How well do the teachers and teacher assistants (TAs) in your school(s) support the use of AAC in their classrooms?
Have you ever heard a teacher of a nonverbal child say, “Oh, I will get them talking by the end of the year!”? Great! Hopefully by talking, they mean using AAC.
– Or –
How often have you seen a child’s PECS book or AAC system sit in their cubby untouched and/or not charged? 😦
In my experience, teachers of self-contained classrooms are often focused on academics and less on communication.
- I often sit and observe structured activities such as morning circle, lunch, centers, etc. and I witness the missed opportunities for COMMUNICATION! Especially at lunch or snack. The teachers often just set up lunch for the kids and don’t even give them an opportunity to request, protest, comment, etc! Now, I may not be taking perspective; if I were in their shoes, I might just need to get things moving. Their jobs are so tough!
- “Answering question” goals are targeted when the child’s receptive and expressive vocabulary are significantly delayed. How do you expect them to answer “What did the character do before lunch?” when they don’t understand/express actions OR understand/express temporal concepts (i.e. before/after). YIKES!
So how do we bridge this gap?
I have implemented inservices and collaboration. I think the key is CONTINUED support and education of the IEP team and classroom staff. Many of my TA’s don’t know how to communicate with children with disabilities and often don’t even know that there are alternative methods of communication other than speaking verbally. I remember working with a child whom was using PECS and the TA came over and told the child to sign “more”. I know that she was proud of the child for beginning to use this form of communication but I realized that she didn’t understand what I was doing. The TA was also one who would just require the child to imitate her words/phrases but never gave the child a chance to communicate; no independence and no level/hierarchy of cueing.
This brings me to…educating the staff!
I spent many hours creating this inservice and collected ideas from many sources.
The document can be found at
my TPT store.
First of all, I wanted to share the video that basically changed my focus of therapy with my kiddos that use AAC. Here it is:
Gail van Tatenhove, a SLP that specializes in AAC, stars in the video. She emphasizes the use of Core Words.
I must say that I am OBSESSED with Aided Language Stimulation (aka Aided Language Input).
Excuse my speech but I must admit that it gets very easy to focus on requesting. It’s easy to do this because you are getting an outcome, incorporating what’s motivating for the child, and you are giving them a voice to express their wants/needs. An Assistive Tech. Specialist who works with me in the schools told me that a study showed that when kids/people use comments, their communication partners see them as smarter. Whoa! Let’s remember that communication is more than requesting.
Although I could honestly go on forever, I need to wrap it up. Last but not least, we really need to teach others about prompting hierarchy.
**A note on HAND-OVER-HAND (HOH) assistance
On an AAC website (that I do not recall at the moment), I read that you should never use HOH because then the child will become prompt dependent. However, some children may require this and you can use a hierarchy for HOH prompting. First you can hold their wrist, then their arm, then their elbow, and finally fade the prompting by tapping their shoulder.
How have you educated the staff in your place of employment?
Please comment below!