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Four Ideas for Facilitating AAC Use Across ALL Environments

Hi, all! Spring is in the air, and I am hoping that our winter weather is over after the most recent cold snap.

Today I want to follow up with that frustrating topic for many SLPs. In my last post, I discussed some ways to learn more about Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC). Now, I’d like to share some ways SLPs can facilitate buy-in among parents and other educators for effective AAC use across all student environments.
     1. Train all communication partners. First of all, everyone who will be interacting with the student on a regular basis needs to learn how to use the device. By using the device with the student, they are modeling communication AND learning how the student will communicate with others. Second, communication partners should be taught how to help the student use the device. Show other educators and parents how to successfully set up the environment for optimal communication opportunities. Teach them how to prompt device use.
     2. Show them what successful AAC looks like. I have found that going into classrooms and modeling with the student makes a world of difference. There are also many videos available on You Tube and elsewhere on the internet.
     3. Back up your claims with research. Both praacticalaac.org and AAC for the SLP on Facebook are good places to find links to research articles on AAC use.
     4. Use what is practical for all involved. An iPad with a fantastic, expensive AAC app is not going to be the best choice for everyone. If it isn’t a good fit, it won’t be used. Spend some time trying several options before deciding which to implement.

I hope these ideas help you on your AAC journey. If you have others, please share. This is one area in which most of us could use more resources!

Five FREE Must-Know Resources for AAC

Hey, everyone! It’s almost February-which means my school year is more than halfway over. The countdown to spring break and SUMMER has begun! In the meantime, we are still working away with our students, sometimes at a loss with what to do to help them.

Today I want to talk about a frustrating topic for many SLPs. Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) is both an important and challenging topic in the field of speech-language pathology. We know it is a vital answer for many with severely impaired communication, but a large portion of SLPs face multiple barriers to successful AAC implementation. In fact, I posted an informal poll on a Facebook group for SLP bloggers last October, and I was initially discouraged by everyone’s input:
  •         Very few SLPs have students who use AAC across a variety of contexts-the percentage of student use typically fell around 50%, but ranged from 0-75%.
  •         Because an AAC course is not required in grad school, some SLPs lack experience and training.
  •               Systems are often abandoned due to lack of buy-in from teachers and families.

My own history in this area has been very similar. I work in a small, rural school district and serve our only high school and middle school in addition to the largest elementary school. I’ll admit, I was very inexperienced when I started. We had one class (not course) dedicated to AAC in grad school. There were about five essentially nonverbal students (with only one using a low-tech communication folder consistently) on my caseload, so I had to learn as I went. I have always enjoyed learning new things, so motivation wasn’t a problem. However, sixteen years ago in rural Georgia, there were not many options for AAC training. Fortunately for me then, lots of resources were beginning to be put online. Fortunately for us now, there is currently a wealth of information online! Maybe you will find these links useful in your AAC journey.

The five most helpful, FREE, online resources for me personally have been:
  •         PrAACtical AAC is a blog created by Carole Zangari and Robin Parker. It has so much valuable information, including videos and other resources to help you on the path to successful AAC implementation.
  •         Kidz Learn Language, a blog created by Susan Berkowitz, is also a fantastic place to find ideas.
  •         Special Education Technology British Columbia PictureSET provides a library of picture symbols for AAC use.
  •         Speaking of Speech Materials Exchange You can find ready-made materials available for download here. In addition, there are also materials for other communication weaknesses!
  •        AAC for the SLP Facebook Group This group can give you access to nearly 6000 professionals who can answer questions and provide support and guidance for anyone who is unsure of how to proceed with AAC.

The most valuable paid resource I found was the Georgia Project for Assistive Technology Conference. I have not seen it offered for several years, but if you find something similar that provides small, hands-on sessions taught by those who really use AAC, go!

The most helpful tip I learned from anywhere was: MODEL! It may sound pretty dumb that I didn’t know the importance of modeling good AAC use, but I didn’t. Now I know-model, model, model!

I mentioned in the beginning that I was initially discouraged by input from other SLPs on this topic. Primarily, it seems as though we are constantly hitting a brick wall when it comes to carryover and buy-in from other teachers and families. Then one of the SLPs shared a success story that included this important detail: she was able to achieve that success by creating a practical system that worked for the students AND the teachers. Every success story convinces me to keep trying, and I hope you will too.

If you have found helpful resources, please share. I am always looking for new information in the area of AAC, and I know others are as well!

Christmas Play Dough Fun and FREEBIE

Merry Christmas! I’m keeping the simple theme going, so I borrowed (with permission) the take-home play dough idea from Sounds Like Fun and changed it up by giving it a Christmas theme. We are making Christmas trees and reindeer this week. Each take-home kit has either an articulation list or ideas for language carryover. My littles LOVE this! Grab the Christmas tree version FREE in my TpT store, and sign up for my newsletter to get the reindeer version. 
Enjoy playtime with your little elves this month!

My SLP Story

I think I have shared with y’all before that I’m kind of nosy. I love learning new things about people, especially those connected to me in some way. This week I am in luck. The Frenzied SLPs are hosting a link-up called My SLP Story. Because Speech-Language Pathology is a relatively unknown field (many people have no idea it even exists), I am always fascinated by other SLP paths to this career. In case you are curious (or nosy) like me, I am sharing my story.

I, like several others in this linky, was in college and unsure of what to major in. Choosing a career is a HUGE decision! There are a million choices, and you are supposed to stick with one FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. I wanted to help people, so some of the (many) majors I considered were nursing, pre-med, and psychology. I wanted to do learn everything, and possibly I wanted to do ALL of the jobs! There were three people in my life that helped me figure it out.

First, my middle sister is hearing impaired. She had speech therapy in elementary school and continues to exhibit an articulation impairment as an adult (side note: she has refused to wear hearing aids her entire life). I knew about “speech teachers” because of her, but my knowledge was limited. Second, my mother is a special education teacher. She suggested speech-language pathology might be a good fit, since I wanted to help people, but didn’t want to be a teacher. The third person that influenced my decision was my daughter. I was already a mom when I started college. I was working, going to school, and trying to raise her all at the same time. I thought long and hard about my options, and finally chose the SLP route. As much as I wanted to go to medical school (or at least I thought I did), I wanted to be with my daughter more. It took six years to become a school SLP, but the University of West Georgia program was pretty flexible at the time. I was able to work as an SLP with my undergrad degree and provisional certificate while going to grad school part time. This path lets me help people in need, satisfied my craving for life-long learning, and gave me flexibility to spend time with my sweet girl (and later my sweet boy). I am so thankful for this career! What’s your SLP story?

Free Thanksgiving NO or LOW PREP Ideas

Are you busy this time of year? I am DROWNING in evals and placements! My therapy activities for this week are simple, no prep, or low prep by necessity. I hope to be back on track after Christmas, but until then, I’m living with my grad school theme of “Keep it simple, sweetie!” (I've included affiliate links for your convenience.)

First of all, I plan on reading Run, Turkey, Run with ALL of my PK-2 students. The kids love this book, and it is easily made interactive (which keeps them engaged). It is short enough to read in a session and then complete a short activity or plenty of drill. 

I also found this great Build-a-Turkey from Tech n’ Talk SLPs. It is perfect for a collaborative game, it’s FREE, and I only have to download it to my iPad and open in iBooks. It also works well on the SmartBoard.

For my tiny turkeys (PK-K), I am using Sounds Like Fun’s FREE Play DoughTurkey for Articulation Practice. I do have to purchase more Play Doh, but I already have all the other materials. There is nothing to laminate or cut. We made these last year, and they were a huge hit!

I’m also planning to use my Thanksgiving Speech Seek and Language Look for my 1st-5th graders from my Year-Round Bundle. It is print and go, quick and fun! Because I am so thankful for my followers, you can download it here. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter on the right for more free and easy materials sent right to your inbox.

What are you planning this week? Comment with any ideas that might be helpful for busy SLPs like us!

With Love and Gratitude, 

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