I’ve learned a lot about AAC technologies over the last 15 years. I often say that I don’t know everything, but I can probably tell you how and where to learn more. Because I provide direct technology support and training to educational teams for many students with impaired language and communication skills, I have gathered a wealth of forms, tip sheets, tutorial resources, assessment materials, etc. for use in the school setting. I share these with teachers and treating speech therapy clinicians across my service area, as well as anybody looking to learn more. I hope these resources are helpful to those working (or planning to work) in the school setting with children who need or use AAC supports. There are SO many more than these, but this is where I’d like to start.
It’s always exciting to see kids with limited speech and language abilities respond to the use of visually supported communication tools and strategies. Images are easy to recognize and recall, making the transference of information universal…no matter what the ‘language’ might be! It’s easy to understand something visual, even if we can’t read the script or verbalize its name or meaning.
I routinely help teachers and speech therapy staff create adaptive communication supports and modify classrooms to create a language immersion environment for young learners. Unfortunately, just talking about augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) can scare the life from those unfamiliar with the process! While the terminology may sound intimidating, it really isn’t that complex for this particular group. In the next few posts, I’d like to offer some information, ideas, and resources to help those in the school setting alleviate their fears and elevate their enthusiasm for using AAC in the classroom with young students!
Wow! Summer break is almost here and will bring much needed vacations (for staff and students alike!). I know that many of us will be sending our children off to camp somewhere so they can enjoy a few days of fun and adventure outdoors with their friends. Let’s not forget about our students with physical and learning disabilities who deserve the same opportunities but require special care to meet their diverse needs. There are a growing number of summer camps designed to accommodate their needs and I am amazed at how well the kids and families respond to participation.
I am an ATP working in the special education setting, but I’ve also been an OT for almost 30 years. Since the goal of OT is to improve functional independence and the goal of AT use is to provide tools that help accommodate for disability, the two are a perfect match. Although my role is to foster academic engagement and success in the classroom, we all recognize the importance of the child’s family as members of the education team. Carryover in the home is a key piece to supporting that success!
In this post, I’d like to share some of the resources that I routinely offer to parents to introduce them to the use of visual supports, AAC tools and strategies, and sensory strategies commonly used within the classroom.
My colleague, Karen Moffatt, CCC-SLP, and I presented an educational session on this topic at the 2016 Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) National Conference earlier this month. As expected, there was a large amount of interest in the subject as educators and administrators across the globe try to figure out how to tap the full potential of this device in the classroom. We feel like everybody should be skilled users, but they’re still relatively new and upgrading all the time. As Karen put it so clearly during our session, ” iPads have only been with us for about six years, but it feels like forever.”
We had a great time last week with Ms. Mo Buti, learning more about how to best serve the needs of our students with Autism. She shared some great resources that I plan to pass along to all of you here over the course of the next week..
If you’re looking for awesome professional development opportunities online, this is a great place to start! The Geneva Centre for Autism (located in Ontario) provides free printable visual supports and downloadable resources, as well as online PD options. Although created for use by Canadian teachers, the site is open for public access by creating a (free) account. Free courses related to the education and treatment of students with Autism include:
Characteristics of Autism
What is Applied Behavior Analysis?
Functions of Behavior
Communication Strengths and Challenges
Understanding Sensory Needs
Understanding Social Challenges in Children and Adolescents
Using Visual Supports
Understanding Stress and ASD
Paying Attention to Transitions and Transition Planning
Promoting Independence for Community Inclusion
Certificate: Introduction to Autism: Free Online Series for Educators
Mo Buti and our session attendees have been sharing some amazing suggestions for teaching communication skills to non-verbal students who also have visual impairments. Here are a few of those ideas and resources!
TACTILE CONNECTIONS KIT: SYMBOLS FOR COMMUNICATION This kit helps teachers create a tactile card system that is individualized for visually impaired and blind learners who have additional disabilities and/or lack a formal means of communication or literacy. The tactile symbols are created when part of an object is mounted on a hand-sized card representing core vocabulary categories (e.g. people, places, actions, objects, etc.). This kit provides some of the essential components that assist in a system’s construction and application.
The PERKINS site offers some great resources for teaching communication to visually impaired students.
Tactile books are used to teach literacy, so why not pair them with separate cards containing the same key words, characters, etc. found in the books to reinforce language learning? Pinterest (everybody’s favorite collecting site) offers a wealth of ideas for CREATING TACTILE BOOKS that can be paired with tactile communication supports. Here is another link to MORE TACTILE BOOKS FOR LANGUAGE AND LITERACY.
Our educational cooperative hosts workshops across the state for teachers and clinicians working with the special needs population in our schools and I have to say that this has been one of my personal favorites. Our speaker, Ms. Mo Buti, has been a special education teacher, administrator, and Coordinator for Autism services for Chicago Public Schools for more than 24 years. This incredible session offers a wealth of ideas for modifying the classroom and curriculum to meet the special learning needs of students with Autism. It was a hit in the east Tennessee region last fall, so we brought her back for staff in the central and western regions. For those attending these sessions, there was a previous posting of Mo’s PowerPoint presentation, but it was only available online for a short period of time (to avoid excessive downloads, plagiarism,etc.) If you attended and would like a copy of the presentation, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and the day that you attended.
A speech therapist friend recently introduced me to this amazing new resource and I have been smitten! I love my traditional picture-library programs as much as the next therapist, but it is frustrating when I can’t create needed supports because the software CDs are back in the office. This site eliminates the need to carry software and install on multiple systems and makes it easy to create instantly from any location! This is especially helpful when I visit a classroom and want to provide ideas and examples of curriculum or communication supports for specific activities right then!
LessonPix is an easy-to-use online resource that allows users to create customized learning materials using a database of more than 25,000 visual symbols on their site. They provide access anytime, anywhere and offer outstanding articles with ideas for integrating visual supports. Creations are stored online in your account for future use and a Sharing Center allows users to share their creations or find new inspiration from materials made by others, arranged by topic and subject! The site requires a subscription of $36/year and is worth every penny!
Most teachers and clinicians will tell you that, while they understand the ‘what and why’ for teaching students with Autism, they have very little time (if any!) and are often at a loss for the ‘how’ ideas. Let me introduce you to an amazing resource … The Autism Helper!
This site is operated by Sasha Halligan, a dynamic, skilled teacher with extensive experience in curriculum modification for students on the Autism Spectrum. She routinely offers freebie materials and Sasha’s TeachersPayTeachers site is full of other resources on myriad topics, all aligned to core standards. Just reading her daily posts and seeing her creative ideas for teaching and supporting picture-based communication is fun. I love TAH and so will you!