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The Lightning Bolt Word

Posted Jun 20, 2018 - 12:40pm

Michelle Britt-Thompson, M.S., CCC-SLP

There are moments in AAC therapy that stop me in my tracks. Those moments strike out of nowhere, usually when I’ve turned away for a moment to scribble some data or glance at my watch.

When I turn back to my student, there it will be on the screen. The lightning bolt word.

A word that was demonstrated via aided language stimulation last week or the week before that or last month (or never?). A word that was modeled when I didn’t think my student was looking or listening.

When the lightning bolt word strikes, all the air goes out of the room and there may be even be a gasp or stunned silence. The student’s aide will say, “Did he just do that?”.

Um, yup, he sure did.

I know I’m not supposed to be surprised by the lightning bolt word. I believe in presuming competence, but this word always leaves me feeling….well…electrified!

After responding enthusiastically to what my student has expressed, what follows is a check in with the child’s teacher. “Have you been practicing the word _______?.”

Nope. She hasn’t.

This reminds me to keep talking with my demo talker during my sessions. To encourage - beg, if necessary - parents and teachers to talk with their child’s talker whenever possible, as much as possible, in as many places as possible, with as many people as possible.

Even if the child isn’t looking.
Even when the words seem above a child’s suspected language level.
Even if it doesn’t seem important.

Keep modeling.
Keep aided language stimulation-ing (there has to be a better term for this). Keep going.

Watch out for the lightning bolt word.

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