Supporting AAC in the classroom

It’s time to revisit and oldie but a goodie. I really like checking out the resources and articles found in the DynaVox Learning Paths. You might be tempted to think that you need to know someone or be someone who is using a DynaVox device to be able to benefit from these handouts. Let me tell you that whilst some resources are device specific, there are loads that you can take the information and apply it to any AAC system or app.

Now that we are just getting started with school in the southern hemisphere it’s timely to mention the Learning Path called AAC in the Classroom. But you might also like a number of other topics around AAC and Autism, ALS (more commonly referred to as Motor Neuron Disease in Australia), Adults and lots more. All resources are free to download when you sign up and register with your email address.

The latest article for AAC in the Classroom is called 25 Ways to Increase Classroom Participation for Students who Use AAC. There are some great ideas for teachers to encourage use of communication using any high tech AAC device or app or low tech AAC system. Some of my favourites tips are:

  • Create a positive communication environment with 1) wait time, 2) accepting all forms of communication and 3) provide support when needed as we all need support when we learn something new.
  • Give your students with AAC devices at least one “communication job” every day. This gives them meaningful ways to use their device in the school and opportunities to practice their skills eg. take a message to the principal’s office, deliver canteen orders, lead the school prayers
  • Support social interaction with peers by adding photos to the photo album on the device
  • Use peers to gather “cool” vocabulary to program new vocabulary and phrases into the device
  • Add new information often as saying the same thing over and over gets old quickly. Find out how to modify buttons to add new information.
  • Take 5 minutes to review classroom activities and locate the appropriate vocabulary on the student’s device before your start an activity. You need to know where the words are so that you can help your students if they get stuck.

I encourage you to read the rest of the article and think laterally about how it could apply to students using AAC in your classroom.

And continue to explore the range of articles, handouts, videos, assessment checklists and various other tools while you’re at it. They’re easy to read and very practical. Enjoy!

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About Charlene Cullen

Charlene has worked as a speech pathologist, supporting people with complex communication needs and learning disabilities for the past 15 years. She has worked in a variety of roles within the Disability Services of Western Australia, including Senior Speech Pathologist, Rural and Remote Resource Therapist and Regional Team Manager.

Charlene is a trained Key Word Sign (formerly Makaton) presenter, certified Hanen It Takes Two to Talk presenter and a member of the Apple Consultants Network. Charlene is also an official Proloquo2Go / Proloquo4Text trainer, and TBoxApps Trainer for Therapy Box.

Charlene has developed strong skills in and a passion for, the area of AAC and assistive technologies. She enjoys presenting workshops and providing consultancy services to support and educate parents, teachers and therapists in the use and application of inclusive technologies.

Charlene is a full time member of the Professional and Consultancy Services Team at Spectronics.

AGOSCI State Representative for Victoria (2012-present); Key Word Sign Victoria committee member (2012-present).

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