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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Video Modeling - Timesaving Resources

One of my first attempts at video modeling. "Legos do NOT go in the microwave."
Middle school students were learning about kitchen safety and
using the core vocabulary phrase "not go in."

I have a colleague who makes video models that work wonderfully with her most difficult students. I know she must spend an incredible amount of her family time preparing these videos. As I watched her in therapy, I thought of all the possible ways I could use video modeling but wondered where I would find the time. 

Recently, a parent told me how well a particular online video modeling program helped her child with speech production and sadly discontinued it due to the cost. Are there any FREE or low-cost resources? I did a little digging and this is what I found. 


If you want ready-made video models, here are a few no-cost resources. 

Lindsey at Speechy Things wrote Using First Person Video Modeling as a Tool to Teach Children on the Autism Spectrum How to Play with Toys. Her post and the accompanying video links are fabulous.  

There are many other videos modeling play on YouTube. Start with Playing with Trains, Let's Play Ball, and  Playing Memory

Find a huge number of videos at That Speech Lady. She models using LAMP Words For Life™ in several videos. Watch AAC: LAMP WFL EAT! You will also find numerous videos modeling the production of phonemes and language concepts. 

Yak Back Pack's YouTube channel has quite a few videos you can use to model phoneme production. 

Search YouTube for modeling of specific phonemes. I couldn't resist this video of an orange demonstrating the production of /l/
      Greeting and My Turn by autismvideomodeling are two of the many videos modeling social skills found on YouTube. Browse Watch Me Learn, Meredith Harrah, and villaspeech to find a video or search YouTube for specific skills. 

      More . . . 

      The FREE app, Story Creator, allows the addition of short video clips on each page. Great for modeling sequenced activities.

      Look at this list of Social Stories & Video Modeling Apps. It includes some FREE and low-cost apps. 

      No Ads!!!

      If you find a video you like but want to show only a portion (and get rid of the ads), use I really like Deborah Brooks' YouTube post, Color in Speech Book 6.  However, I only want to use the portion pertaining to /b/. I used to shorten the video and eliminate the ads. Check out the shortened video here


      © 2019

      “Film Strip - Free Clip Art.” Accessed 21 Apr. 2019.

      Monday, September 24, 2018

      I Have a Website - For Just a Few More Weeks

      In 2004, I was asked to show computer resources to parents of preschoolers. I wanted to easily present free websites to 25+ parents so decided to create a one-page website with a large number of links. After several snow days, the site was created. Using Computer Activities to Enhance Language Learning contained over 250 links leading to hundreds of activities designed for young children.

      The presentation to the parents went well, but I was amazed how news of the site spread and how often it was used. One of my colleagues remarked that my site and Pat Mervine's Speaking of Speech were the only websites by SLPs she found when she began working in 2005.

      I faithfully updated the site at least once yearly, adding links and fixing or removing broken links. A second page, Six Weeks of Summer - Interactive Speech and Language Practice Activities, was added in 2013. 

      Last December, the company running the site removed it along with thousands of others due to security issues. Before the site went down, hundreds of thousands had viewed the page. A few weeks ago, it surprisingly reappeared. 

      At first, I thought I would revive it. However, both pages need to be updated and should probably be moved from the genealogy site. After spending time on the site, I realized it is no longer relevant.  Google can easily find websites and activities by topic. The explosion of SLPs on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and those with blogs far exceed what I can add to my tired old site. 

      If you haven't visited my website, you will find it, for a few more weeks, at this link


      © 2018

      Friday, September 21, 2018

      FREE Voice-Output For your Core Vocabulary Board

      This core vocabulary initiative began as we saw a need for
      students to have a language system from the first day they
      entered the classroom. This does not take the place of the
      several hundred dynamic and static display systems
      used by students. 
      In 2016, we* began a core vocabulary initiative in my school division. We compiled a core vocabulary board (60 words based on solid research) and distributed it in a variety of sizes. We provided training for SLPs, teachers, teacher assistants, parents, administrators, OTs, PTs, and anyone who asked. We worked and continue to work very hard. 

      However, one component was missing . . . voice-output.

      Static display devices were too expensive and most not large enough for our 60-word board. As all of our targeted students had access to iPads, we needed to find an app. 

      TalkBoard Free by Mark Ashley
      Talkboard Free was the best fit for our needs. It was FREE, we could add up to 100 cells, and voice-output was a feature. 

      Our board was created with Boardmaker symbols so we contacted Boardmaker to ensure we were not violating any copyrights. 

      Once we had the go-ahead from Boardmaker, the first board was made and then transferred to other iPads via Bluetooth. 

      The first board took quite some time to create. Each symbol needed to be added as a JPEG. Recording is much like recording on a static display device so timing is important and takes practice. The 9-year-old son of one of our SLPs made the recording of each word and his recordings transfer to each iPad along with the symbols. 

      * "We" refers to the fabulous SLPs in our school division's assistive technology department. 


      © 2018

      Sunday, September 16, 2018

      Back Again, Making Time for Me, AND a New Blog Recommendation

      Well, I am going to try this again. I enjoyed blogging. I felt I was contributing to my profession, but life and work seemed to get in the way these last two years. 

      So, why blog if time is an issue? I like to blog, it's a creative outlet for me, and I want it to be part of a "new me" - someone who takes time for herself to do what she wants to do. Here is my first 2018 post. 

      After my first summer off in seven years, balancing my home life and work is something often on my mind. I have been working for my local school division for many, many years (this will be my 40th). I love my job and know I have accomplished much in my career, but have I gone overboard? How much has the stress of my job affected my health and resulted in missed family time?  My son once told me he would never work in a school. He said, "You never go to work. You always go to school. And, you always have homework!"

      He was right. I always had homework - reports, lesson plans, and IEPs. I rarely came home without a bag or two. For 30 years, I spent almost every Sunday night finishing lesson plans and creating materials. 

      For the last 10 years, I have worked in the Assistive Technology Department. Sunday nights are usually my own and I only bring home something to do one or two nights a week. Nonetheless, I continue to put in very long hours. During the last two weeks, I worked at least three hours beyond dismissal time on 7 of the 10 work days. Home late and too tired to cook made food choices less than healthy and physical exercise was not an option.  

      When does this stop? Is it too late for me? I certainly hope not! My short-term goal is to leave at dismissal for four of the next five workdays. That's a start. Let's see what happens. 

      My inspiration for this post is Worth the Wage, a new blog written by an SLP in my school division. Meredith's posts are short and insightful. She makes some very good points about having a definitive end to the workday and includes the resources she uses to help achieve her goal. The post, Perfect vs. Perfectly Adequate, had my needs written all over it. Read Racing the Clock to find out how she quickly and easily sets up her speech schedule. 

      For more thoughts and tips to help SLPs balance work and life, check out the following links.  

      I am Not Superpowered! at Doyle Speech Works, Musings on blending speech-language pathology and life


      10 Terrific Time-Saving Tips and Tricks for Busy SLPs at Sublime Speech

      SLPs, Save time. 10 tips for fast reports at The SLP Burnout Coach


      © 2018

      Tuesday, September 5, 2017

      Start Your Year With Core!

      I haven’t posted in over a year and I blame core vocabulary along with aided language stimulation. The big push for using core vocabulary began several years ago in my school division and in the last year, it exploded. More teacher / SLP training, more student evaluations, and much fun working with those students with limited or no expressive language. No time to write blog posts!

      I began my 39th year as a speech-language pathologist TODAY and core vocabulary along with aided language stimulation is the #1 tool I wish I could have incorporated into my therapy earlier in my career.   

      If you are on the fence, here are some common sense reasons to consider using core vocabulary and aided language stimulation.  
      • Most of our students with limited or no expressive language skills need visual supports.
      • Our students hear thousands of words each day. Most of those words heard (core vocabulary) are repeated throughout the day with no visual supports.
      • Using a core vocabulary board or AAC device containing core vocabulary (along with aided language stimulation) gives a student visual supports, in context, for those words heard repeatedly.

      For more information about Core Vocabulary and aided language stimulation watch these short videos.

      Aided Language Stimulation Explained 

      Core Words in the Classroom 

      Longer, more comprehensive, videos can be found at AAC in the Cloud. In June, I watched almost all of the videos at AAC in the Cloud. Most are still available to view on the site or on YouTube. Below are at two of at least ten videos incorporating core vocabulary and aided language stimulation. 

      Download core vocabulary boards and much more at Project Core, Boardmaker Community, and The AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom

      Check out my February 2016 post - 35+ Simple (and FREE) Ideas for Beginning Core Word Users 

      Want to learn more? Sign up for AAC After Work - 10 ASHA approved courses provided by YappGuru! Click here to sign up for the FREE Webinars scheduled from September 18 to September 22, 2017. 


      © 2017