The students are here. Yay! Uh oh! They need education using multiple AAC systems. HELP! How do I teach with all of these different devices when I don’t know where the symbols are located? Sound familiar. It can be a challenge can’t it? Where do you begin? I have a 5 tips to get you started.
Multiple AAC Systems: Tip ONE
‘start with low tech’
If you are a new user to a range of high tech AAC software then I recommend starting with a low tech copy of each of the AAC devices. This way it allows you to learn the motor pattern of where to locate the symbols without the extra challenges. For example, it prevents symbols that move as you follow pathways, pages that disappear, and mishitting and having to start over.
Try searching on line for a copy of the home page for the different systems in your room. Most companies have a low tech copy that can be downloaded. If you are interested I have further reading and a low tech AAC board you can download here.
Another easy option is to take a screen shot of the home page on the device. You do this by clicking on the ‘on/off’ button and the ‘home’ button at the same time. The photo can be saved in your photos and printed off. HINT: you can print this out at your local print shop and make a big core board for your wall. I use tear and water resistant paper rather than laminate that way there is no glare.
Multiple AAC Systems: Tip TWO
‘plan AAC Core Words in advance’
Plan weekly AAC core words. This is important whether you have one or multiple AAC systems. Start slow with one or two words. Stick to symbols on the home page to begin. These will be core words and are usually the most frequently used in speech. Have a chart on the wall and circle the weekly core words on the range of AAC types you have in the room for all extended team members to review. Great for a relieving teacher if you are away too.
Multiple AAC Systems: Tip THREE
‘know how to access the symbols before teaching’
Write out the pattern of how to access the target symbols within each of the AAC devices. This is particularly helpful for LAMP words for life as the locations are often not intuitive. Have low tech A4 print outs of the home page for all systems in use. Next, mark where the target words are as a reminder. This can be done with a whiteboard pen by circling target words, applying Wiki Stix or similar. It can be great to have print outs in targeted areas of the room as a reminder of core words that can be used in different tasks/play. For example puzzle, toys, art, library and eating zones.
During group times, model on the AAC system that most of the students are using. Then, have a teaching assistant sit with a student that has a different device or system, to model the key words of the week as you teach.
Remember the target words may not necessarily be in the words of a story during circle time. When reading books, mark with sticky notes where you will model the target words as a reminder.
Multiple AAC Systems: Tip FOUR
‘model on all devices at some point in the day’
Ensure to choose one or two times to model on all devices/AAC systems throughout the lesson or day. Using the system you feel comfortable with most of the time is great to begin. This will increase your confidence. However, to get confident with multiple AAC systems, you will need to start modelling on each one. Pick high interest times for the student initially, such as when playing with a favourite toy or snack times. Model one or two key words to build up your knowledge or that of the team.
Remember for some students the high interest words they will want to use (and you may want them to learn first) might be ‘go’, ‘finish’ and ‘no’. Simply focus on them instead of the class core words for those students. After all, we are all about individualising programs and teaching positive behaviour.
Multiple AAC Systems: Tip FIVE
‘get some coaching for you and the team’
Get coaching for you and your team on the multiple AAC systems in your room. If you are feeling anxious you can bet your life, so will your team. If you have access to a speech pathologist or a more experience colleague in the area of AAC, then be proactive and ask for some coaching. Pass this on to your team. Here is some more learning for coaching teams.
Use quieter times to get to know all the devices. Take one home if able, to practice or look up the device on line by searching the software company. If you are not able to take a device home make yourself an A4 home page copy of the AAC system and practice on this.
I hope you find these tips helpful. The best piece of advice I would offer is relax. You don’t need to be an expert. Learn with the children and your team. This is great for teaching the students. If you are looking for a symbol and you don’t know where it is; you are thinking out loud (verbal model), going slower (great for our students who have delayed processing and complex bodies), and showing the pathway of how to reach the word (clear model). This demonstrates to everyone that we are all learning together. And that is just fine. For more on AAC Core Words, I invite you to read more here and here.
FREE AAC MONTHLY PLANNER CHEAT SHEET
As it is AAC Awareness month I have a special download available . You can use it to begin planning your monthly core words.
Simply CLICK HERE . Pop your name in the email sign up box, and this useful planner will be available for you to download. It comes as a fill in the blanks and a completed one as an example. Pop it on a cupboard at school or maybe a fridge at home and you and your team will have a quick reminder of your focus for the month. You will also have access to a whole lot of other freebies via the subscriber only site.
Below is an example of a completed cheat sheet.
Deep breaths and happy communicating everyone. Remember: If you would love to keep up to date weekly and want access to FREEBIES pop your name in the subscriber box below.