Come On, Calm!

Picture of the book "Come On, Calm" sitting on a stool in an art studio.

For many, it’s back to school after being home and doing virtual learning for almost a year and a half. I don’t know about you, but our first day was ROUGH. It was so exciting to get students back into the building and see all of the students I dearly missed!! But, for many of our students, being back at school was overwhelming and dysregulating.

An SLP I work with, Kelsey Brown, shared her book Come On, Calm! with me and I couldn’t be more excited. It is truly what has been missing when we work on sensory regulation. Using inclusive and diverse characters and illustrations, Kelsey helps our readers use their imaginations to learn sensory regulation strategies. For example, students can learn deep breathing by pretending to sniff flower (or get some flowers for multi-sensory practice along with the book).

Author Kelsey Brown reading a page in the store about pretending to be an astronaut and reaching high.

I’m using this book with my students to create a fun, multi-sensory learning experience where we can practice using and asking for sensory regulation strategies. Students of all abilities could benefit from the imaginative strategies you’ll learn when reading!

Students love the repetitive line “come on calm” and will be chanting it by the end of the book! Come On, Calm is currently available on Kindle. AND Kelsey being the wonderful SLP that she is, has decided to reprint so that more students can benefit from the book! OTs, SLPs, parents, teachers, etc. are going to love reading this! Pre-order your copy now!!

Pre-Order box with picture of the book and captions: 
- social and emotional learning
- sensory regulation strategies
- diverse and inclusive characters
- imaginative and fun!

AAC-SLP Tool Kit

Any other AAC-SLPs who sometimes feel like an engineer or IT tech? I often feel like I spend half my day running around fixing devices and never seem to have the tools I need on me! To make my life a little easier, I made a wearable toolkit for myself and the other SLPs I work with!

I have found the Herschel waist packs to be pretty durable!

Here’s what I included:

I love this 6 in 1 screwdriver as it should work with *most* SGDs, toys, AT equipment, etc.

The folding hex key set is essential for adjusting mounts for SGDs.

The paperclip – my best friend! I use this all the time for hard resets on SGDs.

The USB flashdrive is for saving SGD user areas and also doubles as an “unlock key” for the toolbox on the Accent devices.

I have some assorted batteries (AA, 9V, 2032), velcro dots, magnet strip, sharpie, dry erase marker, and a tape measure.

The snap bracelet and finger light are just some easy to carry items that I can use to direct a student’s attention to their device. I find these especially helpful when calibrating an eye gaze device.

A mini notebook and pen come in handy when I need to jot something down since we can’t have phones out at work!

The individual packet screen cleaning wipes are easy to carry around! I also added a stylus so that I could model on multiple devices without touching everyone’s talkers!

The hand sanitizer, chapstick, and hair tie are some personal items that I can’t live without!

What do you keep in your tool kit?

Supporting Communication Partners During Virtual Learning with AAC

This week we have been focused on helping teachers at my school provide aided language stimulation during their virtual lessons. It’s been tough! When we had our first meeting, many of our teachers indicated they weren’t providing aided language for the AAC users in their classes during virtual instruction. 🙁 That is obviously not ideal, so we came up with some strategies and resources for teachers to use!

  1. Use a screenshot of the student’s homepage on their system.
    • Unity/LAMP manual boards can be downloaded from the AAC Language Lab (see image above)
    • TouchChat WordPower manual boards can be downloaded from Saltillo.
    • Here’s a Proloquo2Go Crescendo manual board.
    • Speak for Yourself’s manual board can be downloaded from the Smarty Symbols website.
    • The Core 112 board can be downloaded from Cough Drop.
  2. Use mirroring software to provide virtual models.
    1. PASS Software for PRC devices
    2. Chat Editor for Saltillo devices
    3. Mirror the iPad on your desktop. (see image below)
  3. Make a cheat sheet ahead of time! Choose four to eight words to target during your lesson. Make sure you know how to find those words on your students’ devices.
    • You can model the sequence on the manual board.
    • You can tell caregivers what the icon sequence is so that they can help model for their child.

We’ve posted cheat sheets for Gail van Tatehove’s list of core vocabulary for students with intellectual disabilities for Unity 28, 45, 60, and 84 and LAMP. They’re listed for free on TPT. We’ve provided this to our teachers and paraprofessionals so that they can either model icon sequences or tell caregivers how to model for their child.

How are you providing aided language during virtual lessons? We’d love to hear ideas that others have!

Let’s Talk AAC and Vocabulary

We started AAC Awareness Month by posting about core vocabulary. If you missed the post, check it out here. There’s often conversation about core vs. fringe on Facebook groups and amongst teachers, SLPs, parents, and other AAC stakeholders. We think it’s really important to think about ALL the vocabulary that is important to our students’ language development and not think about vocabulary selection in terms of core OR fringe.

While our main focus in speech-language therapy often revolves around core vocabulary, we frequently target nouns that are either important to our students or that are commonly occurring. We tend to split vocabulary into three categories – core vocabulary, personal vocabulary, and fringe vocabulary.

Core Vocabulary – approximately 200-400 high frequency words that make up about 80% of all words we use to communicate.

Personal Vocabulary – family, teacher, and friend names, favorite foods/ tv shows/ songs/ etc., common places, etc.

Fringe Vocabulary – low frequency vocabulary, mostly nouns

We spend most of our time (about 75%) on vocabulary instruction related to core vocabulary and personal vocabulary. But we also pepper in some fringe! Especially fringe vocabulary that may be used more frequently (e.g. furniture, utensils, rooms, toys, transportation, some foods, etc.).

Check out some slides below that we use to describe the differences in vocabulary.

Earlier today, I texted my roommate and analyzed the conversation to take a look at our core to fringe ratio.

Of the 47 words used, 44 were core and 3 were fringe. There were a couple of key take-aways I took from this language sample. There was a wide variety of core vocabulary used in this sample: 10 pronouns, 6 interjections, 11 verbs, 5 adverbs, 4 prepositions, 2 adjectives, 1 question word, 3 determiners, and 2 nouns. When I look at the fringe vocabulary we used “mail” and “package” I noted that these are words we use almost daily when debating who is going to get the mail from downstairs!

Of course this doesn’t include our conversations about Criminal Minds, Shemar Moore :), Marvel, Harry Potter, the school we work at, our friends, our favorite brunch places, etc. It’s so important to think about what fringe vocabulary is really important and meaningful for our students! Get to know them and make sure you’re customizing their devices to include their personal vocabulary 🙂

So when you’re thinking about vocabulary to teach your students, don’t choose core OR fringe. Choose both and plan a healthy balance. 🙂

*Clip Art from Illumismart*

What is Core Vocabulary?

By now, if you’re immersed in the word of AAC, you’ve probably heard the words “core vocabulary” used a lot! But, for those of you who are new to AAC, let’s talk about Core Vocabulary!

Core words are a small set of words that represent a large part of daily speech. A set of about 200-400 high frequency words make up about 75-80% of the words we use every day and can be used flexibly, across contexts.

ClipArt from Illumismart

Core words often include pronouns, verbs, prepositions, articles, adjectives, etc. It’s important to emphasize teaching core words to our students because without them, it’s difficult to develop language.

When starting the AAC journey, I often talk to caregivers about the importance of language development when selecting vocabulary. While we certainly want to make sure the AAC system has words that are important and relevant to the child (e.g. baby doll, dada, cereal, etc.); it is also important to have core words. If we only have nouns on the device, it is not possible to combine words into phrases for a variety of reasons or work towards spontaneous novel utterance generation (SNUG). We need to add in those core words so that we can foster language growth!

Looking for lists of the most common core vocabulary words? Here’s a few that we like to reference.

The AAC Language Lab has some great lists from Gail Van Tatenhove. I have found her Core Vocabulary List for Students with Intellectual Disabilities list to be really helpful in making sure my students have a good variety of core words. I also like her Core Vocabulary Classroom Checklist as a general guide for which words to prioritize introducing. Check the lists out here.

The Center for Literacy and Disability Studies is another great starting place if you’re looking for more information on core vocabulary. Their research when working with the Dynamic Learning Maps produced a list of universal core vocabulary. You can also download core word resources including manual communication boards for various access methods from their latest project – Project Core.

*Clip Art from Illumismart*

It’s AAC Awareness Month!

Are you new to AAC? Do you need a resource to share with others who are new to AAC? Let’s talk basics today.

What is AAC?

AAC is an acronym for Alternative Augmentative Communication. It is a set of tools that individuals can use to communicate. It’s Alternative in that it’s an alternative to verbal speech. And it’s Augmentative in that it helps and supports communication when verbal speech is limited.

Using your own body to support communication is considered unaided AAC. These systems include gestures, body language, facial expressions, sign language, etc.

Aided AAC systems use some sort of tool or device. They range from no tech (paper based) to high tech (tablet based).

Who can benefit from AAC?

Anyone can use AAC!  There are no prerequisites and we should consider introducing it as early as possible.

AAC has been shown to support verbal speech development and will NOT stop children from talking.

If there is a discrepancy between an individual’s communication abilities and their communication needs, then they are candidates for AAC. 

What’s our goal when using AAC?

AAC provides individuals with the ability to communicate for a variety of reasons (beyond wants and needs) and to participate fully in communication interactions. The main goal of AAC is to help individuals communicate with others.

Looking for more information?

Check out ASHA’s Key Issues – AAC page.

Check out ISAAC’s AAC Awareness Month page.

Check out PrAACticalAAC.

Clip Art Credits – SillyODesign; Illumismart

Core Word Practice: Verbs

I don’t know about you, but I have so many students that are working on either adding vocabulary to their expressive repertoire or using a variety of phrase types. With that in mind, I made four sets of Boom cards that target common verbs that can be used in a variety of phrase types.

Over the past year, I’ve been working really hard to make sure I target a variety of phrase types in my activities. I went to a presentation by Dr. Binger and Dr. Kent Walsh at ATIA in 2019 about their Word by Word Language Intervention and it made a big impact on how I do therapy. I highly recommend reading their article, which can be found on ASHA. My main takeaway from their presentation was that we have AAC users who receptively understand a variety of phrase types, but can’t expressively use them. Why? It’s often because we’re NOT targeting them! Though I have never been a fan of and rarely have used carrier phrases, I definitely did activities that targeted the same phrase type over and over and over. Sound familiar? I now try to target 3-4 phrase types throughout a session and it has made a HUGE difference in student gains.

These Boom Cards don’t perfectly target 3-4 phrase types in each set, but they do have variety. You’ll primarily find subject + verb, verb + object, and verb + locative phrases. I’ve used these cards at the one word, two word, and three word level with many of my students. Each card has one gif depicting a specific action and a sound clip to play. (The sound clips have been a big hit!) Students can choose the correct verb from a field of 5 and practice saying the word or phrase on their AAC system. I’ve had some students really surprise me by expanding the phrase on their own or using a different relevant phrase!

Check out the freebie here. Or check out our discounted bundle here.

Let’s Talk About Verbs + ING with AAC

Do you have students who are working on syntax and morphology? Us too! We’re working on a line of resources to help our students become better communicators!

Are you not sure if your student should begin working on syntax and morphology? If your student is beginning to combine words, it’s time to start! As an SLP who works almost exclusively with students who use AAC, I’ve noticed that I tend to spend a lot of time focusing on vocabulary development and using simple two word phrases. But this can be really limiting for many of my students!

Check out the QUAD Profile to help you analyze your students’ current language abilities and to develop appropriate goals. Check out our post on the QUAD Profile here. Since I started using it, I feel that I have been much more purposeful in helping my students grow their language. I’m also seeing big language gains for many of my students by modeling and targeting different sentence structures and morphological endings.

Check out the first product in our line of virtual activities to help students learn to use appropriate syntax and morphology – Let’s Talk About ING with AAC. Many of our students use the Unity language system so we currently have the icon sequences for Unity 84 Sequenced embedded in the activity.

This product has three versions.

1. Read simple sentences with ING. (e.g. The girl is reading.).

2. Create simple noun +verbING phrases using a bank of icons. (e.g. girl reading)

3. Create simple noun + is verbING phrases using a bank of icons. (e.g. girl is reading)

Head to our Teachers Pay Teachers store to check it out! You can see a video preview of the product and how I use it with my students!

Are you using the QUAD Profile? You should be!!

Have you heard of the Quick AAC Developmental Profile or QUAD Profile before? If you haven’t, it’s a total game changer for AAC assessment.

I love to use the Communication Matrix for my initial AAC evaluations and for ongoing assessment for emergent communicators. But, once my students/ clients are at the language level on the Matrix (e.g. using two or more words), I need to look at other assessment tools to help develop appropriate goals. This is where I turn to the AAC Profile and the QUAD Profile.

The QUAD Profile looks at vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and function. It is a tool that allows you to analyze language samples and compare them to checklists. I try to keep my QUAD Profile near me for several sessions and I use the checklists to identify when I hear my students using certain vocabulary, sentence structures, grammar markers, or communication functions. I also write down the phrase or sentence used in the margins or on the notes page.

The vocabulary checklist has a list of high frequency words. To be honest, some of them are ones I don’t always remember to target so this is a nice reminder.

The morphology checklist is the one that always gets me! It looks at Brown’s morphemes such as plural and possessive s, present progressive, third person singular, common prepositions, etc. As I have begun targeting these with my AAC users, they’re language is growing so much!

The sentence types checklist looks at basic sentence structures and provides a nice reminder that there are many different phrase types at each two, three, four, etc. word level.

And last, the language functions checklist is similar to the Communication Matrix in that it looks at the function of the utterance.

Head over to the Speech Dudes to download the QUAD Profile. We can’t recommend it enough!

Virtual Taste Test with Core Vocabulary

Do you love to have taste or smell tests with your students/ children/ clients? We do! It’s one of our favorite in-person language activities to work on commenting! Over the past couple of months we’ve worked on finding a way to make this fun activity appropriate for virtual therapy sessions! Our students and their families have loved this activity so we’re making it available with a new product!

Many of our students use the Unity® symbols on an Accent device or with the LAMP application, so those are included in our product. I often use the PASS software from PRC to model on my computer during Zoom sessions. I’ve also modeled on my iPad for my students with the LAMP app or I’ve modeled using a PDF low tech version of Unity from the AAC Language Lab.

Here’s how our 30 minute sessions look when we use this product:

  1. Model and practice target core vocabulary words.
    • SLP, Teacher, or Caregiver models the target core vocabulary word.
    • Student practices the core vocabulary word on their AAC system or verbally!
    • Watch a GIF that illustrates the core vocabulary word! (SLP, Teacher, or Caregiver may model using the target core word in a simple phrase based on the GIF.
  2. After modeling and practicing the target core vocabulary, watch a YouTube taste test video. You’ll find links for silly taste test songs and videos of children trying different foods. Pause during the videos to practice making comments!
  3. The student may participate in a taste or smell test at home and practice commenting. OR you may play a game that directly relates to the video watched.

Check it out here on Teachers Pay Teachers!

And don’t forget to check out our doggie taste test on YouTube!