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Back to School with AAC

Posted Oct 4, 2017 - 11:45am

By Tracy Custer M.Ed, SLP

As we plunge into the beginning of school and get aquainted with our students and their AAC systems it is important that we all quickly get on the “same page” so that families, teachers, and SLPs are working toward common goals. Some helpful tips in getting everyone on the same page include the following:

  • Immediately Become Invested: Rely on individuals that already know the system so that they can share not only information about the AAC system but the current goals that are being addressed. Start a means of communication where everyone is involved through email, google docs, or a Wiki so that routine communication and resources can be shared. We don’t want to waste time and we want to start where we left off in supporting the system. Ask a lot of questions and jump into this challenge enthusiastically!!

Light bulb

-Spend time learning the AAC system that the student is using. You have to learn the vocabulary to be able to model and teach it to your student. Just as you wouldn’t teach English to a student if you didn’t know English, you have to quickly learn where the vocabulary is so that you can support new learning. You can use the Internet to find out more about the system and definitely contact the company to learn about tutorials, trainings, or Go To Meetings that might be available. Rely on the family, a SLP, or Assistive Technology Specialist if possible to build your skills. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions!


-- Start developing a communication profile for your student. In the initial weeks, gather a baseline of how your student communicates with all their communication modalities (low tech and high tech). Document this because it will not only be extremely helpful to you in learning their communication strategies, but as this child moves through the educational system you want to share this profile with future staff members. Documentation is so important to an AAC student so we are not starting over each year. Documentation may be a hard copy, videotaping or collecting actual data from the AAC device on a routine basis.

-- Follow a plan of teaching CORE language. Core language offers the greatest amount of flexibility and the outcomes will be a student that becomes generative. There are lots of resources to support core vocabulary. A wonderful article by Gail Vantatenhove, PA, MS, CCC-SLP is entitled “Language Functions & Early Generative Language Production” which discusses initial core words to begin teaching.


-Most of all make learning language fun!! Several resources for therapy materials are the AAC Language Lab, Minspeak Praactical AAC, Tarheel Reader.SpeechDudes and Speaking of Speech. These are just a few sites that have some wonderful resources to help keep the ideas flowing!


-Give the gift of communication: If you are having fun so is your student. It is not a chore, but rather a gift you can give your student to help them learn language for a lifetime. Each school year needs to build on the previous year. We can’t start over every year so helping to build continuity from year to year is a must.


In closing, as a PRC regional consultant, I think each of us have a rare opportunity to really make a difference for someone that doesn’t have a voice. Even in the short time we may serve our clients we can help continue them on their journey of becoming independent communicators for life.

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