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. 





Diana

© 2019

“Choosing a grid size.” https://www.assistiveware.com/learn-aac/choosing-a-grid-size. Accessed 18 Apr. 2019.

Paine, Steve. “Baby Sees The iPad Magic .” Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/umpcportal/4581962986/. 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.

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