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!

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