is a Process - Not a Product
The success of any student's augmentative/alternative
communication program is greatly increased when all staff involved embed it's
use within everyday programming. Augmentative/ alternative communication implementation
should not be viewed as separate from the learning program. Rather, as the educational
plan is developed for each student, opportunities for AAC use should be infused
into the curriculum. This gives the student real reasons to practice and apply
their AAC skills.
Professionals often indicate that a particular student's
main challenge is their inability to communicate. While this may be true, we must
then ask "Communicate about what?". This question allows us to identify
the tasks and situations which need to be set up or "engineered" for
So, where do you begin?
the team on board
- Begin engineering the environment
- Consider picture representation from the student's perspective
the Team on Board
For AAC implementation to be successful, we need to have
all people that interact with the student aware of and able to facilitate the
use of AAC systems and strategies. This is an incredibly challenging process but
can be accomplished with careful planning and a large amount of communication
between team members. The days when the speech pathologist created the AAC boards/systems
down in 'their room' and then handed them to parents and staff have given way
to joint ownership of AAC system maintenance and development by wide array of
people. How is this accomplished?
- Routine collaboration meetings
with all staff involved in programming for the students with AAC need to be set
up and supported by building principals as well as administration at the central
office at least monthly. Some of the best AAC ideas and strategies come from the
most unexpected sources. Meeting regularly pools our resources and provides
a wealth of ideas and energy.
- Staff need to be trained on a variety
of communication systems and strategies. This can be accomplished by
the school speech pathologist, the district assistive technology team, and/or
by attending conferences/workshops as a team.
- If the speech pathologist
can team teach with a teacher in a classroom or resource room to engineer
the environment and jointly develop lessons incorporating AAC strategies, then
hands-on training ensues. One year the speech pathologist might schedule
their time in the resource room working closely with that teacher, another year
the speech pathologist could split their time between music and art bringing AAC
strategies into these environments. AAC needs to modeled and promoted across
all settings and what better way than directly working with staff on their lessons.
- Staff need to be trained on and provided with the software to support
their independent development of lessons and symbols/boards incorporating
AAC vocabulary and concepts to support their lessons.
- A wide
variety of resources should be available to staff to promote their independence
in learning about and incorporating AAC. District resources should be made known
to all staff, an AAC library of resources in the building should be created, low
tech devices should be made available to the classrooms and a method of sharing
AAC resources found on the web should be developed.
The idea of "engineering the environment" comes
from the monumental work of Carol Goossens', Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Sharon Sapp Crain,
M.S., CCC-SLP and Pamela S. Elder, M.A., CCC-SLP.
These authors present
a systematic approach to planning where, when and how to get student's communicating
in various environments.
- Identify and prioritize communication
activities that occur throughout the day.
- Develop message
sets for each activity.
- Depict message sets on communication
boards appropriate for the target student.
communication boards in the environments where they will be used.
- Implement a systematic approach to cueing and teaching the
students to use the boards.
The initial implementation phase
includes an intensive period of modeling communication board use by the teachers,
aides, parents, therapists and other individuals who have significant contact
with the students. This approach encompasses using the communication boards both
expressively and receptively throughout the day.
For additional information and resources, please see the following books:
- Engineering the Preschool Environment for Interactive, Symbolic Communication
- Communication Displays for Engineered Preschool Environments
Books I and III
These resources can be found in many local assistive
technology lending libraries and/or purchased through companies such as:
(View sample book pages on their website)