Monday, October 20, 2014

More Resources Monday: Pinterest

Today's resource post is a DIY resource: Pinterest!

The reason it's DIY is because, frankly, Pinterest is a bit foreign and overwhelming to me. So many links! So many pictures! At the same time, it's a great place to find, collect, and organize resources that you may want to refer back to or save for later. (Sitting here and thinking about Pinterest is causing me to think that I should really use my account more.)

I'm only going to link to two Pinterest resources, because these two AAC pinners are certainly enough to keep you busy and reading for at least this week:

PrAACtical AAC: See their boards here

Lauren S. Enders, MA, CCC-SLP: See her boards here (there's a lot of stuff here---scroll down until you see a cluster labeled "AAC" if you're not interested in other tech/speech boards)

Happy reading!


Friday, October 17, 2014

#AACfamily Friday: AAC Users & Communication Partners

Welcome to #AACfamily Friday! This week we had a drop in submissions---mid-month slump? (Honestly, it was kind of appreciated during a rather stressful week on my end.) Here are some awesome AAC users with their communication partners!

Felix showing his sister that we programmed "feather" into Speak for Yourself!

3 year old Harry from Australia and his dad playing and having a chat first thing in the morning!

Olivia (who will be 4 in two weeks) using Speak for Yourself on her iPad mini with her brothers, Michael and Jayden, and her sister, Carlie!

A whole AAC family! Jess's parents each went voiceless for several days in October to get the true feel for being an AAC user---you can read about the experience on her mom's blog

James (4) learning to communicate using a Tobii C-12 via auditory scanning with his SLP, Landon. They are playing a fishing game, talking, having a good time!

Maya and Will, chatting in the stroller!

Daniel uses Speak for Yourself to talk to his grandparents, who live far away!

Hosea joking with his sister Avelina by saying "pants" and gesturing to his head!

Thanks for the contributions-I look forward to seeing these pictures each week! For next week's #AACfamily Friday post, anything goes: any AAC related picture is game. More information is more fun, so try to include your location and the name of the device/app. Email submissions to me (by next Thursday, 8pm EST) at: 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: I Am Not A Mindreader (And Neither Are You)

This is for all of the parents who think "We really don't need AAC at home, because I can tell what he wants to say" or "I can understand about half of her words, and when she combines them with gestures I get the main idea." 

This is for the teachers/staff who think "She's vocalizing so much! I don't want to encourage the device when she's trying to talk instead" and "He's so communicative---he'll grab our hands and point to the paint and that's a pretty clear way of saying 'let's paint', so we can leave the talker off to the side."

You are selling these kids short when you do that. You are predicting that they are trying to say something simple (let's paint) instead of something complicated (your hands can reach the paint but not mine-it's too high!). 

We are not mindreaders. This throwback post explores this point:


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Getting Started with Meaningful Modeling

So you’ve got an AAC device and you’re ready to see the magic of communication unfold? 

Well, get ready to jump in and help with the unfolding, because this is going to require your participation. Look back at Monday’s post about aided language input, check out yesterday’s video clips of modeling in action, and get ready to jump in. (Or, to re-jump in, because modeling never stops. Once your child is speaking in 6 word sentences, you can model 7 word sentences. Or metaphors. Or alliteration. Or something. There’s always more.)

First things first: you have some work to do before you can start modeling.  You need to learn the language. I remember the first night we had Maya’s app: as soon as she was in bed I sat with in a tapped in and out of screens, trying to note where important words were.  Here are some tricks that might be helpful:

  • Read a children's book using your child's device. Choose something simple, substitute pronouns (he/she/it) for overly specific vocabulary that you may not have programmed yet.

  • Have a conversation with your spouse, a friend, or yourself, using only the device as your voice.
  • Look at any random thing in your line of sight and describe it using the device: what it is? what can you do with it? what are some adjectives that you could apply to it (color, texture, materials, attributes)?

This is a blue, hard chair. I can sit on the chair, and you can too. 
I can push on the chair and make it go.
She can sit on the chair and so can he, but not everyone together. 
It is a small chair, not a big one. I can step on the chair and climb up high. 
Can you step up? Be careful not to fall! 
I like the blue chair, but I love yellow chairs. What color do you like?

  • If you're a member of an online users group, see if other parents want to connect over Skype/Facetime and try to talk using only the device.

Now that you've prepped, you need to figure out what to model. 

How many words to model: If you read this post on the Speak for Yourself blog, you would have in mind that it's a good start to model one more word than the child is currently producing (sometimes I mix it up and throw in a few complete sentences---you know your user and you'll see what works best for them). 

Which words to model: Core words offer the most bang for the buck. There are only a few conversations that involve the word "rhinoceros" . . . but the words "go" "can" "make" "stop" "on" "off" "in" "out" . . . well, you probably use them everyday, many times, without even noticing. Ideally, you want to make sure you're modeling a nice mix of nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc. (Old school AAC focused a lot on making choices/requests from a field of nouns, and the verbs were shelved for too long.) All of that being said, if your child is rhinoceros obsessed, then teach it! And then, quickly, start teaching about how the rhinoceros can move or stop, is heavy, has four feet, etc.

Which types of speech to model: Besides thinking about the specific words you're modeling, think about the different ways that people use language. If you want to help model communication, you need to model all types of communication. Speech is used for a ton of different purposes. Imagine sitting with a child and a pumpkin (since fall is in the air)---here are some different types of language that can be modeled just about one pumpkin. 

Functions of Language


“pumpkin”   “orange” “That is a pumpkin.”


“Give me that” “Give me pumpkin” “For me”

Asking questions

 “What is that?”   “Is it heavy?” “Is it big?” “Can you pick it up?” “Can it move?”  “What can you tell me about that thing?” "Where could we look for pumpkins?" "When do you see pumpkins in the store?" "Do you know a holiday that has to do with pumpkins?"  "Who can eat a pumpkin?"

Answering questions

(answer any of the stuff above)

Getting someone’s attention

“Look! A pumpkin!”


if the child isn’t interested in what you’re doing
“Don’t like this.” “No pumpkins!” “Hate pumpkin!” “Something different now.”


“This pumpkin is so big!” “Pumpkins grow outside.”
“The pumpkin feels bumpy.” “I like this color.”


“Can we cut it up and make a pumpkin pie?”
“This is my pumpkin!”
“I really like this blue pumpkin.”


referring to the box directly above
“Not yours---mine!”
“No! Orange pumpkin!”

Bossing people around

Roll the pumpkin and have the child direct the activity:
“Go!” “Stop” “Go faster!” “Go slower!”


(in the activity above)
“No more game. All done.” “Not done. More now!”


Tell the pumpkin not to roll. Tell the child that the pumpkin isn’t going to roll anymore. Roll the pumpkin and pretend that you didn’t see it happen (or have a puppet/doll push it and pretend you didn’t see)

“It went!” “More rolling!” “I saw it go!” “Naughty!” “Sneaky!” “Silly pumpkin!”

Talking about feelings

“I like the pumpkin” “The pumpkin makes me happy”

Talking about the past

“Last year we went to pick a pumpkin at the farm.”

Talking about the future

“Maybe we can go pick a pumpkin tomorrow.”

And that's not a comprehensive list of language functions, either! And it's just one silly pumpkin! Imagine all of the great stuff you could say about something that's actually cool!

At this point, you could be thinking Wait, I couldn't really say any of that stuff with our system. It's too hard to model novel sentences on, or We have a lot of specialized vocabulary but not a lot of core words, or We have a lot of nouns and requesting words but I don't think I've ever noticed the question words. Well then . . . it may be time to re-evaluate your system. If the words aren't there, or if they are there but in a way that you (as a fully literate adult without motor/access challenges) can't get to them easily, then this is not a fair long-term set-up for your child.

Hopefully you're thinking Wow! I'm really getting this! But understanding is easier than actually doing it. And that's true. You know what makes modeling easier? Planning. For some reason I just thought modeling for Maya would come naturally (which it did, a little, but certainly not to the extent that I'm discussing here). I attended the ISAAC conference in 2014 and was impressed by the amount of planning and structure that went into the AAC interventions that were presented and discussed. I realized that I should approach AAC teaching/learning the same way that I would approach any other type of teaching/learning (by planning and preparing ahead of time). 

Here are two resources that may help you to approach modeling with a bit of forethought: 

First, this brainstorming chart from the Speak for Yourself team lets you start simply---what's one thing that your child really loves---and helps you build from there. (It originally appeared here.)

Second, here's an empty copy of the chart I made above. If you're a planner, you can think about an activity (play-doh? reading a book? playing with toy cars? digging a hole outside?) and brainstorm different things that you could model. You can view and print it here.  

Remember, this is a marathon. All modeling is good modeling. Any time you use AAC to communicate, you are validating and supporting your child's use of AAC. The offerings here may help to boost your modeling game and help you target language in a more meaningful way, but don't waste one second feeling badly if you read this and thought "well, there's another thing I don't have time for." Maybe you don't have time today, but you can carve out time at some point this week to work on this (put it on your calendar). This adds up. This will make a difference.

Happy Modeling!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Take-A-Look Tuesday: Aided Language Input/Modeling

Yesterday I gave you some links and information about aided language input, today you can see it in action. Continuing the Take-A-Look Tuesday theme for #AACawareness month, here are some video clips worth watching about ALI!

Note: These are all YouTube hosted public listed videos. I don't own them (well, except for the two that have my kids in them) or have any affiliation with anyone involved in them.

This is a really solid, great overview to Aided Language Input. I love how it doesn't focus on requesting, but shows how to model comments, questions, and many other things that a child (or, really, any person) might want to say.

This video is about using a PODD book for communication, but the first three minutes demonstrate some great modeling and exploration that would be useful to an AAC communication partner on any type of system:

This clip shows modeling in a therapy session with a 2 year old who is new to AAC:

This video (of Maya and I) shows dual device modeling--when the AAC user has their device and the communication partner uses a second device to model. At home we use a mix of modeling on one device and dual device modeling:

This video shows modeling in action with an older student (longer sentences, questioning).


This video (of my kids) shows Will learning the word "drink" on his talker. There is modeling in the beginning and then again around 1:45 (and I think this shows the light, fun tone that home AAC use can/should have):


Hungry for more videos about modeling? Check out this Pinterest Board from the great Lauren Enders: AAC Video Example of Implementation/Aided Language Support.


Monday, October 13, 2014

More Resources Monday: Aided Language Input (Stimulation?) (Modeling?)

Once upon a time I spent months (slightly over a year, actually) searching desperately for an AAC system that could be used by my (very young) daughter immediately, yet grow with her into adulthood. It kept me awake at night. I spent all of my free time researching. I was completely consumed. And during this time an assistive tech specialist happened to say to me "Finding the system is the easy part . . . once you have it on the table in front of you  . . . that's when the real work begins."

I hated that I was drowning in "the easy part" . . . but he was right. You fight for a system, you get a system, and then you look at it and think, "Well then. So, um, here you go? Can't wait to hear all of the stuff you want to say! Hop to it!" The truth of the matter is simple, and I've heard the piano analogy used again and again to explain it to new AAC families/professionals: being given an AAC system doesn't make someone a proficient AAC user anymore than being given a piano makes someone a proficient pianist. There must be teaching, practice, and frequent use of the device/instrument.

The type of teaching that is, far and away, the most successful for AAC users is called Aided Language Input. No, it's called Aided Language Stimulation. No wait, it's called Modeling.  Actually those are just different terms for the same thing---and the main idea is simple: If you want someone to use an AAC device to communicate, you have to use the AAC device to communicate. If you want to help a user see how to locate words and build phrases, you must model how to locate words and build phrases.

modeling for my kids (I'd rather sit next to them while modeling, but there had just been a who's-sitting-in-mom's-lap seating battle. 2 kids + 3 talkers + 1 lap does not = success)

Think for a second about the way that adults model language for babies--we expect that they will speak, and so we speak to them so that they have hours and hours of input before they begin speaking back:
The typically developing child will have been exposed to oral language for approximately 4,380 waking hours by the time he begins speaking at about 18 months of age. 
Compare that to a child using AAC, who may only have modeling/teaching on the system during speech sessions (in this example, twice a week):
If someone is using a different symbol set and only has exposure to it two times a week, for 20 – 30 minutes each, it will take the alternate symbol user 84 years to have the same experience with his symbols that the typically developing child has with the spoken word in 18 months!!! -Jane Korsten 
Shocking, right? The first time I heard that Korsten quote (which I broke into two pieces above) I wanted to run home and start modeling constantly in an attempt to even the playing field.

Here are a few resources about modeling/ALI/AlgS* to get you started:

  • So now you know you should model, but how? Which words? How many words? This blog post from Speak for Yourself, Simon Says: Model One More Word, gives concrete guidance and examples as to how to model in a way that will both meet your child where he/she is and also help to push for longer utterances. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for Take-a-Look Tuesday, where I'm going to feature videos that show ALI in action!

*the abbreviation used for "aided language stimulation" is AlgS, so as to avoid confusion with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Friday, October 10, 2014

#AACfamily Friday: Week Two: AAC out and about!

It's time to celebrate our AAC families---near and far, older and younger, using different systems and philosophies--and come together as a community!

AAC use isn't limited to people sitting at home, or sitting in the classroom---it happens everywhere! Any place that a speaking person might want to talk, an AAC user should have access to their device (hint: that's everywhere). Here are some photos sent in by AAC users and supporters out and about with their devices:

Daniel shopping with his mom, talking about "green" and "yellow" bananas using Speak for Yourself! (Frederick, MD)

Millie (2) using her iPad with Proloquo2Go in the car to talk about her breakfast! (Brisbane, Australia)

Hosea (4) watching his sister drive a go-cart (before his turn)! He's using an iPad running Speak for Yourself. (Florida)

Lily Grace (5) rocking her PODD book while riding a steam engine! (San Francisco)

Westin ordering balloons with help from Proloquo2Go!

Ham, 2.5,  telling her favorite joke, "Oh no. What happened?" with Speak for Yourself! Check out her mom's blog here!

Jess heading to work with Speak for Yourself! Check out her mom's blog here!

Mirabel (3) at Culvers (restaurant) patiently waiting for her ice cream! (Ohio) 

Dylan modeling his little brother Charlie's PODD book out and about! (Nottingham, UK)

Eva using Proloquo2Go at her fiddle lesson! (Saskatchewan, Canada)

 Motivational speaker Glenda Watson Hyatt uses the Proloquo4Text app on her iPad to rock the room at the InBound Conference in Boston, mid-September!

Her message: "This is your life. There are no dress rehearsals. Go out and live it!" Check out her website here

 Evie using her iPad with TouchChat to ask for a hot dog . . . 

And, success! (at Detriot's iconic Lafayette Coney Island)

Maya and her mom using Speak for Yourself while out to dinner! You're reading her mom's blog right now. (New York City)

 Jack and his AAC specialist, Mary-Louise Bertram! (Australia)

Jack accesses his customized PODD book via auditory scanning---and has written some amazing poetry! To read one of his pieces, follow this link and scroll down until just until the black box with the whale information!

 Jonas (7) using his PODD book in the air . . . 

and at the park! (France)

Elanor in her carseat with her ever-present talker, an iPad mini running Speak for Yourself! (Check out her mom's blog here.)

Cadence using her talker (Speak for Yourself) at the grocery store! (London, UK)

 Ordering ice cream with Proloquo2Go!


Eva (5), using Talk Tablet on a walk! (France) 

Nik shopping at Target with his Accent 1000 (from PRC)! Check out his mom's blog here!

Nicole (25) using Proloquo2Go at her weekly bowling trip! (Nashville, TN)

 Lexy using AAC at the pumpkin patch . . . 

  and while choosing flowers to visit  . . .

at the local park!

Christopher (7) with his AAC device: an iPad mini running an extremely customized version of TouchChat (with 112 buttons per screen) while wading in the river at camp!

Eva (8), using the AACORN app, which is new to her, at the grocery store. (Saskatchewan, Canada)

Tia Sara using AAC picture cards at the mini zoo to talk about the animals that she is seeing. (Slovenia)

Ashlyn using Proloquo2Go on her school field trip to the pumpkin patch . . . 

and on the hayride!

 Felix and Speak for Yourself . . . 

 on a walk . . .

through the leaves!

 Campers using various systems at Camp ALEC, an AAC and literacy camp! (Philadelphia, PA)

 More information about the camp can be found here!

And a few from some dedicated AAC-loving SLPs:

"Heading out for an AAC consultant with a school team for a student we share. AAC device in tow!" from Cassandra of Vlinder Therapies

Angela of OMazing Kids has new vocabulary added to the Aacorn app for several pumpkin-themed books, with Mr. Pumpkin Head!

A cute and trendy strap made by a super crafty SLP, with more details here. 

And now for next week's theme: as we all know, AAC learning (and usage) doesn't happen alone. Giving an AAC device to a child doesn't make them an AAC user any more than giving a child a piano makes them a pianist. So, for next week, let's see AAC users (and their devices) with someone else: a parent, a sibling, a friend, a therapist, a cousin, a teacher, a pet----anyone! 

The more information you include, the more fun it is to see the pics (name of user, type of device, name/relationship of communication partner, location). Photos to be included must be emailed to me  at by Thursday night at 8pm (EST). Please email them there and don't message me or tag me on Facebook---it's too hard for my tired brain to keep track of all of them.

If you liked this week's #AACfamily photo post, check out last week's!