Happy AAC Awareness Month!
To kick things off, here are some AAC Applications that are discounted during the month of October!
Now that I have a few more AAC kiddos on my caseload, I have decided to piggyback off of the AAC Crash Course Handout (see prior blog post) and create AAC Core Vocabulary Words for the month of September.
I am so grateful to have a team of teachers and parents that are SO involved in the use of aided language input and the success of these AAC users. I have a mix of emergent and context-dependent users this year. To ease the transition of classroom accommodations and learning strategies, I had to make it a little easier give some context to exactly what I was asking of our team members... *enter Core Words of the month*!
I have chosen certain core words to suit the needs of my kiddos, but you can mix and match with some of your own word choices.
Well, here it is...the start of a brand new school year :)
I created this packet to distribute to teachers and staff members at the school as an "AAC Crash Course". It is by no means a complete introduction, but I'm hoping it helps to open up the AAC conversation amongst our team members.
I included two visuals that have served me very well recently...the Colorful Language handout by speakingofspeech.com and the Communication Bill of Rights from the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons With Severe Disabilities (NJC). I also like to give a copy of the Communication Bill of Rights to families...you never know when it might come in handy!
Wishing a smooth start of the year to all :)
"We used to speak to our son in both English and our native languages, but we were told to only use one because he has a language delay."
How many times have we, as SLPs, heard this statement from a parent? Every time I hear it, I can't help but feel a little tug in my chest. Anyone that knows me, knows that family, tradition, language, and culture are everything to me. I could not imagine being "isolated" from these experiences and missing out on the things that helped define me as a person just because someone thought it would be "too much" for me to handle. It is not appropriate to simplify a child's exposure to a single language in a bilingual household.
To this I say, "ditch the 'hearsay' and embrace the research". Research on second language acquisition for children with language delays/disorders is an area that needs to be expanded, however, there's enough for us to make clinical applications. We can help our families
Consider the family's needs. What is important to them? If speaking multiple languages is important to them, then encourage them provide rich language experiences for their child in these languages. At the end of the day, the family should take the lead in this decision. Think about how it will affect the child- will they be isolated from specific family members who ONLY speak a different language?
Remember: children who have true language delays/disorders will be expressed in ALL of their languages.
Bruck, M. (1982). Language impaired children’s performance in an additive bilingual education program. Applied Psycholinguistics, 3, 45–60.
Kay-Raining Bird, E., Cleave, P., Trudeau, N., Thordardottir, E., Sutton, A. & Thorpe, A. (2005). The language abilities of bilingual children with Down Syndrome. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 14, 187-199.
How to we encourage parent involvement?
As we all know, the key to success in speech and language therapy is not limited to what takes place within the four walls of our therapy room. What’s our main goal?
This is why it is so important to get our parents onboard with what we’re trying to accomplish. I have been so lucky to work with parents who are invested and always ask what they can do at home to support what we do in the therapy room.
How do I do it?
I make it a point to introduce myself and create an open form of communication with all of my parents. We see our kiddos several times a week in most cases, so I do my best to be the “approachable therapist”. tTat way, parents feel comfortable coming to me with concerns and moments of progress. At the end of the day, we really do value our clients and their families and we love to see that our dedication is helping them in their everyday lives!
Recently, I have been sending home notes via email…and can I just say that it has made a HUGE difference in my relationship with families! I used to write up a quick home note on paper and send it home with my kids and that would really be the end of it. Now, I use the same template/format that I use with my paper notes but I email it out as an attachment. This is another way to form that “open communication”. Parents respond with questions and notes of “thanks”; they can seek clarification and share their experiences at home with what we’ve been practicing. The best part? I can even send home practice worksheets as attachments! No printing required :)
For the kids I see in their school environment, I am not able to speak with their parents in person after each session. This is why I schedule periodic phone calls to check in and see how the progress is going at home. I know, you’re wondering how on earth I can find time to fit in phone calls…when you think about it though, it’s not like I’m calling 10 parents a day. I fit them in one by one throughout my week whenever I have a free 5 minutes. Sounds daunting, but the payoff is HUGE when it comes to that whole “open communication” thing…
Team cohesion is a big part of carryover. If the child is working with an occupational therapist, physical therapist, behavioral therapist, etc. I try to get in touch with them (given parent permission of course) to discuss strategies that I use in my sessions and ask them about their strategies as well! I love walking past rooms seeing my OT team members using Aided Language Input with my AAC kids (you ladies know who you are…and I love you for this!). We’re all working towards a common goal…it’s unifying and we know we have support when we need it!
Every once in awhile I ask my parents to pop in and see what we’re doing within the therapy room. I utilize the time to train parents to use strategies and help them engage with their kids. Sometimes, parents just need reassurance that they’re doing the right thing when it comes to building speech and language at home.
I have found that sending home activities or strategies that can be done during typical, routine daily activities makes it more likely for the parents to actually do it. Think about all the things they already have to do as parents- it can be overwhelming to send home elaborate activities. Think of how language can be supported in daily activities like cooking, brushing teeth, and taking a bath!
No matter how you go about it, creating that bond with parents and families is crucial to helping our kids generalize their newly gained skills.
Until next time…
As an SLP with an interest in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), I have seen the joys and the challenges faced by my clients and their families. Behind each triumph, there were moments of fear. The path to AAC is long, winding, and messy. It's a learning process for all parties involved...clients, families, caregivers, teachers, friends, and therapists! But at the end of the day, functional communication is the goal...and it CAN be achieved.
The biggest barriers in my opinion...misconceptions and lack of information on the topic.
Are some families afraid of these devices? Yes.
Are they worried that using a device will stop the development of natural speech? Yes.
Do they believe their child will be teased or bullied because of the device? Yes.
Do they think it's going to be "too difficult" for their child to understand and operate the device? Yes.
One of the most crucial parts of AAC intervention is client and family education. As clinicians, we are given the tools and the evidence base to reach out to our families, provide the most current research and education, and allay their fears.
These parents are superheroes. They know their children better than we ever will. They know their quirks, they comfort them in their sadness, they celebrate them when they succeed, and they know the face their child makes when all they want is their polka dot Peppa Pig blanket. I watch these parents on a daily basis and hope that one day I can do at least a fraction of what they do for their kids.
And that's what we have to remember...these parents are doing their very best. If they had the extra SLP compartment in their parenting toolbox, they would be able to see how much AAC can open the world up for a child.
This is where we come in.
I try not to bombard my parents all at once with research and handouts and websites and blogs. I like to take a baby step approach. Parents need to be eased into the idea of AAC.
The first step? Dispelling the myths.
Research shows that AAC can actually promote the development of speech and language. It is by no means a "last resort" during intervention- I like to incorporate it with so many of my kiddos to help "bridge the gap" and provide a means of functional communication until their language skills grow and blossom.
There are no cognitive prerequisites to AAC. The exact connection between cognition and language skills hasn't truly been defined yet, therefore, it is so important to presume AAC user competence. Who are we to say someone can and cannot do something? How are we going to discover their strengths and skills if we already have a preconceived "set level" for our kiddos? We want our kids to develop their own identity and share their opinions, dislikes, and fears. I have had some parents tell me, "I am afraid that if we give [my child] a brand new AAC system, he will act out and his behaviors will escalate because he won't know how to use it." I recently had a kiddo whose mom had these fears (and rightfully so- change is HARD!). During the third session of introducing his new device (a NovaChat 10), the battery ran out on his iPad. I asked him if he would like me to leave the new device at his desk for him to use instead of his iPad...he nodded his head "yes". As I walked away, I heard the all-too-familiar sound of an SGD say, "thank you". Cue the waterworks. I can confidently say that this kiddo has made leaps and bounds of progress with his new NovaChat, and I could not be more proud.
Thankfully, with AAC being displayed in a more public fashion (ABC's "Speechless" and iPad commercials), the "taboo" of using a device has been stifled. The use of technology is so universal and the new generation of kiddos has taken charge of leading us in this era. While bullying is on the rise, so is exposure to new ideas such as AAC.
Parents, have no fear. You have the full support of the SLP community in your corner. Change takes time, but will have lasting effects on your child's communication :)
Emerson, A., & Dearden, J. (2013). The effect of using ‘full’ language when working with a child with autism: Adoptingthe ‘least dangerous assumption. Child Language Teaching & Therapy, 29(2), 233-244. doi: 10.1177/0265659012463370
Kasari, C, et al. (2014). Communication interventions for minimally verbal children with autism: a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 53(6), 635-646.
Romski, M. & and Sevcik, R.A. (2005). Augmentative communication and early intervention: myths and realities. Infants & Young Children, 18(3), 174-185.
You know how people say, "Time flies when you're having fun"? Well, it also flies when you're back-to-back with kiddos, wrapping up end of the school year paperwork, trying to finalize outstanding AAC funding reports, and spreading some good SLP cheer for BHSM.
This month seriously FLEW by! Luckily, I was able to take some time to do some parent education and bring awareness to the field of Speech-Language Pathology.
My friends at Belly Love in Margate, FL, had a wonderful "Mom's Night Out" event and invited me to come by and discuss speech and language development with new moms and mommies-to-be. Check out their amazing spa services at www.bellylovespa.com :)
I truly think Target's dollar section has the best finds! I found small tubes of bubbles and tiny flashlights as giveaway items. (I always have a hard time holding back when I see so many GREAT therapy materials... sorry bank account). I also raffled off a big basket filled with activities that promote speech and language at home. ASHA has great brochures available that explain speech, language, and hearing milestones. I provide these often to parents just as a general resource to keep on hand. It was a wonderful event :). Thanks to Belly Love for having me!
Happy Monday, everyone!
Ah yes...moving. Such a simple concept, with an oh-so-hectic execution. I have admittedly neglected by new baby blog to pack boxes, lift furniture, and clean...there was so much cleaning...
What better day to start my informational posts than the first day of Better Hearing and Speech month?! Right? I thought so, too.
I LOVE MY PROFESSION! This is the time of the year that I enjoy spreading some fun Speech facts to co-workers, teachers, families, and other professionals. If I had a penny for every time someone has asked me what a "Speech Pathologist" is, I would be able to retire (very) early and spend my days blogging on the beach. Many people are shocked by the wide scope of our beautiful, dynamic profession. I have lots of fun activities planned to bring awareness to our profession throughout the month of May. I have decided to focus on 4 topics throughout this year's BHSM:
Week 1: Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Week 2: Collaboration Among Disciplines
Week 3: Speech and Language
Week 4: Hearing and Vocal Hygiene
Below is an example of a weekly activity list that can be adapted to suit your weekly topic(s):