Letter of the Day Instruction and CVI

As we launch a series of products to support Enhanced Alphabet Knowledge (EAK) instruction for our students with complex communication needs, we’re eager to support our students with Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI)!

Last year I discovered that one of my students has CVI and at 16 had never received that diagnosis before. Once I began to collaborate with a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), I realized that the likely reason she had never made progress in learning to read despite years of targeted IEP goals, was that we were not providing the right accommodations. We began to talk about the salient features of letters and use bubble words to emphasize that when letters are strung together, they form distinct words. I provided daily instruction for months while we were in person and twice weekly since we moved to virtual instruction. She is now reading some sight words, segmenting and blending to read CVC words, and reading simple sentences. The change has been incredible!

With her in mind, we have been working hard to customize instruction for all of our students with CVI with regards to Enhanced Alphabet Instruction (EAK) and reading. Our first step was to make sure we are using consistent language to describe the salient features of letters across the school. We created a list of salient features based on language used in Handwriting Without Tears since we also use that program at school.

We’ve uploaded a new resource to Teachers Pay Teachers for free that comes with a salient feature description chart for upper and lower case letters. We also put all of the uppercase letters in one document! You can copy and paste these letters into your own resources or print and use with a lightbox! Check out our favorite low cost lightbox here!

Letter of the Day Instructional Resources

We’re launching a series of products to support Enhanced Alphabet Knowledge (EAK) instruction for our students with complex communication needs. EAK and letter of the day instruction emphasizes identifying the letter name and sound, recognizing the letter in text, and producing the letter form.

As described in Jones et al., 2012 and Comprehensive Literacy for All, our materials move away from letter of the week instruction to focus on letter of the day instruction. There are several reasons to do this; though we think the most important for our population of students is the need for repetition and practice! If we only target one letter per week, it will take 26 weeks or until March in a typical school year before we can circle back to letters that were not acquired!

Many of our students have Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI) and/ or use Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). With this in mind, we’ve included resources such as salient feature letter descriptions, tips for using AAC and alternative pencils, and tips for teaching inner voice.

We work with many Spanish speaking students and their families. While teaching virtually, we have been trying to find ways to make our teaching more inclusive so that these parents know what we’re doing in the lesson and how they can help their children. With that in mind, we’ll have an update to our lesson plan next week that includes instructions in Spanish for you to share with families.

We’ll continue to upload resources to support EAK instruction both virtually and in person!

This resource includes:

a sequence for instruction for each of the six cycles

salient feature description for each upper and lower case

articulation tips for letter sound production

writing tips for using alternative pencils

tips for teaching inner voice

tips for providing feedback

data sheets

an instructional script

a daily guide for each letter that includes basic keywords and customizable keywords for remembering letters and a visual form of the mouth for articulation of the letter sound

We’ve loved seeing some of our students start to get excited about learning the letter of the day! Last week, a parent reported that her daughter has been looking for the letter of the day long after the lesson is over. To mom’s surprise she has started phonetically spelling words to see if they have the letter of the day in them. Mom said she has never seen her daughter segment and blend words to phonetically spell them!

AAC at Home: Customizable Mask PowerPoint Book

As we begin to go back out into the world, it may be challenging to encourage children to wear a mask. There are many social stories already floating around and we are adding one more to the bunch.

Click on the picture below to download the book.

This book was made for you to modify as needed for the child in your life. The picture of the person is a placeholder for you to add a photo of the child, friends, family members, favorite musicians, or movie stars. The location pages can be easily changed to reflect places the child is most likely to travel to.

The animations in the PowerPoint are set to put a mask on each photo you add. When you play the Powerpoint, the mask animation is set to start on the first click. There are also Unity sequences for “put on” and “go”. Feel free to add your own or remove them as you see fit.

(more…)

AT at Home: Alternative Pencils & Greeting Card Apps

While there are many challenges posed by being stuck at home right now, one that hits especially hard is missing celebrations with family and friends. I have been using several greeting card apps to email and snail-mail my loved ones for birthdays, graduations, and baby showers. Card making is a great writing activity for any child and can be modified to include the use of alternative pencils. Below you will find a list of my favorite greeting card apps and some ideas for how to use a variety of alternative pencils.

(more…)

AAC at Home: Video Messaging Apps

There seem to be a million and one ways to keep in contact with friends and family floating around the internet right now. Marco Polo is one that I have been using for quick video messages to my loved ones. It is also a great resource for video messages that include AAC.

There are a few features in this app that make it a fun and easy way to communicate or use for video modeling with someone who is far away right now.

You can find Marco Polo on the App Store or Google Play.

(more…)

Low Tech AAC Ideas

Today, I’d like to share some low tech AAC options you can implement at home. Working in a school, I typically have access to many resources to make AAC systems including a printer and laminator for low tech boards in addition to having access to mid tech devices and high tech loaner systems. But I also work in early intervention and don’t always have access to the same resources. Many times, while we’ve submitted for a high tech device trial, my families and I want to put some sort of AAC system in place. We often turn to no/low-tech options!

This video shares some of the ideas we’ve used. There are many ways you can use items you have at home to make simple AAC systems. In the video I shared that many robust AAC systems have a back-up manual board. I often print and laminate these (you can use packing tape if you don’t have a laminator!) and introduce them to my clients while waiting for their high tech device. Here are some manual board resources.

The AAC Language Lab has Unity, CoreScanner, and LAMP manual communication boards.

Saltillo has manual communication boards for WordPower.

Check out Gail Van Tatenhove’s resource for designing a manual communication board for your child/client.

Literacy Presentation for Connections Beyond Sight and Sound

Today I presented a webinar for Connections Beyond Sight and Sound, the Maryland Deaf-Blind Project. A big thanks to them for including me in their webinars! Here is the powerpoint for my presentation.

In case you missed it, I discussed making reading experiences accessible with story boxes, language experiences books, and book modification ideas. I also talked about alphabet instruction, phonological/phonemic awareness, and vocabulary/ concept development. A reminder that my background is in speech-language pathology and many of my accommodations and activity ideas for children with low vision come from collaborating with a TVI.

The recorded session should be posted soon through CBSS. Here is the link for the original listing. I’ll try to update this post when there is a link for the recorded presentation!

AT at Home: OverDrive Read-Along

We think the Philadelphia Museum of Art captures parenting and working from home correctly with this meme.

We understand that one of the biggest challenges right now is keeping children occupied. If your local library uses OverDrive as a service for digital content, then you have access to books that provide narration.

These books can viewed on your laptop, tablet, or phone. Simply, log-in to your library’s website and search the catalog using the advanced search or filtered option.

(more…)

AAC at Home- Sensory Dough (a lot of it)

We are excited to continue sharing fun activities you can do at home and the modeling cheat-sheets to go with them.

Click the picture below for a link to my Pinterest board, “All the Dough”.

Most of these doughs can be made using common ingredients you can find in your pantry. Here are a few of my favorites:

This is a tried and true recipe.

(more…)