Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) is a commitment. Part of that commitment as a speech-language pathologist is facilitating the implementation of AAC in and out of the classroom setting. The best way to get started is to be a model for your staff. Show them how you build your student’s core vocabulary through using Core Vocabulary to express their wants and needs through everyday school scenarios. Utilizing core vocabulary has been heavily researched. Here is a video with a download (click supporting document) that includes the research that supports the product.
Here are 10 ways to help you coach teachers and other school staff to take your client’s AAC device out of their backpack everyday and use it!
- Implement AAC into your next staff or small team meeting. Bring the new device or if you are introducing AAC as a whole bring all of the devices you have on hand, even simple core word boards and do a quick tutorial on how the AAC device(s) can be used.
- Bring snacks! If it’s a small group, have each staff member request their favorite snack by describing it. “I want goldfish, please” or “I want the snack in the yellow bag”.
- Bring prizes! A prize for the first staff member to ask a question with the device, the first staff member to answer a question, etc. Make it fun!
- Let your staff be a part of your student’s goal writing. This will help them to take more ownership in the AAC device.
- Ask questions like what settings would they like for the student to communicate in? What ways does the student get frustrated?
- Let the staff become aware of the student’s goals since they are helping to implement the AAC device e.g. “This quarter we are really focusing on greetings”.
- Implement a Word of the Week
- Having a plan for introducing a word of the week helps to bring focus and direction to the AAC device by building vocabulary. I used a Core Word of the Week program with my whole team (student, teacher, therapists, paraprofessionals).
- Download my Teacher Pay Teacher AAC Core Word of the Week bundles here.
- Download my free AAC Core Target Word of the Week Door Hanger that serves as a reminder for staff and parents to implement the vocabulary! It’s a great visual and it is free here.
- Get in the classroom and model for the classroom staff as many random times a day as you can. From showing your student a new vocabulary word to using simple grammar with sentence frames (e.g. My favorite ____ is ____).
- I would often conduct therapy during odd times like bathroom breaks, lunch in the cafeteria, and field trips to show implementation of the AAC device across all environments.
- What better way to model and show how you can implement AAC than doing it yourself on the go?
- Everyone loves praise! Go over the top in praising your staff’s use of it!
- Leave them little post-it notes like, “Thank you for helping John Doe find his voice!”
- Education staff have a lot on their plate, so it’s easy to feel guilty for adding one more thing but don’t be! You are advocating for your students to communicate and that is nothing to feel guilty about.
- Add visuals near backpacks to remind staff and students to get the AAC device out of their backpack. This can easily be implemented as part of a morning routine.
- It can also be a part of their individualized visual schedule.
- Add a note on how the AAC device was used to the “note home” or homework folder so staff can mention words and times of the day they used it.
- It could look like “John added the vocabulary word ‘blocks’ to his AAC device today and requested blocks during break time”.
- This will be a reminder for the staff if there is somewhere to fill in for note home or homework folder
- It also helps educate parents on ways they can carry-over ways to implement the AAC device at home
- Incorporate the AAC device into the routine parts of the day like circle time (weather, date, events, lunch choices, break choices, etc.)
- This provides opportunities for both repetition and for core vocabulary
- Your student could always have a job too and a staff member could help them create a sentence with useful classroom information like telling the lunch choices or describing the weather
- Use books!
- Adapt your favorite therapy picture books for your AAC users. This download includes symbol adaptations for your favorite fall books! Cut out each core word symbol sentence strip and tape it into the book below the text. I created a lending library by buying three copies of each book from Scholastic. On the front of each book, I write “please return to Miss Jenna-Speech Dept.” I send one copy home to parents, put one in the classroom, and keep one to use in speech!
- Give a simple run-down on how to trouble-shoot each device.
- Have a designated spot for extra charging cords like a charging station.
- Provide instructions for trouble-shooting systems like: what happens when it is frozen, how to create new buttons, etc.
Have a great school year with your AAC users! Please share any other ways you help the implementation of AAC in and outside of the classroom.
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