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Building AAC Awareness and Community

Posted Mar 29, 2017 - 12:13pm

Nicole Wingate, MA CCC-SLP, MSD Bluffton Harrision

It was just a few years ago when I found myself feeling hopeless as an SLP. There were students on my caseload with virtually no functional means to communicate. With ever changing technology and the development of AAC apps, I became overwhelmed! Where do I start and what do I recommend? I mean some of these AAC apps are expensive not to mention the price tag of a speech generating device. The feeling of guilt started settling in. I could not just stand by and do nothing!

Step 1: Make it your professional goal. Yes, I actually wrote it out on paper and discussed it with my principal! I find that if you actually write it out and have someone you’re accountable to the chances of you reaching your goal increases.

Step 2: Figure out what you don’t know. I attended our state conference for assistive technology. I soaked in all that I could and asked questions of other colleagues from around the state. LAMP Words for Life kept coming up in conversations of success stories.

Step 3: I was able to gain permission from my administration to host a LAMP training at our school. This was HUGE! Three of my students were able to participate. Not only did other colleagues get to attend but the families of my students as well. This was the beginning to building an AAC community within our school building.

Step 4: Borrow, borrow, borrow! We borrowed as many devices as we could from our state lending library over and over again. Being able to trial devices with our students has been so beneficial.

Step 5: My colleagues and I decided to implement a Core Word of the Week. On Mondays we push into the intense interventions classroom. We have ALL hands on deck! We teach the core word and record data. The same core word is carried out all week long.

Step 6: Get your general education teachers involved! We have begun making Core Word of the Week videos. Any staff member or student is able to participate in helping make the video. And boy do we have FUN! We have a bloopers video that we will be sharing with staff at the end of the school year. Our related arts teachers, along with some of our other general education teachers post the Core Word of the Week with the picture symbol sequence from LAMP outside their classroom door. Along with the Core Word of the Week is a QR code that leads to the video. You can find our videos on YouTube under the channel WingsWorks.

Step 6: Invite administrators into your classroom. We invite them in during activities and special events to see our successes as well as our students’ needs. At Thanksgiving, we invited administrators and other staff in for a feast that the students made. All of the food was labeled with LAMP picture symbols as well as iPads for them to find the sequence themselves.

Step 7: Communicate with your parents. We send our parents videos of the students using their AAC often. Parents also have access to our Core Word of the Week and the link to the video.

Step 8: Educate. We have had mini AAC lessons for staff members after school. Make it short and sweet, like 15 minutes. We have also educated the other students in the building on AAC during disability awareness month. This helps foster the social language piece for our students in their general education class. I compare AAC to glasses for eyes, hearing aids for ears, braces for teeth. It makes it easier for the students to understand.

Step 9: Make it fun! We did trick-or-treating around the building and the students got to say trick-or-treat with their devices or LAMP on their iPad. For some this was the first time they have ever said “trick-or-treat”!

Step 10: CELEBRATE! By doing each of these 9 small somethings, you have accumulated a large, lasting impact. Celebrate with your staff, celebrate with your students, celebrate with your parents and celebrate with your community. Share your journey. The power of communication changes lives one word at a time!

Making AAC Work