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Information typically needed to help parents and school personnel get started...

Author-Avatar mike_cole@useyourwordsspeech.com

4/9/2019 2:53 PM

When helping school teams and home caregivers implement AAC, I find there are key pieces of information typically needed.

1. Feature Matching

  • With easy access to communication apps on tablets, AAC is more ubiquitous than ever.  This is a positive in that it results in increased awareness and decreased stigma.  However, it also creates the appearance of a simple selection process where one can download an app and use it in a plug and play manner
  • An analogy I like to use is that you wouldn't pick a pair of contact lenses or glasses off the shelf without an evaluation to determine the perfect match for the specific needs of the wearer.  The same care and evaluation should be given to feature matching the AAC tool to the individual.  Poor matching tends to either result in having a tool for years that is ineffective or continuous rotating through tools which undermines the consistency needed for communication.

2. Explanation of Core Vocabulary vs. Fringe Vocabulary

  • Good communication tools need to have both, however, most people typically start with the idea of creating a communication tool of nouns and categories.
  • I provide the researched information regarding core and fringe vocabulary to the teams and families.
  • If there is disagreement, I ask the teams and families to communicate using a noun only tool.  It becomes quickly evident that it is difficult to answer, "How was your day?"  or to answer when I ask, "What do you think?"
  • "The Language Stealers," is a great video to show what is needed for communication and to raise the expectations of people helping these individuals

3. Tour of the communication tool layout

  • While this is needed for low tech and mid tech devices, it is especially true for high tech devices. 
  • Navigating layouts is overwhelming for parents and school personnel, especially if they have not seen it before.
  • The main communication device companies and producers of robust communication apps have video tutorials on the setup which makes if convenient to share this information when there is not time for an official training or distance makes it difficult to meet.
  • I often hear, "the child knows the layout even better than I do, they are doing so well!"  While this is a compliment to the user, it points to more knowledge needed by school personnel and parents.  As those who are assisting the communicator, we need to be more knowledgeable to be able to instruct as needed.

4. Aided Language Stimulation/ Partner Augmented Input / Focused Language Stimulation

  • I present this to the parents and staff as the number 1 most important thing they can do.  If nothing else, model on the communication tool in front of the user.
  • This is the way to achieve the most bang  for your buck and to learn the communication layout.
  • So as not to get overwhelmed, I instruct to start with just one word for one activity as that will be progress.  It is already one more word than was being targeted before

5. Least to most prompting

  • I find people most easily resort to hand over hand prompting with individuals. 
  • We are a results oriented and testing type of society rather than a process oriented and evaluative type of society.  As a result, people want to see answers now rather than pause and wait.
  • The information regarding least to most prompting starts a paradigm shift in allowing the user to learn rather than forcing the user to respond.
  • I emphasize to teams that I avoid hand over hand at all costs.  When I will consider this is if a user operationally doesn't know how to use the tool (i.e. they don't know that if they touch the screen something will happen.)  But after this I rapidly return to no hand over hand

6. Typical Language Development and How it Applies to AAC

  • When , "The box," or, "The book," or, "The VOCA," is placed in front of a user by the staff and parents, the focus is on the tool and, "getting the child to use it."
  • I remind the school team and parents that the overall goal is actually language development.  Yes, there is a tool to use, but that tool should be thought of as the means through which language development, communication, and social participation can occur.  
  • Once the focus is placed back on outcomes, the team and family can better envision what the path actually is.

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