Communication Needs

Overview

Authors: Julie Maro and Lori Tufte


An introduction to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for students 5-10 years old is addressed in this module.

Designing quality programs for students who have AAC needs involves engineering communication environments, organizing and training team members, and developing appropriate lessons and materials. Strategies for achieving these goals will be presented.

 

Philosophy

  • Using speech and language principles to develop appropriate goals and objectives for AAC students helps practitioners incorporate speech, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics objectives into their lessons.

  • Communication is a process.

  • A team approach is critical when assessing and teaching students how to use AAC systems.

  • In representing vocabulary for students who do not read, one must look at pictures through the eyes of a non-reader.

  • Picture symbols can be used to create visual systems and aids.

  • Learning to functionally use an augmentative communication system requires a significant investment of time.

  • All students can and do communicate.

  • Voice output systems should be an integral part of any student's AAC program.

  • AAC systems should have a core vocabulary.

  • Data keeping is a must!

  • Literacy and language activities provide a logical framework for vocabulary selection and intervention.

  • A myriad of resources are available on the world wide web - Let's not re-invent the wheel.

  • Pool and share resources with parents and colleagues whenever possible.

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

 

Where to Begin

Getting the Team on Board Engineering the Environment

Communication 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 communication.

So, where do you begin?

  1. Getting the team on board

  2. Begin engineering the environment

  3. Consider picture representation from the student's perspective

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Getting 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?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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Engineering the Environment

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.

  1. Identify and prioritize communication activities that occur throughout the day.
  2. Develop message sets for each activity.

  3. Depict message sets on communication boards appropriate for the target student.

  4. Place communication boards in the environments where they will be used.

  5. 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.

 

Resources

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:

Mayer-Johnson (View sample book pages on their website)
Don Johnston Incorporated

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copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

 

Considering AAC

Speech & Language Development Common Myths Resources

When considering the use of an AAC system for a student we need to take into account normal speech and language development as well as some of the common myths about AAC use.

Speech & Language Development

Any child whose speech and language skills are not developing normally or who has a condition making normal speech development unlikely  may be a candidate for an augmentative/alternative communication system.  It is critical to note that introducing AAC does NOT mean we are "giving up on speech".This common misperception will be addressed in more detail later.

As practitioners consider the use of augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) strategies it is important to remember that AAC is a form of communication that all children use as they develop speech and language skills. For example, pointing to desired objects, gesturing, and using non-speech vocalizations. Using speech and language principles to develop appropriate goals and objectives for AAC students helps practitioners incorporate speech, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics objectives into their lessons.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website provides guidelines for normal speech and language development in children. If you have concerns in any of these areas, please seek the advice of a certified speech-language pathologist.

Another site that provides information on normal speech and language development is KidSource where you can find answers to questions such as:

  • What is Language?

  • What is Speech?

  • How do you know that a child's language and speech are what they should be for a particular age?

The Barkley Memorial Augmentative Alternative Communication website created by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln also includes a section: AAC Connecting Young Kids - YAACK. This section includes another excellent description of normal speech and language development. If children are not achieving these developmental milestones, it may be time to consider using AAC.

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Common Myths About Using AAC

Myth:

  • "If a child is given a communication system it will hinder their speech development." 

  • "If my child gets an AAC system, they will get lazy and give up on using speech."

Reality: Research and clinical practice has shown that AAC systems do not interfere with speech development. In fact, many children demonstrate an increase in language, speech and communication skills once an AAC system is introduced. Proposed reasons for this include: 

  • Reduced pressure on speech production as the sole means of communication

  • Continued development of language skills

  • Continued development of conversational skills

  • Children will use the easiest method possible as their preferred means of communication. It is much easier for a child to use speech and/or vocalizations if possible to communicate than to formulate a message using an augmentative communication system

 

For additional information:
Burkhart, L. (1993). Total Augmentative Communication in the Early Childhood Classroom. Eldersburg, MD: Linda J. Burkhart. For ordering information contact: Linda J. Burkhart. In particular, see page 37: Augmentative Communication Techniques Can Reduce Pressure for Speech Production

What we are learning about early learners and augmentative communication and assistive technology. (L. Burkhart)
- Who is Augmentative Communication for? 
- General Philosophical Basis

Does AAC Impede Natural Speech - and other Fears - Includes a chart containing:
- Common fears and myths
- What the facts are
- Practical Solutions

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Myth:

  • "A child should spontaneously use an augmentative communication system as soon as they get it."

  • "An augmentative/alternative communication system is only for expressive language purposes."

Reality: From the moment a baby is born, they hear and respond to the spoken word. We bombard that infant with language for the first 12-18 months of their lives. During that time, we do not expect that they will utter a single understandable word.

Why then do we expect a child to spontaneously begin using an augmentative system from the first day they receive it? They too, need and deserve a period of learning from the models of others. This modeling can and should be done by parents, peers, siblings, professionals and others on a regular basis for an extended period of time. In this manner, the system becomes not only an expressive language tool but a receptive one as well.

Note: Expressive language refers to "speaking", Receptive language refers to "listening and processing"

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Myth:

  • "AAC means an expensive device." 

Reality: There are many types of augmentative communication systems. These range from gestures and sign to simple battery operated systems to high-tech devices. The best approach for students who require AAC is to have a menu of multiple systems. For example, the student may have a vocalization that means "yes", a gesture for "hello", a simple system that plays messages one at a time for greeting friends in the hall.  They may also have another device for carrying on more complex conversations. No one system can and should "do it all". 

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Remember: AAC Competency Takes Time!
Jane Korsten points out that the average 18 month old child has been exposed to 4,380 hours of oral language at a rate of 8 hours/day from birth. A child who has a communication system and receives speech/language therapy two times per week for 20-30 minutes sessions will reach this same amount of language exposure in 84 years.

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Resources

What we are Learning about Early Learners and Augmentative Communication and Assistive Technology - (L. Burkhart)
- Who is Augmentative Communication for?
- Who is Assistive Technology for?
- General Philosophical Basis

Getting Past Learned Helplessness for Children Who Face Severe Challenges: Four Secrets for Success- (L. Burkhart) 

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association - Augmentative Communication Information Section contains:
- Introduction to AAC
- Glossary of terms
- Assembling a team
- Questions to ask an AAC team
- After the evaluation
- Learning to use an AAC system
- One woman's story of growing up with AAC systems

 

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copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Vocabulary Selection

Motivation Formula Vocab Selection Goal Core vs. Activity-Based Vocab Concluding Thoughts

Determining Appropriate Vocabulary

Begin with the following activity to create a communication board:

  • Draw a 4 x 8 grid on a piece of paper
  • Write at least 16 vocabulary items into your grid you think your student/child needs to communicate
  • Think about vocabulary that is "functional"

Look at the vocabulary you selected. Did you have any of the following?

eat _______drink_______ bathroom

Frequently, eat, drink and bathroom are among the first vocabulary items chosen by parents and professionals. Communication boards are then constructed to represent these messages and the child does not use them. The child is then accused of "not being ready for a communication system" or "not liking communication boards" and the idea of their using an AAC system is abandoned.

Taking a closer look at this scenario, we typically find that the child's basic needs such as eating, drinking and toileting are taken care of regardless of whether they request it or not. Thus, the child is left with little motivation or need to communicate these messages.

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Motivation Formula

Bruce Baker developed the following formulation to identify the factors inherent in communication motivation. Each of the formula components are defined as follows:
Motivation: Refers to how much the student wants to communicate this message.

Physical effort: This takes into consideration the amount of energy required to produce the message. This may involve pointing to a picture or series of letters. It could also mean pressing a switch once or multiple times as in the case of a communicator who has significant physical challenges.

Cognitive Effort: Involves remembering where a message is located and/or coded.

Time: refers to how long it takes to produce the message.

If the motivation to communicate a message is greater then the physical effort, cognitive effort and time required to produce it, then communication will occur. If not, no message will be generated.

Example

Jenny is a 7 year old child who has cerebral palsy. She requires assistance going to the bathroom. Everyday she is toileted at 10:15. It is 10:05 and she has to go to the bathroom. Rather than using her switch to scan to a message that says "I need to go to the bathroom", she waits 10 minutes for a classroom assistant to take her to the rest room.

Jenny loves to interact socially with others. She has a communication system that produces sequential single messages. Jenny sees a friend in the hallway at school. She presses her sequential communicator to talk to her friend about a TV show they both watch.

Ideas for creating these "social scripts" have been compiled by Linda J. Burkhart and Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite.  See communication social scripts for more information.

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Vocabulary Selection Goal

Influencing factors to consider when selecting vocabulary include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Social Role
  • Living Environments
  • Individual Differences
  • Life Experiences

When selecting initial vocabulary for an augmentative system, keep in mind the following goals:

  • Power in Communication
  • Communication/Interaction
  • Flexibility
  • Pragmatic Coverage

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Core vs. Activity-Based Vocabularies

Core vocabularies represent a core of words identified as being important for a student to express across activities and environments. The core vocabulary is the main communication system that travels with the student, being available whenever other activity-based vocabularies are not represented. The fact that the vocabulary can be used across multiple situations builds in opportunities for repeated practice and generalization of the child's core vocabulary.

The following pictures show two overlays for a student's AAC system. The "Core" overlay is placed on the system whenever it is not being used for a specific activity. The student uses "The Picnic" overlay when reading a book by the same title. Notice the bottom four vocabulary items remain constant across both overlays.

CORE

ACTIVITY

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Concluding Thoughts

Consider the following when designing communication systems for children:

  • Who am I working with?
  • What are their specific interests/needs?
  • Have I involved the individual and their significant others in the vocabulary selection process?
  • Do I have a long-range plan for vocabulary selection/management?

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Representing Vocabulary

Myth: Pictures are Easy Evaluating Pictures Selecting Symbols Lesson-Specific Vocabulary Story Vocabulary Activity-Based Vocabulary Theme-Based Vocabulary

Myth: Pictures are easy!

This is a common misperception among professionals and parents. Let's take the following quiz and see if you still think pictures are easy.

Pictures are Easy Quiz

Given that students using picture communication boards have limited reading skills, this is how the board might appear to them.

Can you identify the exact message that each of these symbols is intended to convey?

 

 


Quiz enlarge image

How did you do?

It is our belief that pictures look "easy" to us because we attending to the words and reading the message rather than examining the pictures and inferring their communicative intent.


Quiz Answers enlarge image

 

 

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copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Representing Vocabulary

Myth: Pictures are Easy Evaluating Pictures Selecting Symbols Lesson-Specific Vocabulary Story Vocabulary Activity-Based Vocabulary Theme-Based Vocabulary

Evaluating Pictures

(Consider Picture Representation From the Student's Perspective)

Words can be divided into:

  • Picture Producers (car, cat, house)
car cat house

Keep in mind that although these pictures are more concrete in nature, they may not necessarily look anything like the items the student has experienced. For example, whose car looks exactly like the one above?

  • Non-picture Producers (hard, fun)
hard fun

The majority of the words we use on a daily basis are not picture producers.

  • Only 10% of the 330 most frequently used words by preschoolers are picture producers.

  • Examples of non-picture producers: Yes, thank you, why, not, cold, I, you, do, more, no.

  • Representing and understanding non-picture producers in graphics requires the use of metaphor, memory and a relatively wide experience base.
  • No sentence is a picture producer

I want to show you something.

I want to say something else.

 

 

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copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Representing Vocabulary

Myth: Pictures are Easy Evaluating Pictures Selecting Symbols Lesson-Specific Vocabulary Story Vocabulary Activity-Based Vocabulary Theme-Based Vocabulary

Selecting Symbols

"Much of the magic of AAC lies in the vast array of symbols and signals, other than those used in speech, that people can employ to send messages. Especially for individuals who cannot read or write, the ability to represent messages and concepts in alternative ways is central to communication."
(Beukelman & Mirenda, 1998, p. 40)

A variety of symbols can be used to represent the messages a student needs to communicate. "Symbols" refer to something that "stands for something else". The actual "symbol" used can be anything from real objects to photos to line drawings to other forms of picture symbols.

Considerations when selecting a symbol system include:

  • Iconicity. This refers to how closely the symbol represents the item/message it depicts. For example, using a potato chip bag to represent "potato chips" is a much closer association than the written word "potato chip".

    In general, symbols with a more concrete representation will be easier for students to learn.

    For students who are not yet reading - look closely at the picture without the text. Many of us make the mistake of thinking that "pictures are easy" because we can read the associated word and neglect to really look at the picture.


  • Ability to replicate the symbol. Can the symbol be easily reproduced if the original is lost or the communication board needs to be rearranged or expanded? This factor needs to be taken into account in particular when using photographs. What happens if the negative is lost once the student is trained to the picture meaning? This is also a consideration if pictures are to be hand-drawn.


  • Is the symbol set available commercially? Many professionals use the Boardmaker software program from Mayer-Johnson company. One of the advantages of this program is that communication boards can be created relatively quickly and easily. In addition, replication of boards and symbols is not a significant concern.

  • Commercially available symbol sets can be adopted district-wide as the standard. Thus, students transitioning within a district will continue to have exposure to the same communication symbols.


  • Changing symbol sets is like changing languages.  How would you feel if suddenly someone told you you could no longer speak English, you must now learn Spanish?

 

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Representing Vocabulary

Myth: Pictures are Easy Evaluating Pictures Selecting Symbols Lesson-Specific Vocabulary Story Vocabulary Activity-Based Vocabulary Theme-Based Vocabulary

Lesson-Specific Vocabulary

Use picture communication symbols to visually represent key words of the lesson that can be used alone or in conjunction with other other AAC systems in place.


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  • Months of the Year

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  • Days of the Week

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  • Numbers/Counting Overlay

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  • Basic Concepts

 

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Representing Vocabulary

Myth: Pictures are Easy Evaluating Pictures Selecting Symbols Lesson-Specific Vocabulary Story Vocabulary Activity-Based Vocabulary Theme-Based Vocabulary

Story Vocabulary

Selecting Vocabulary Include Interactive Vocabulary Literature-Based Communication Boards

Selecting Vocabulary

Many of us are faced with selecting vocabulary for use during a student's book reading time. If the goal for a student is to read a book out loud using his/her communication system, the following strategies can be used to ensure that all vocabulary from the book are represented.

  1. Post-It Note Approach
  2. Using Database Software
  3. Web based Approach
  4. Prioritizing Vocabulary

Post-It Note Approach


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1. Identify vocabulary in the story. 

a.  Write each unique word from the book on a post-it note. 

b. Make a hash mark or other notation on the post-it for each additional occurrence of the word.

When done, you should have the following word frequency information:

1) Total number of words in the book
2) Total number of unique words
3) Number of times each word appears in the book

c. Use this information to prioritize which vocabulary should be placed on the student's communication board. Also plan to include some messages which allow the student to interact and control the activity. For example: Turn the page, Act it out, Read that again, All done, Let's do something else.

 


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2. Arrange vocabulary
Arrange the post-it notes to match the display format your student will be using (e.g. communication board, IntelliKeys overlay, ChatBox, Macaw). It is much easier to move them around and change their arrangement when they are in this format before you begin creating boards and overlays on the computer.

 


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3. Create communication boards &/or IntelliKeys overlays

Planning vocabulary arrangements out on paper prior to beginning the creation of boards and overlays on the computer can be a significant time saver.

 


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4. Print duplicate board.

5. Place one board in sheet protector.

6. Laminate symbols.

7. Add velcro

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Using Database Software

Another way to gather word frequency information is to use a computer database program.

  1. Set up one field for "Word" and another for "Frequency".

  2. Type in each word from the book as a unique "word" entry. When done, sort alphabetically in descending order.

  3. Count the number of times each word appears and enter that number in the "Frequency" column. Specific instructions for doing this using ClarisWorks are included here. These can be adapted for use with other database programs.

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Web based Approach

  1. Highlight and copy the text you wish to analyze.
  2. Go to the following website:
    Web Frequency Indexer (Georgetown Linguistics)
  3. Paste your text in the box in the box that says "Enter your text here".
  4. Click on "Do It!" for a word frequency list which includes the total number of words in the book as well as the total number of unique words.

Note: This is especially handy for doing word frequency counts on e-text.

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Prioritizing Vocabulary

If the number of words in the book exceeds the number of spaces available on the communication system, you will need to do some prioritizing. 

Considerations include:

  1. Does the story contain a repeated line? If so, you could put that all on one space. 

  2. Give greater weight to the words which occur most frequently.

  3. Compare your word frequency count to published vocabulary lists. These lists show the frequency of word use by individual of different age ranges. An excellent resource for this on the web can be found at: AAC Messaging and Vocabulary. Give greater weight to words used most frequently by the same age peers.

At the Barkley Communication site of the University of Nebraska you will find numerous vocabulary lists including words most frequently used by preschoolers who are non-disabled, school aged children, and children who use AAC systems. There are also lists of conversational phrases, vocabulary for school settings, vocabulary for classroom activities and initial vocabulary recommendations.

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Include Interactive Vocabulary

Interactive vocabulary includes words and phrases which encourage interaction between the augmentative system user and their communication partners and peers. Examples include:

What's that?

That's silly!

More

Different one

Act it out!

Turn the page

Read it again

All done

 

Example

When making pages for this BookTalker, the interactive vocabulary listed above was included in the bottom row of each page. Thus the students had a consistent array of comments and questions available on every overlay. This consistency allows the students to learn the vocabulary more quickly and the teachers to have a realistic expectation of what the students can say for every story. For example after reading a page, the teacher would know they could call on this student and ask "What should I do next?" and expect the student could say "Turn the page".

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Literature Based Communication Boards

What are some ways that you can represent the vocabulary of a book for a child.  How about using repetitive phrase storybooks or sequencing the story on a simple voice output system or even creating your own story.  See our handout on Creating Literature Based Communication Boards.

 

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Representing Vocabulary

Myth: Pictures are Easy Evaluating Pictures Selecting Symbols Lesson-Specific Vocabulary Story Vocabulary Activity-Based Vocabulary Theme-Based Vocabulary

Activity-Based Vocabulary

Overlays and/or communication systems developed for an activity often represent novel practice for students.  In other words, if the second grade classroom is doing a unit on bats and you create activity-based overlays to support student learning and expression in the classroom, chances are many of the vocabulary on the system will be new (novel) to the child.  Structuring activity and/or literacy based overlays in a consistent manner will provide a system of support for your AAC users.  To create consistency always set up the vocabulary on your system in the same way.  If you carryover key vocabulary from the child's core communication overlay, make sure that the vocabulary is placed in the same place on their system.

 

Using Aided Language Stimulation

Carol Goossens, Sharon Sapp Crain and Pamela Elder introduced the idea of aided language stimulation in their monumental books on "Engineering the Environment". This approach utilizes multiple activity-based communication overlays.  To achieve this, the team:

  1. Develops a list of all the activities a student engages in.

  2. Prioritizes the list based on factors such as student motivation and how often the activity occurs.

  3. Lists all the possible vocabulary associated with a specific activity.

  4. Prioritizes the vocabulary list.

  5. Creates the communication overlays following a set of guidelines such as:
    • Use a variety of parts of speech (e.g. verbs, nouns, descriptors)

    • Place frequently used vocabulary in the same location on every overlay whenever possible

    • "Engineer the environment" so communication overlays are prominently placed in locations where they will be used

    • During the teaching and implementation phase, use a variety of sound teaching practices such as:
      • Modeling use of the overlay when talking with the student
      • Systematically cue correct responses
      • Teach overlay use in the context of real and functional activities

For additional information on the implementation of this approach see: Aided Language Stimulation

 

Examples

Pre-made activity-based boards from Goossens, Crain, and Elder

Use velcro strips to easily create custom activity-based boards for students and/or activities.  This board is for a painting activity


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Symbols storage on side of cabinet in Early Childhood room for easy access.

Activity-Based Vocabulary used in a cutting and pasting activity.


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Dynamic display devices such as the Vanguard or the Dynamyte offer students a way to use core overlays and activity-based overlays together.

Digital pictures of students can be used to create activity-based boards to allows students to communicate about peers.  For example, these can be used to:

  • Choose who will be a particular helper

  • Take attendance - Who is here/not here

  • Tell a story about who did what on a field trip

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copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Representing Vocabulary

Myth: Pictures are Easy Evaluating Pictures Selecting Symbols Lesson-Specific Vocabulary Story Vocabulary Activity-Based Vocabulary Theme-Based Vocabulary

Theme-Based Vocabulary

This approach has a more narrow in focus than aided language stimulation as it involves selecting and representing vocabulary pertaining to a particular classroom theme. One way to do this is to create AAC Theme Kits with ready-made activity and communication resources based upon typical themes used across schools.

The following is an example of a bear kit developed for use by the Eau Claire Area School District in Eau Claire, WI.

The kit contains activities and props commonly used by elementary educators teaching a unit on bears. It also includes a notebook of suggestions and symbols for use with students who have AAC needs. 

Bear Activities from various Internet sites.

Communication boards made for various AAC systems commonly used by students in the district.

Reproducible books and pictures.

Symbols for the repeated lines in books pertaining to the theme.

Symbols to go with theme activities.

Internet Sites appropriate to the theme.

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Creating Visual Environments

Schedules Task Organizers

In addition to communication symbols and overlays, we use picture symbols to create schedules and task organizers to aid in communication about the events and activities in which the student will participate.

Schedules

We create schedules to help students understand what will happen next. We can use schedules to indicate:

 

Classroom Daily Schedules

A classroom schedule using real photos

 

 

A classroom schedule using Boardmaker symbols

 

 

Single Picture Location cards worn by staff members. Staff hold card next to their face as they say the location to pair verbal and visual prompts.

 

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Student's Personal Schedule


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Student Specific Schedule binder with Part day or All day picture symbols from Boardmaker arranged on the first page of the binder.  



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Student specific all day wall schedule located on the wall within the classroom.

Student specific schedule board mounted on a file folder.


Left column - Locations the student is going to that day.
Middle (green) Column - Where the student is currently.
Right Column - When the student moves to a different location in the school, they move the symbol to the done column.  

The yellow velcro strip in the middle is a place for staff to place symbols relating activities in that location.

 

Inside the folder are additional symbols, a school lunch menu and a daily check sheet so staff can chart daily progress, document behavior and communicate with the family about food eaten at lunch.
 

 

Student specific schedule board using words to help the student construct sentences.  

Schedule cards are located inside the folder along with the student's communication diet.

 

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Activity Schedule 

(Highlighting the events in a group lesson.)


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Use picture symbols to visually represent the schedule of activities within a small group lesson. This system of visual organization has the activities to complete in a column on the left.  As an activity starts the corresponding symbol is moved to the center of the board.  When the activity is finished it is moved to the column on the right.

 

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Work Session Schedule

(How much work is expected)

Use number symbols to visually represent the schedule of activities within a work session.

 

Use work baskets, so the student can visually see how much work remains.

 

Use picture symbols to visually represent the schedule of activities within a work session.  In this schedule the student moves the symbol up next to work when they start an activity.  They move the symbol into the all done baggie when finished.

 

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Other Schedule Ideas


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Visual schedule symbol organization.  Boardmaker from Mayer-Johnson can be used to easily create visual representation of activities and vocabulary. Organize symbols in a binder for easy access.

 


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Use a timer to show the student how long they need to remain at an activity. http://www.timetimer.com in conjunction with their work session schedule

 

 

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Task Organizers/ Reminder Strips

Task Organizers and Reminder Strips visually represent the steps involved in completing a task.  A child can use these visual reminders to gain independence in completing tasks on their own.

Step by Step
Visual Directions for steps involved in getting ready to go home.

Prompts
Visual directions to prompt steps for getting dressed.

Story Format
You can make an activity visual by creating a storybook format to highlight the sequence of a lesson and and use a visual chart to document the results.

I Spy Activity
Visual Directions to prompt students when playing "I Spy".

Musical Chairs
Visual Directions to prompt students when playing musical chairs.

Bathroom Task Strip
Visual Directions  posted in the bathroom.

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Finding Pictures

Picture Library Software Web Resources Using Google Search Engine

Picture Library Software

Boardmaker
Boardmaker is a commonly used computer program which includes an extensive picture library for making communication boards. Additional picture libraries such as those containing sign language are also available.  Digital images can be imported and saved within Boardmaker cells.  This resource is available through mayer-johnson.com

The Internet contains a number of sites with tutorials for using Boardmaker at beginning through advanced levels.  In addition, there are web resources with downloadable Boardmaker communication boards, picture schedules and activities.  For an extensive list of links to these sites, visit the Boardmaker resources section of aacintervention.com

Picture This
Picture This is a software program that contains photos organized into categories.  Picture This Standard Edition contains 2,700 photos from 30 different categories.  Picture This Pro comes with over 5,000 photos and contains a formatting program which allows you to print any size card.  These resources are available through silverliningmm.com

 

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Web Resources

A variety of pictures can be found at web sites designed for students with special learning needs.

http://www.dotolearn.com
A web site that provides picture cards, schedules and ideas to promote independence in children and adults with special learning needs.

http://trainland.tripod.com/pecs.htm
This web site contains a large number of pre-made PECS resources with real photos.  There are links to a wide range of other picture resource sites.

http://www.tinsnips.org/
This web site offers a variety of special education resources for teachers of individuals with autistic spectrum disorders, related developmental disabilities, and children with special needs. You will find a variety of themed activities and visual communication ideas/resources.  

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Using Google Search Engine

  1. Go to Google on the web at http://www.google.com/ 

  2. Click on the Images tab on the opening screen.

  3. Type in the keyword corresponding to the image you need.

You will be able to choose from literally hundreds of images.

When using these or any other pictures, be sure to check copyright use policies.

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Ideas for Students Who have Visual Challenges

Using Textures as Symbols

Questions to consider:

  • Is there a texture naturally associated with the message?
    For example, at a conference years ago a speech/language pathologist told of using a piece of screen to represent the message "Let's go outside" as a screen door was the last thing the child touched before going outdoors.
  • Is the selected texture available in ample quantity that it can be replaced/replicated?

The food choices can be spray laminated and placed permanently on the choice board so the student can not mouth them. To present choices in a different array, the board could be presented upside down and/or replicated with the objects in different locations. Changing the locations helps to keep the student focused on the symbol choices as opposed to learning a positional response (e.g. left side means Fruit Loops as opposed to circular texture).

Velcro the symbols onto the board; a yellow rope can represent a swing that is suspended by a similar feeling rope.

For additional information and references:
YAACK: Teaching AAC-Related Skills

Beukelman, D.R., & Mirenda, P. (1998). 2nd Ed. Augmentative and alternative communication management of severe communication disorders in children and adults. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

 

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Social Skills

Social Stories

Social Stories include:

  • Opening Statement
    WAITING MY TURN
  • Bullet points
    I LOVE doing great work in school.
  • Confidence statement
    I CAN wait for my turn.

 

 

Visual Support Systems


enlarge image

To express feelings


enlarge image

To regulate behavior


enlarge image

To display classroom rules

To teach the concept of waiting, use a ‘Wait’ card.

To teach students to request assistance use a ‘help’ card.

To teach students a calm way to request breaks, use a ‘break’ card.

 

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project

 

Training Strategies

The Technology Integration Questionnaire

Where is your team on the continuum of AAC integration? Perceptions of the success and use of AAC strategies often vary among staff members. To evaluate the strengths and needs of your team, it is suggested that your team complete the following questionnaire. The purpose of this tool is to gather information, not to judge staff performance; therefore questionnaire respondents do not need to identify themselves on the form.

Staff Integration of AAC Rubric

This rubric was designed to provide speech/language pathologists and educational staff with the opportunity to identify their skill level in the area of augmentative communication. It can also be used to identify the current level of integration of AAC by the school team. This handout also has a section that teams can use to quickly identify personal training needs.

Minspeak Meets Aided Language Stimulation

  • Crayon Book
  • Tea Party
image of: crayon book

 

Teaching Strategies

 

Lesson Planning Example

Story Title and Description: Froggy Gets Dressed

  • The theme for the week: Frogs
  • Concepts to reinforce all week: on/off, grow, change
  • Targeted standards (Wisconsin): Oral Lang. C.4.2 Listen to and Comprehend Oral Communications, Science F.4.3 Illustrate ways organisms grow through life stages
  • The week before (Things to do/Materials to gather): 5 Frogs Hop IntelliPics, Froggy Gets Dressed boards, Tadpoles

 

 

AAC Theme Kits

  • 1 Month Check Out
  • Some assembly required :)
    • 2 experienced people 1 week in addition to their caseload

 

Binder: Theme Activity Ideas

 

Activity Ideas for Kit Materials

 

Clipart & Other Pictures

 

Web Resources

 

Reproducible Activities

 

Communication Symbols/Boards

 

Overlay Pockets

 

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Using AAC Devices

There are numerous commercially available augmentative/alternative communication devices. These range from single message systems to complex computer-based devices capable of generating an almost infinite amount of messages.

While these devices can be very powerful tools, they should never be viewed as the end goal or sole solution to communication challenges. Rather, they must be viewed as one part of the communication continuum which ranges from partner assisted to independent.

Devices Breakdown

Any piece of equipment is subject to breaking down, running out of battery power or otherwise malfunctioning. Ideally, a plan should be in place for how the student will communicate while their AAC system is being recharged and/or repaired.


Device Selection

The process of choosing an appropriate device ideally involves a team approach including:

  • A team assessment which includes the individual who will be using the device, their family and/or support staff as well as professionals who are familiar with the student and those experienced in the selection and implementation of AAC devices.
  • A trial period in which a recommended system(s) is used and efficacy data are collected and analyzed

Feature Match: No Tech to High Tech

There are differing opinions and definitions as to what constitutes a no tech, low tech, mid tech or high tech communication system. For the purposes of this resource, AAC devices will be defined as:

  • No tech systems: Any communication system that does not require a power source.
  • Low tech systems: Any communication system that requires a source of power and is very easy to program.
  • Mid tech systems: Any communication system that requires a power source and requires some level of training to adequately program and maintain the device.
  • High tech systems: Any communication system that requires a power source and extensive training to competently program and maintain the device.

A sampling of systems contained in each category include:

No Tech communication systems

Choice boards: Objects, pictures, and/or symbols can be used on a choice board to offer students opportunities to communicate the language of snack/leisure activities, learning activities, transitioning, literacy activities, daily living activities, and more.

Choice boards can be used alone or in combination. In this example, the student can select an answer from one choice board to complete a sentence started on another choice board.

Boards can be cut to various sizes from foam core board. This material is commonly used to mat pictures or make posters. It can be found in the school supply section of discount stores, at craft stores or at framing places.

Communication boards: These can be computer generated and/or hand-made. They can range from a single symbol to a single page to multiple pages either stored together or in the actual environments where they will be used.

Examples include:

  • Picture or symbol overlays that provide opportunities for students to communicate about specific activities in which they are engaged,
  • A general or core overlay to communicate general language across activities and environments,
  • A communication overlay to communicate about literacy activity, and more
    • Picture exchange systems provide students opportunities to physically give communication picture or symbol during activity or through self-initiation.
    • Signing
    • Gestures
    • Communication books, wallets

Low Tech systems

Mid Tech systems

High Tech systems

Companies Offering Augmentative/Alternative Communication and/or Assistive Technology Products:
AbleNet
ADAMLAB
Adaptivation, Inc.
Assistive Technology, Inc.
Attainment Company, Inc.
Creative Communicating
DDA Home Page, home of Feature Match, Assessm...
Don Johnston Incorporated
Frame Technologies
The Great Talking Box Company, Inc.
Innocomp
IntelliTools
Mayer-Johnson Company
Prentke Romich Company Home Page
RJ Cooper
Saltillo Corporation
Semantic Compaction Systems
Sentient Systems Technology, Inc.
TASH International INC., Ontario Canada
WORDS+ Inc.
Zygo Industries

Other Vendor Resources
CSUN
CAMA
ORCCA

 

copyright © 2000 - 2005 Assistive Technology Training Online Project