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A School Year of Core

Posted Nov 16, 2020 - 11:11am

By Alisa Lego - The Imperial Candidate for Masters in Science of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences at San Francisco State University

Our students want to connect with us and the world around them just as much as we want the same for them. Through communication we are able to join each other in our worlds to connect and understand one another.  What started as an assignment for Beth Lytle and Alisa Lego, two graduate students at San Francisco State University, who chose to work with Michaela Sullivan, a Speech-Language Pathologist with expertise in AAC serving on the AAC support team at San Francisco Unified School District, turned into a nationwide team that has grown each month since August. Our first project was to download and gather core vocabulary resources with Michaela at SFUSD during the rapid transition to distance learning. When this was complete, we knew we weren’t done working together yet! We met on zoom each week, and in early April we set out with a new idea. We wanted to create a list of core words based on the consecutive months of the school year.  The monthly word lists were selected to follow not only the school calendar but also support the needs of students, expanding communication functions in natural and more structured activities and settings (daily routines) as well as themes/holidays. We reviewed Browns’ 14 Morphemes and previous A Year of Core Vocabulary Words postings from PrAACtically Speaking published in 2013 and 2014 while considering our selections. Each week we met on zoom and shared new words and ideas, all of our voices were heard as we shared in the importance and power that each word holds. When we were just finishing up with our level 1 words, Michaela surprised us with a complete list of more advanced level 2 words to build upon the foundation that our level 1 word lists created. Challenge accepted! We weren’t sure what the next school year would look like and Michaela reminded us that no matter what “this would help us in our future careers” - little did we know how much it would do for all of us.

As first (now second-year) graduate students, we brought to the table a new lens and so much excitement to learn more about the specialized field of AAC and were curious about where we could add in our ideas. Michaela supported our growth in exploring the field of AAC and expanded all of our ideas. She pushed us to do more, because she knew we were capable of it. We created what we saw was not yet available to support the teaching of core words. Our hopes are to support not only students, teachers, and speech therapists but the whole family unit. These words were handpicked for months and our personalities each shone through as we each saw all of our ideas come to fruition. With our comprehensive activity sheets we hope to support various learning styles across all academic subjects that our students are learning such as literacy, art, science, math and physical education. Incorporating sensory motor and self regulation strategies were of importance to us as well. We want our students to be able to express themselves and feel understood.

Our mission was to create free resources and to empower all of our students and their teams of professionals as well as their families. This is something that we stand by each week as our core community grows. What started as the three of us from April until August, has now grown to 33 (and counting) talented individuals that want to be involved. This growing group of core community contributors represents some of Michaela’s colleagues who have been in the field for years, and some of Beth and Alisa’s fellow graduate students as well as curious professionals who found an interest in our project from across the country. Together we collaborate, brainstorm, and support one another through this new journey with the common goal in mind: to support our students, teachers, parents, friends, and the entire community who surround our students with complex communication needs. It all started with a single idea, and has since expanded to so much more. We want to share our passion project with everyone who will benefit from this collective group of creative educators. Anything is possible, and we have learned just how much teamwork makes the dreamwork! When there’s a will, there’s a way and there is always a will to communicate. Thank you for joining us in helping to make this world easier to understand for our students with complex communication needs.

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Stories and Strategies fo...   -    implementation, AAC, core, school, SLP, teams