Month: October 2020

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. πŸ™ 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 πŸ™‚

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

*Clip Art from Illumismart* https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/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* https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/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!Β  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.Β 

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