Category: AAC

AAChronicles #4

AAChronicles

 

This week one of our students discovered the word “hide” on his Accent. The classroom teacher and I immediately hid. This led to several games of hide and seek. The game created numerous opportunities to model new phrases.

“come out”

“you/I hide”

“where are you?”

“I see you”

“look there”

“Where did you go?”

Unity 84 Sequenced- Hide

I have a feeling hide and seek is going to be very popular in that classroom for the next few days!

Have You Heard About CoreScanner?

CSMenuHave you heard about CoreScanner™!  We LOVE it!  It is a vocabulary system designed for switch scanning based on the Words for Life™ vocabulary.  We have several students who had never used two switches to scan before trying the Accent 1000 or Accent 1400 with CoreScanner™.  After an initial model with the system, 5 out of 6 students we tried it with were scanning to speak within the first 30 minute session using the Cornerstones vocabulary.

Check out the CoreScanner™ video that PRC created to demonstrate the system.

My favorite part about CoreScanner™ is that it allows users to gradually increase vocabulary while maintaining consistent motor plans.  At the Cornerstones level, users select words from a field of 8 using linear scanning.  At the Pathway level, users use block scanning to select words from 9 word blocks with a total of 84 locations.  At the JAM and Blast levels, users have access to word families and the ability to add custom vocabulary.

CScornerstones corescanner

So far, all of my students have used two switches at either the head or with their hands to access CoreScanner™.  You should definitely check it out and consider for students who need switches to access AAC systems!

Communication Bill of Rights

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Last year Lauren and I came back from Closing the Gap pretty fired up and ready to make some big changes at our school!  When I first started there in April 2014, I immediately gave some trainings about core language and its important role in AAC. Our biggest challenge was trying to get people to stop re-recording BIGmacks and 8 Cell devices!  But… it’s hard to make changes!  And getting people on board with core (and AAC in general) was happening at a pretty slow rate!  Shortly after we came back, Lauren found Kate Ahern’s picture version of the Communication Bill of Rights.  We immediately posted it and started referring to it in trainings!  We’re still making changes, slowly, but they’re happening!  You can check out the original document from ASHA here!

It’s hard to pick a favorite since they are all important!  But here are the few that I love to remind people about!

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AAChronicles #1

AAChro
Here is the first post in our new series AAChronicles! We will be sharing a story about an AAC user we know every Friday.
We know a fantastic 21 year old who started a trial with Core Scanner a few weeks ago. When her mom came in to school for a Thanksgiving event, her daughter said “hello” to her!

For years she was limited to a single switch with re-recorded messages.
I am upset that it took this long to get her an appropriate communication system, but excited to see her finally share her voice.

Click here for More information about Core Scanner!

Create Switch Accessible “Mixtapes” in Classroom Suite

Music can be a great motivator, especially for students with visual impairments. Amanda and I have been creating simple music activities in Classroom Suite that provide students with the ability to choose what music they want to listen to while working on switch scanning. For some of these students, this is also an opportunity to find out what their musical preferences are. I have made a few “mixtapes” that include R&B, classical, pop, country, and rock. We quickly discovered each student’s preferences (Pharrell’s “Happy” wins hands down for almost everybody).

After showing one of these “mixtapes” to a parent, she was excited to attach switches to her daughter’s headboard for her to choose the classical music she wanted to listen to before bed.

Here is an example of a Taylor Swift “mixtape” made for one of our older students.

Recently, I made a template for teachers and therapists to make their own “mixtapes”. i thought I would share the template and directions on the blog as well.

Continue reading for the downloadable template and directions.

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Five AT Products We Are Thankful For

In the spirt of Thanksgiving, here are the top five AT products we are thankful for!

  1. Language Based AAC Systems – Of course those made it to the top of the list!  We are so grateful to see our students using devices like the Accent 1000 with Unity 84 Sequenced, Spanish Unity, or CoreScanner; the iPad with the LAMP WFL app; and the Tobii I Series.  Accent1000-20-red
  2. TAP-it – We first saw the TAP-it at Closing the Gap in 2014 and have been thankful ever since!  It’s an adjustable touch accessible learning platform that differentiates between unintentional and intentional touch!  Because it is adjustable (height and angle), has a military grade screen, and is on wheels; it has been an amazing asset at our school.  It allows students with severe physical disabilities to access a touchscreen they would otherwise be unable to reach!

TAPit_slide3

3. Classroom Suite – A great way to make switch accessible activities for your students.  We have had a great time making and using switch accessible books!  We’re also thankful for this alternative pencil for our students with severe motor issues.

classroom suite

4. Loc-Line – We love this budget-friendly way to mount our AAC systems and switches!

 locline

5. Boardmaker with Speaking Dynamically Pro – What SLP isn’t thankful for Boardmaker?!  It’s the go-to for making print based materials with picture supports and with Speaking Dynamically Pro you can make awesome interactive materials!boardmaker

What AT products are you thankful for?

Whimsy Workshop Teaching*Thanks to Whimsy Workshop Teaching for their Thanksgiving ClipArt!*

Five Things to Consider When: The AAC Team Wants a New AAC System

Someone on the team identifies that the student needs an AAC system.  The team meets and decides on a system.  The SLP trains the classroom on how to use the device.  A couple months goes by, maybe a little longer, and someone sends out that dreaded email.

“This device is not the right fit for student X.  He’s had it for three months now and doesn’t even look at it.  Can we meet and pick a new one?”

WHY?!  

Getting an AAC system for a student is just the first step!  Once we’ve identified a language based AAC system with a robust vocabulary, we need to start teaching the student how to use it!

Here are my top five points I ask teams to consider when they raise this question.

  1. Has the team (teachers, SLP, classroom staff) been provided with sufficient training on how to use the system?
  2. Have you set realistic expectations for how the student should be progressing with his new AAC system?  **This does not mean set the bar low! It simply means be realistic!**
  3. Have you modeled enough?!  It’s essential to remember that input comes before output.  If you haven’t sufficiently modeled on the device, you can’t expect the student to have magically learned how to use it!
  4. Do you provide the student with many opportunities throughout the day to communicate?  Communication should occur naturally throughout the day.  Stop and take advantage of these opportunities or create them!
  5. Do you honor the student’s communication attempts?  For example, if the student asked for “drink” did you take him to get a drink?  It’s our job to make communication with AAC powerful.  Honor those requests whenever possible and if it’s not possible, acknowledge the student and let them know when that request will be available!

Literacy for All // A Great Resource for Enhancing Literacy Instruction

While researching information about literacy instruction for students with CCN, I discovered a set of video and learning guides on http://www.engagingalllearners.ca/.

The videos feature Dr. Caroline Musselwhite and include brief discussions about various ways teachers can further develop their literacy instruction. I have already shared the video on Symbols and Learning to Read with several teachers at our school.

Please share this resource with anyone providing literacy instruction to a child with complex communication needs.

 

Getting On Board With CORE for Learners with CCN

“Core vocabulary is not going to work for this student” is something I hear all the time.  At this point, I’ve mostly learned to tune it out and continue pushing for my students to have an AAC system with a robust vocabulary which includes CORE language.  But every now and then, my anger over this statement reaches a certain point and I just have to let loose! So here it goes to all the behavior specialists, teachers, administrators, and therapists out there who continue to use this statement.  I’ll let one of my students prove you wrong!

What is CORE vocabulary?

50 core

Core vocabulary is a small set of high frequency words that are used across settings and age groups and are applicable to all topics.  It includes about 350-400 words that make up approximately 80% of what we say.  Core words include a variety of parts of speech including verbs, pronouns, adjectives, prepositions, etc.  In a 2003 study, Banajee, DiCarlo, and Stricklin, found that 26 core words comprised of 96.3% of the total words used by toddlers in the study!  You can check out the list here!  Please share this with all the people who say this (or some variation): “well developmentally, he’s only about two and not ready for a system with those words.”

My other favorite variation is: “Core words just don’t apply to learners with complex communication needs.”  Say this to my students.  I dare you.

This morning a teacher and SLP shared that one of their students has been “hilarious” and “really showing what a personality he has” since getting his Accent 1000 with Unity 84 Sequenced.  Apparently he’s been telling teachers that he doesn’t like: “you bad” or “you awful.”  When denied juice on two separate occasions, he told his teacher “abuse” and “fight.”  He has complex communication needs.  He is using CORE words!  Curious to find out what else he’s saying, I asked his SLP to pull his language data.  Here’s what we saw:

Parts of Speech

Guess what?  Noun vocabulary accounted for only 13.17% of his speech. The nouns + other, which included names of his family, teachers, and friends, accounted for a total of 31.85% of his speech. Pre-stored phrases accounted for 1.15% of his speech.  That means 67% of his speech was comprised of CORE words!

He’s had his device for less than a year.  His language may not exactly follow the 80:20 / core:fringe rule, but he’s pretty darn close!  And without CORE he could never tell his teachers and therapists how “bad” and “awful” their activities are! 🙂

So the next time someone tells you a student can’t use core language because of their complex communication needs, think of my student, and continue advocating for yours!