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AAChronicles #12


On Wednesday, Amanda and I received an email from a wonderful SLP we work with, sharing a few great AAC stories from her day. Hopefully they put a smile on your face as well.

“Student A was trying to get his behavior specialist to go away. I’ve insisted that … he use his device or screen shot of the device and they have been great about that. He told him to “leave” about 8 times but he couldn’t leave the room due to safety concerns so Student A stopped, looked  at his device, and tried “away” 5 times . I guess we found a motivating request!!!???”

“Student B used two word combo independently again with “[SLPs name] help” while completing her morning journal. While in the kitchen she was not heard over the noise of the students. I had shown her how to “yell” when need be and she did to get [OTs name] attention.”

“[OTs name] and I had THE BEST co treat today I’ve ever had. We took Student C to the sensory room and tried swings, balls, snacks, videos, everything and he not only had a calmer body afterwards but was attending to the device during modeling from [OTs name] and I, as well as tracking if we drew his attention to the device and initiating using the device as well. Still working on finger isolation but all of that is huge improvement.”

I particularly love the story about a student yelling. A few of us have discussed teaching students how to raise their voice when no one is listening to them. I see it as a very important skill, especially when adults are not acknowledging what they are saying or brushing it off as unintentional. I think the next step will be learning how to whisper.



Shrunken Treasures Book Giveaway


Since we started AACreATively in October, we have enjoyed getting to talk to and share ideas with some amazing parents and professionals. This is our way of saying “Thanks!” to those of you who have supported the blog.

Shrunken Treasures shortens 9 literary masterpieces into beautifully illustrated verse that is appropriate for children of all ages.

The book includes:

  • The Odyssey
  • Frankenstien (The illustrated monster is adorable.)
  • Moby-Dick (Written to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.)
  • Jane Eyre (Written to the tune of “Three Blind Mice”.)
  • A Thousand and One Nights
  • Hamlet
  • Don Quixote
  • The Metamorphosis
  • Remembrance of Things Past
  • About the Stories (Short, funny blurbs written by the author about each story.)

Good luck and we hope you enjoy this wonderful book!

Lauren and Amanda

Light Up Your Sentence- A Fun Predictable Chart Writing Activity

Free Download For Predictable Chart Reading Activity

As part of our “Read The Sentence” predictable chart writing lesson (you can find the 5 plan here), we have been using tap-lights and a Boardmaker activity to increase student engagement. The tap-lights can be purchased on Amazon, hardware stores, CVS, etc. and you can lay out one tap light for each word (the words can be on or above the light). During the lesson, the student says each word and turns on the corresponding light. Our tap-lights decided to give us a little trouble so I made a back-up Boardmaker activity (download here).

Light Up Your Sentence 1

Light Up Your Sentence 2 The title page introduces the activities and allows students to turn a light on to practice.

Writing Sentences is Fun

Writing Sentences is Fun Lit Up

The first page has the sentence with the final word blank. Each box will turn yellow and the text will turn black when it is selected. When the board is in “use” mode you can type in the message display bar and when the box surrounding it is selected it will light up.


Don’t Censor Me: Defending AAC Users’ Right to Express Themselves

Don't Censor Me

Recently, a discussion among friends in our AAC community came up, about whether or not we should be customizing devices for AAC users to only include words they understand.  To clarify, “understand” seemed to refer to the user’s ability to fully comprehend the meaning of the word.  One school of thought was to remove words if the user did not have this “understanding.”  Our school of thought is absolutely not!  For example, Lauren and I have a context for the word “astrophysics” and might say it when talking about last night’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory;” but if you asked us to describe it or tell you about it… we couldn’t.  This does not mean that we can’t use the word.  Following this train of thought, we believe our AAC users have the right to say any word they want even if they don’t necessarily know the meaning of it.  This creates wonderful, unexpected teaching opportunities.

A point I’d like to make about these teaching opportunities is that they don’t necessarily mean the AAC user will walk away with an understanding of the word.  And that’s ok!  Their verbal peers might not understand your explanation either, but they can still say the word if they choose to!  My cousin recently used a swear word and when asked by her mother if she knew what that word meant, she said “no.”  Her mother’s reply was simply, don’t use that word again!  Verbal speakers use words they don’t understand, so AAC users can too!  There may also be times when you have to level your explanation for the user. For example, when young children ask “where do babies come from?” their parents and teachers don’t usually tell the whole story!  Depending on the child’s abilities, you may choose to provide a simplified explanation!


Problem Solving For Teacher Barriers To Shared Reading Lessons With AAC Users

We have been really enjoying our journey implementing the Four-Block Model in several classrooms. As with anything new, we have discovered a few things we had to problem solve our way through. Our school has gone through a huge AAC overhaul over the last 2 years with a large number of students receiving high-tech devices in a very short amount of time.  Teachers and paraprofessionals continue to adjust to the change and some are finding it difficult to model on devices.

At the same time we are overhauling AAC we are also working on how we teach literacy. After a wonderful presentation at ATIA, we began doing shared reading lessons in several classrooms where we have early emergent readers. We are following a modified CAR strategy during these lessons. The teacher reads a page and models commenting about what is happening on the page. Next, they ask for or invite participation from students (this could be just pausing or asking “what do you think?”). Once a student participates, they respond by repeating what the student said and adding information. Often this requires some creativity to relate what the student has said back to the text (try working the word “bathroom” in the book “Brown Bear”).  You can download the CAR visual we use here. CAR


AAChronicles #10


One of our fantastic girls who is waiting for her own eye gaze device to be approved by insurance was recently working with her SLP.  We’re crunched for time as she is already 19 and we’re trying to make sure she can use as many features of the device as possible before she graduates.  She’s been working on reading, writing with Unity and the keyboard, and navigating out of the communication software to launch other applications and then back into her communication software.

This week she had asked to play a game so her SLP helped her navigate to the LooktoLearn software.  She chose “Paper, Scissors, Stone” and appeared to be having fun.  After a couple of minutes, her SLP navigated back to the NuVoice software in case the student had something to say.  And she did!  She said “play fun, stop talk!”  It was fantastic!  She’s only been using the device for a month during trial sessions and to hear her say this sentence was amazing!  She obviously got to go back to her game!

**Side Note – With our eye gaze users, we never leave the students alone with games.  A communication partner is always next to the student and frequently opens the communication software to talk about the game or ask the student what they want to do next.  We try very hard to make sure our students have dedicated communication devices, but some of our students who use eye gaze rarely get to control things by themselves.  It makes it hard to say “no” when they ask to play. **

Age Respectful Fun for Older Students!

I wanted to share some fun items I’ve purchased to use with some of my older students with complex communication needs.  It’s sometimes challenging to come up with activity ideas for my older students using AAC but I recently decided to of the “joke” route and it’s been a blast.  Some of my younger students, especially the boys, have also been getting a kick out of these items!  Here are some of my favorites.  If you click the pictures, they link to where you can purchase them on

Snakes in a Can!  These are a favorite because you can use them to surprise students and then students can use them to surprise others!  My students love “tricking” other staff and students into opening the cans.  They seem to be very motivating to communicate!  Also, for many of my students with complex bodies (physical impairments) they can participate in funny activities by giving the directions and watching the results!  A couple of words can lead to a huge payoff in laughs!

Snakes in a Can Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.30.42 AM






no buttonThe NO button!  The button has ten different phrases/ voices to say “no.”  I’ve paired it with “No David” for younger students or taken turns with students asking questions and then saying “no.”  For example, you can ask a student a question such as “do you like boogers?” and they hit the “no” button.  Then the student can ask you a question so you can hit the “no” button!

whoopee cushionWhoopee Cushions!  Enough said?  Fun to have students tell you what to do to set it up.  “Put on chair, get it, move it, different chair.”

sound machine

fart machineSound Machines.  I love these because there are so many varieties!  Here are two of my favorites.  It’s a fun opportunity for students to practice asking for one that is “different” and commenting on the different
sounds.  Some comments/ adjectives we’ve practiced include “too loud, annoying, bad, like that, funny, silly, disgusting, weird, etc.”  Some directions I’ve heard students give or that I’ve modeled include: “do it again, pick a different one, you try, I pick.

magic 8 ball The Magic 8 Ball is a good one to use when working on asking questions.  Who knows what answer you’ll get! It might be helpful to have question starter visuals.  Great to use with a group; let one student ask, another shake, and a third person read the answer!

Some other fun ideas:  The rubber chicken, gum/ pens that shock the person who touches them, voice changing machines, and prank kits.

rubber chicken           voice changer            pranks            pens        gum

Share your ideas!

What It Means To Be Age Respectful

What’s age appropriate?  This seems to be a huge discussion in our field.  Especially since many of our older students seem to enjoy tv shows and toys that are clearly geared towards younger students.

One phrase that I’ve heard a lot lately is “age respectful.”  This means presenting our students with materials and activities that are appropriate to their age (i.e. an adapted Harry Potter book instead of Brown Bear) while still allowing them to choose items and activities they enjoy.

Yesterday my mom bought SpongeBob stickers for her brother because she thought he would get a kick out of them.  He did!  And he’s in his 50s with no cognitive impairments!  But if I brought in a pack of SpongeBob stickers to school knowing some of my older students might think they were funny, I’d be called out for not being “age appropriate.”

I’m all about presenting our students with items that their typically developing peers have access to.  But shouldn’t we also have materials that we know they love and want to choose?  Shouldn’t we respect their choices?  I could watch Frozen tonight and though you might judge me, you wouldn’t tell me I’m not being age appropriate!

We need to start reminding ourselves that we all enjoy things that are not always age appropriate.  My mom loves Hello Kitty – seriously anytime she passes something with Hello Kitty she is compelled to buy it!  I love Disney/Pixar movies!  My brother still gets a kick out of watching Land Before Time.  My dad watches Saturday morning cartoons.  Nobody tells us we’re too old for these things.  Why do we tell our students they are?

AAChronicles #9


One of my older students has recently been trailing an Accent 1400 with NuEye.  He has never had a communication system beyond a Big Mack before and he has had so much to say!  While we wait to hear back from insurance, he only has limited access to a device.  But, he certainly makes the most out of his time with the device!  His IEP came up recently and for the first time, he was able to provide feedback for his teacher.  We went through a few questions with him and his answers were great!

When asked his favorite subject, he replied “music.”

When asked what he wanted to work on, he said “xbox.”

And then my favorite question, “What about school do you dislike the most?”  His answer: “matching bad.”

Does it get any better than that?!  His teacher and I promised him no more matching!