial concepts. This would be a great game played on a whiteboard. Don't let the students move the chickens. To increase language opportunities, have your students to tell YOU where to put the chickens.  Note there are 100 chickens to move. Instead of trying to move all of the chickens, set a timer - How many chickens did you move in five minutes? ten minutes?

Look at 5 Fabulous Farm Books for Speech Therapy from the My Speech Tools blog. She describes these read alouds, gives suggestions for language and literacy activities as well as vocabulary suggestions. 

Books for Teaching About Farms and Farm Animals for grades PreK, 1, and 2 can be found at

These apps were found at the Apple Store. The lite version
is free and the full version is $1.99. The full version is also
available at Amazon and Google Play. This app would go
well with the "Who's behind the barn door?" activity.
 You may want to consider watching the FREE
four-minute video of the Peekaboo Barn app on YouTube.

MORE - Farm Pic for Peekaboo Barn App (TpT) Free
It's easy to make 1234 More Storytimes's Flannel Friday: Who's Behind the Barn Door?  Use flannel or paper. For a no-prep activity, use your plastic farm animals and a barn. AND, a post at Buggy and Buddy has a similar FREE printable. Teach core vocabulary who, what, open, and behind.

Facilitate language using sensory bins. At Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls, see a farm sensory bin with a corn silo that really loads a tractor.  Another creative blogger planted grass in her sensory table. Visit The Thoughtful Spot Day Care to see her farm complete with grass! 

The Farmyard Jamboree, by Margaret Read MacDonald, is inspired by a Chilean folk tale and introduces members of a family along with a new farmyard animal and an animal baby on every page. This video, by Barefoot Books, would be a great follow-up activity. 

Teach core vocabulary words "who" and "not" while singing Who Took The Cookie? (Farm Animals Version) from Super Simple Songs. has story props for Old Macdonald Had a FarmThe Very Busy SpiderThe Farmer in the DellThe Cow Who Clucked, Cows in the Kitchen, Where is the Green Sheepand Rosie's Walk

Sing Old MacDonald had a Farm and model the core words here and there. Use the story props from Kizclub or your own farm animal props. So much language can be modeled while playing with the FREE app Old MacDonald Had a Farm HD from Duck Duck Moose LLC (Apple Store).

Play a stop and go game while pretending to be farm animals (fly, swim, crawl, walk, moo, etc.). One example of this type of game can be found at PreKinders (see Horse Stop and Go). FREE masks can be printed at Life Over C's (you must subscribe to the newsletter to print the masks).  

There are many good ideas for farm theme activities on Make Learning

Look at my post, Target Language Skills with Mr. GumpyI've used John Burningham's predictable book, Mr. Gumpy's Outing, in therapy many times. It's a simple book about children and farm animals who take a ride in Mr. Gumpy's boat.

There are many, many farm-themed activities at Teachers Pay Teachers. Here are a few of the FREE activities. 

Diana Quinn

© 2019

Friday, September 6, 2019

YouTube – The Bad, The Good and 50+ Links for Therapy

She enthusiastically sang the songs during circle time and encouraged her students to sing as well. The songs rarely changed and neither did the basket of props - flags, shapes, ribbons, and more. Questions were asked and language concepts were learned. Students used words, body movements, and gestures to participate. Everyone looked forward to the group hug at the end.

Ten years later there was a whiteboard. The students watched cartoon characters dance across the screen to songs found on YouTube. All good songs, but no one was singing. 

This is the BAD - mirroring the passive nature of TV viewing.  No one is singing, modeling speech and language, OR interacting with others.  

YouTube can be a GOOD resource and there are ways to effectively use the videos without sacrificing good models and active participation. Below are some links and suggestions. 

Make it Safe and Easy

Watch the ENTIRE video before showing it to your students. You never know what not so nice surprise might appear at the end of that cute nursery rhyme. 

If you at all question the appropriateness of a video, DO NOT use it. 

See my SafeShare link of Pharrell Williams' Happy. 
Have you tried SafeShare?TV? SafeShare.TV takes out the commercials at the beginning of a YouTube clip and allows you to edit where you want the clip to begin and end. You have a nice clean video without distracting ads or other videos visible. Sign-up to create 20 FREE videos on SafeShare.TV. 

Click on the links below to see how teachers, at Teachers Pay Teachers, use SafeShare.TV and QR codes to show stories without distractions. These activities are FREE. 

For more information about SafeShare.TV, check out the YouTube Ad-Free Guide.

Rebecca Reinking, at Adventures in Speech Pathology, has some very useful suggestions to make using YouTube quick, easy, and effective. Check out her post,  USING YOUTUBE IN SLP THERAPY: DON’T MAKE MY MISTAKES!

Make It Fun

Sing the songs with your children, dance with them, use hand motions, and talk about the songs. Stop the music to talk about the characters, story, and lyrics.

Teach core vocabulary words "who" and "not" while singing Who Took The Cookie? (Farm Animals Version) from Super Simple Songs.

Find songs to teach simple concepts at Maple Leaf LearningI Can Hop and On In Under By are two of many original songs found at this channel.

Pair books with  We All Go Traveling By, The Wheels on the Bus, and Dinosaur Rap at Barefoot Books. 

Eric Herman's songs can elicit a lot of language. Check out The Elephant Song.

Make It Engaging

There are so many good books on YouTube. Don't let YouTube replace you reading to students. Mute the sound, read the book, and pause as needed. You will be the model for your students, you can pause, ask questions and comment. Let your students see your facial expressions and hear the intonation as you read.

These YouTube videos show book pages and not so much of the reader. 

Share resources with parents. Some of our students don't have many books at home, but most can view YouTube on a tablet, phone or TV.

Make It Interesting

You can find a YouTube video for just about any skill or theme.

In the spring, read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle or another seed to plant book. Follow up with From a Seed to a FlowerPeep and the Big Wide World: Peep Plants a Seed, or Sid The Seed.

Talking about fall? Read "Leafy" The Leaf that Wouldn't Leave  and also, The Little Yellow Leaf (A Stop Motion Story) - a wordless story add words 

Sesame Street's many short clips about feelings are great to discuss with your younger students.

Find videos to complement rather than replace your teaching. Use videos as an introduction or as the closing to your lessons. Book trailers make great introductions to lessons. 

If your topic involves occupations or animals, short books found at Speech Blubs, make great introductions. I would definitely use the BUNNY Storybook if working on /b/.

These SLPs Have Even More!

  • Angela Hannigan at Home Speech Home posted Using YouTube Videos to Spice Up Language Therapy.  Click here and scroll down to see Angela's post complete with a lesson plan.
This is a screenshot of my newest YouTube account - The Budget SLP.
I will be adding to my playlists, but will not be uploading videos. When
you find an account you like, always check videos for any they may
have uploaded. If you like their videos, you may have common interests, so
look at the account's playlists as well. 


© 2019

“Free stock photo - Reshot.” Accessed 28 Aug. 2019.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash 

Singing! (Some happily, some not) | Im000656.Jpg | ~My aim is true~ | Flickr Accessed 28 Aug. 2019. Modified by cropping.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

What to Tell Parents (and Teachers) about Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) Before Asking Them to Use It

So many of us work with students/clients using speech-generating devices or low tech options such as core vocabulary boards. We want our students to use their AAC beyond the therapy setting but, do parents and teachers know where to begin?

It takes about 45 minutes, in a small group setting, to get parents and teachers excited about using the AAC. There will need to be follow-up, but covering the information below will help parents and teachers understand why certain vocabulary is used and how to begin. 

Before you begin training parents and teachers, you need to be comfortable with what you are telling them. There is so much more to AAC than setting up the device. All of these links are NOT for you to pass on to parents and teachers. These links are for you (SLPs) to use as you prepare training materials. 

1. Parents and teachers need to know we didn't randomly choose the words on the AAC system. Make sure you tell them a little about the research! The most popular dynamic display applications use research to determine their vocabulary setups. If using a dynamic display, try one of that company's recommended setups. If you are creating your own board, using a static display, or creating a communication book, look at these research-based lists before choosing your words. 
  • AssistiveWare’s Ordered Core Words is based on the frequency of use, developmental order of acquisition, and flexibility of use for effective communication. You will need to be registered at the FREE AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom download this list. 

2. Introduce core and fringe vocabulary. Show them where the core vocabulary and fringe vocabulary are located on the student's AAC system. Create a PowerPoint, outline, or other documents to guide you through your explanations. Find good resources at these sites. 

  • Project Core's Professional Development Modules are part of A Stepping-Up Technology Implementation Grant directed by the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. 

Too Busy? Too Small? How many children, with
limited expressive language skills,
easily use tablets or their parent’s phones?
3. Parents and teachers need to understand that communication is more than requesting. Their student/child needs a robust vocabulary to communicate for a variety of functions.  Experts tell us not to underestimate the amount of vocabulary needed and to begin with the number of cells the student can see and touch. More cells, on a single screen, require less navigation and will allow for more modeling opportunities. 

  • This article, Choosing a Grid Size, supports using a larger grid size and is a must-read for SLPs. 
  • Read Pat Mervine's blog post, Colorful Language talking about the ability to use multiple parts of speech and multiple functions of language on AAC systems. AND, check out her poster, Sure, I can request, but can I…?, illustrating the many functions of language.  

4. Tell parents and teachers about aided language input. Use the term you are most comfortable using. Parents and teachers like the term "modeling." They need to know that if they are using aided language input, they are teaching language on the AAC device the way typically developing children learn language. 

Parents and teachers also need to know that aided language input takes practice. It's not easy at first. I suggest to parents and teachers that they plan ahead and choose a few activities to model daily during the first week or so. Know the words they will model prior to the activity. Gradually increase the number of activities where modeling occurs until the modeling occurs naturally throughout the day. 


© 2019

“Choosing a grid size.” Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

Paine, Steve. “Baby Sees The iPad Magic .” Flickr, Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2019 by Tobii Dynavox. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.  Boardmaker® is a trademark of Tobii Dynavox.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Gotta Go Buffalo - A Book About Saying Goodbye

I just purchased this book for my grandson and know I will enjoy reading it to him.  However, I couldn't stop thinking about how I could use it in therapy. Gotta Go, Buffalo, by Kevin and Haily Meyers, is a great book to read at the end of the school year. Practice greetings and learn about rhyming. Pair it with an animal or transportation theme. 

 If you want to know more before you buy, see the complete book at Storytime with Mama Emi. 

Pair the book with Time to Go!: An End-of-the-Day Chant, a fabulous PowerPoint Freebie from PB and J at Teachers Pay Teachers. 

Make a Hello/Goodbye Elephant and more - visit Sunflower Storytime.

Make a classroom or take home book. Make your own or use one of the following.

Practice saying hi and goodbye to a variety of animals. This is a great whole classroom activity. Quickly give each child an animal. Tell the children to say hi to the animals. Set a timer for just a few minutes. With your animal, demonstrate actions and/or position words (go up, go under the chair, fly, walk, etc.) and ask your students to imitate. When the timer goes off, the children say goodbye and pass their animal to the child on the left so that everyone gets a new animal. Say hi, set a timer, and repeat the activities with the new animals. 

Roll in vehicles, each containing an animal. Greet the animals as they come in and say goodbye as they leave the area. 

Check out these sites containing Goodbye and Hello songs and rhymes. 

Hello and Goodbye Lyrics from Dr. Jean 

Good Bye Friends a goodbye song from Maple Leaf Learning and The Singing Walrus  

STORY TIME STARTER: HELLO and GOODBYE from the Mansfield Richland County Public Library in Ohio.  

The Goodbye Song for Kids from Kindergarten and Preschool Songs by ELF Learning

Goodbye, See You Soon from Super Simple Songs.


© 2019