Sunday, March 4, 2018

Staff Use Strategies of Aided Language Input, Multi-Modal Supports and Universal Design for Learning to Increase Student Engagement and Communication in an IBI Program


The Vista Adolescent Learning Academy (VALA) is an intensive behavior intervention (IBI) program for secondary students located in Vista Unified School District that provides services individualized to meet the unique needs of each student with a focus on behavior, communication, functional academic, and adaptive living skills.

Mark Formanns leads a team of incredibly dedicated and passionate individuals that use fundamental principles of modeling language and creating access to curriculum using multiple modalities of support including: partners all model language and symbolic communication, visual time and schedules posted, clear behavior expectations and self-regulation options are always available, and interactive use of technology smartboard. Check out some of the fantastic tools, tips, and strategies used in the classroom:

Many of the students in the VALA program are non-verbal and require the use of augmentative alternative communication (AAC). Mark and staff in the program have received training in and regularly use Aided Language Stimulation techniques and highly motivating activities to successfully engage and teach symbol communication to their students. Check out the crew in action:


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Making your iPad a Dedicated Communication Device

Making your iPad a Dedicated Communication Device, again... with iOs settings!

You may have noticed in the last update that even in Guided Access (AKA Kid Mode) your student may swipe up or across and access new menus on their iPad! Here is what you can do to re-dedicate your device:

  1. Turn off "Multitasking"
  2. Turn off "Control Center Menu"
  3. Use Guided Access to restrict Spotlight Search and Notifications.
You don't know how to do this? I included the steps in a handy Restrict your iPad iOs 10+ link. 


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Struggle with How to Model Core Vocabulary During Whole Group Activities? Check This Out!!

Do you ever find yourself thinking any of the following:
  • How can I possibly model symbol communication and core vocabulary during a whole group?
  • I don't have time to program or create a symbol board each week for my 1 or 2 students with limited verbal communication.
  • What vocabulary words do I target?  There are so many!
All of these are valid, real world challenges. Whenever we find a colleague, teacher, or therapist who has cleverly faced and overcome some of these challenges, we are quick to pass these strategies on to others in the field. Why re-invent the wheel?  

This month we wanted to highlight Haley Harrington's pre-K classroom in Del Mar Union School District. She has creatively come up with ways to model symbol, core-based vocabulary for her students on a daily basis that keep her little ones engaged and participating, despite their complex communication needs. 

Check out this video of Haley using Aided Language Stimulation modeling during whole group instruction:

This video, Haley describes, how she created her own core-based classroom communication board:

Here are Haley and her staff in action pairing Video Self Modeling techniques and Aided Language Modeling of core vocabulary:

Once your core classroom board is made, there's no need for day-to-day or week-to-week prep of materials. Core words can be woven into any theme, activity, lesson, or location. That's the beauty of core words!! Additionally, the student is getting large amounts of repetition of these words across settings, communication partners, and activities. 

The BEST part about Haley's classroom is the student engagement and the FUN everyone is having... including Haley!  Thanks for sharing Haley!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Implementing Eye Gaze using Aided Language Stimulation

Here's a great video demonstration how communication partners use Aided Language Stimulation techniques and core word focus within context to teach eye gaze to a new AAC :

Click on this slideshow for evidence-based researched AAC Implementation strategies and techniques:

Monday, October 17, 2016

No time to create low-tech AAC boards? Read on.....

...After just attending the International Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) conference this past August, we here at NCCSE AAC/AT (yep, me and Lydia) can officially (and internationally) confirm and support our mantra:

Core!  CORE!! AND MORE CORE!!!     graphic of the 36 location board

The concept is driven by that fact that as verbal speakers, the highest frequency words we use daily make up about 80% of our vocabulary and 20% is "fringe" or topic/theme specific words. Therefore, why wouldn't we model and provide input to our non-verbal students using these core words. We are simply giving them access to a core bank of words they can use in most any situation, any setting, any activity, to uses anytime they want.

So you say, "I don't have time to make these boards. Plus I don't know what words to put on a core board."  Your concerns have been heard and answered! Here's a great "click + download +  print"  or just "click + print" link in which the work has already been done:

You don't even need to have Boardmaker!  These wonderful folks at UNC Chapel Hill Center for Literacy and Disabilities have even put out the communication boards in pdf format!

Remember, model core vocabulary using Aided Language Stimulation (ALS) as a means to provide much needed input for your students. Down with the demands means we, the communication partner, model our verbal input paired to symbol icons on the student's AAC system without the student having to do anything but attend to the model.

Here's a wonderful example of this in action as Lynsey, classroom staff in Vista, balances her timing of modeling when her student is attending and positively rewarding him for sitting during whole group. Once he has earned his "X's" , she models: "go+get" and allows him to decide if he should go get the desired item or Lynsey should. Way to provide great input Lynsey without demands on him!!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Knock Knock... Who's There? Are you having fun yet with AAC? You should!!

"How come there's no Knock Knock joke about America?"
"Because freedom rings!"

"Do they have a 4th of July in England?"
"Yes. That's how they get from the 3rd to the 5th!"

"What do you get when you cross a duck with a firework?"
"A firequacker!"

It is without a doubt we use communication for a wide range of purposes, especially social interactions. Arguably, we communicate for social pleasure perhaps more than any other reason. All too often, partners of students who use AAC forget to have fun when chatting with them. Teaching them the symbols paired to social chatting for the purposes of quick greetings ("What's up?"  "How ya doing?"  "What's goin' on?"), age appropriate reactions ("Whoooaaa!"  "No way dude!"  "That's sweet!"), and being funny....telling jokes (Yes, that's right, telling jokes) adds an element of engagement that may be missing in their day. We all have a funny side, maybe a sarcastic side, or maybe a dry humor side. Just like any symbol communication, if it's not modeled or made accessible, then our AAC users have no way to express it. Additionally, we all know that AAC and symbol communication learning is contingent on highly preferred, highly motivating, and highly engaging, contextual situations. How engaging, motivating, and exciting is it to make the people in our lives laugh?  Laughter is the BEST medicine for many things that are difficult in our lives!  PrAACtical has a wonderful list of joke resources that will be sure to put a smile on the faces of any of the students you work with:

You can use these jokes on any AAC from the lowest-tech static speech generating devices, such as sequencers, to the highest-tech systems such as an iPad with communication app. In doing so, you create a simple means to teach the cause-effectness of their initiation producing a response in their environment (usually a happy face or laugh from their partners). You also increase their accuracy in selecting icons in a sequence with intent, But most of all, you are tapping into another communication form that is often missing in their social expression.

With the end of the school year right and summer fun right around the corner, why not spend these last few weeks just "jokin' around" with your students? Program and model, model, MODEL some joke telling on their AAC and share a few smiles and laughs together.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Editing- Adding Photos for Beginning Communicators

A thought about programming/editing the device: Before replacing a portion of the icons with photos, think about all the icons (Netflix, Youtube, Disney, Target, etc) The student has learned without being specifically taught. He learned them because they were introduced naturally (they are also motivating). Often the photos create less flexible use of the words (needing 2-3 different photos to request different kinds of chips). I would limit the use of photos to people.