Tuesday, September 4, 2012

AAC homeschooling: Princesses teach -ing verbs

First, let me say that the title is both accurate and tongue-in-cheek.  Maya learns most (as in over 99%) of her AAC use with me at home . . . but that's where our "homeschooling" ends, as she is in full time preschool.  Second, let me preface this by saying I am not an SLP or AAC therapist, so I'm likely making some mistakes here.  (I do consult via email, Twitter, and phone with AAC folks and read everything I can get my hands on, so the stuff that I try out isn't random, but it's not perfect, either.)  If you are an SLP/ATP please feel free to comment with tips & tricks.

Since ISAAC, I've been thinking a lot about Maya and the talker. I would like her to become more independent with it, able to form different types of sentences (besides the "I want xyz please " that she has mastered), to comment on life, to ask questions, etc.  Perhaps the most important thing to do with a kid who uses AAC is to model, model, model speaking with their device (like I say "I like waffles" and tap it on the talker at the same time) . . . but I've been realizing that this isn't enough.  If I want to have a shot at closing the gap between Maya's receptive language (what she understands---seemingly everything) and her expressive language (what she can say, via words or device or whatever), I'm going to need to really target some skills and teach them, through little activities and lessons.

So I've spent about a week reading about typical language development, and then about language development in AAC users.  Then I read about core words and sight words and the most commonly used words in conversation by preschoolers and school aged children.  I had a list of possible things to target (which was way too long) and a list of questions (which was way, way too long).  Some slight harassing of therapists via email and Twitter, combined with a long phone call from one of my favorite AAC specialists, and I felt like I had narrowed things down.

Where to start?  For today, I went with -ing verbs. 

Maya has only had infinitive verbs open on her talker so far (eat, make, help, listen).  I learned that the next verb form that kids typically incorporate in their speech is the -ing (eating, making, helping, listening).  I thought of ways that we could easily use this in conversation and apply it to life (some listed at the bottom of the post), so it seemed to make sense to target. 

And I knew just who could help me---the princesses.  Because Maya *loves* the princesses.

So last night I made flashcards with the princesses doing different things.  (Thanks, Google images.)  I wrote the verbs on the back, but if I were going to re-do this I would probably write them smaller or leave them off, because I've also been thinking about how these cards could be used for a lot of different things.  (Shout-out to my awesome husband for teaching me how to print pictures on index cards, saving me cutting & gluing time.)

Today Maya & I sat together to make a princess book using these cards.  Here's what we did:
1. We selected a princess card, looked at it together, and talked about what the princess is doing on each page.  (The next time that we do this I will likely model "What is she doing" for each page, but I didn't want to overwhelm her this time around)
2. I would write the sentence "Princess is xxx-ing" and model it with the talker. 
3. Maya would "read" the sentence with the talker.  This required various degrees of prompting, which I expected because these words were new to her.  The hope is that over time I can fade the degree of support that she needs.
4. We tape down the card and move on.
She had a great time and was really excited about the cards :)  The book making was fun and easy, and since the book will likely be destroyed by bedtime we can start over anew next time!  Here are some pictures:
At the end, checking out her book and extra cards

I wanted to take a picture of the book but she wouldn't hand it over.

This was the best I could do.
Here's a video.  A few things: ignore the chaos in the apartment, as I've mentioned we're painting and re-arranging and stuff is everywhere. Also, sorry for the weird angles---it's difficult to figure out how to tape an activity when I need to be in it as well.  This video gives you the start of the activity, the making of two pages (from across the table and also showing Maya on the device) and the ending as well.  It's on the longer side (but still less than 5:00), but I thought that seeing more is better than seeing less if you're trying to replicate things at home. 

 If you can't see the video above, here's a direct link: http://youtu.be/TCUUzbLi26w
Ways that we can incoporate & reinforce -ing verbs:
  • ask Maya what she is doing so that she can answer "I am xxx-ing"
  • model by describing what we are doing "I am cooking" "Daddy is writing" "Parker is sleeping"
  • describe what other people/animals are doing on tv shows (if you have DVR and can pause it, that would work really well) "Elmo is dancing"
  • describe what other people/animals are doing in books "Maisy is walking"
I'm also hoping to make the leap to pronouns in the near future, and I'm thinking about how he & she will be helpful for this.  I could make cards with some boys on them (princes? pictures of daddy/grandpas/her cousins) and shuffle them into the princesses and then she could pick between "he" and "she."  But we're not there yet.

Would these princess cards be helpful to you?  If you send me an email (uncommonfeedback@gmail.com)  I'd be happy to email back the word document with these images, which is formatted to print onto 3x5 index cards.


Wandering Heart said...

"Sitting" is a totally different button from "sit", right? Can Maya read, and if not, how does she tell the difference? Just by location? (Sorry if those are stupid questions, I know nothing about AAC.)

Cheryl (in Buffalo) said...

Wow...Great literacy development Mama!!!

Dana said...

WH--no, she can't read. (We're going to target some sight words soon, but definitely not big words like "sitting.")

The app keeps the verb conjugations in the same order. I can't remember it off the top of my head, but I know that it goes infinitive--(something)--ing version. Since the verb form in the middle is hidden right now, it looks like this:

sit (blank space) sitting
read (blank space) reading

They always follow the same pattern, so that's just supposed to get internalized, I think. I'm not used to it yet because it's new to me, too!

Brielle and Me: Our Journey said...

That is awesome! Language is SO important. My non-verbal (but hearing) 16 year old child uses sign language almost exclusively now that we homeschool. However, she used the Dynavox when she attended school (many frustrations with that although it perfectly matched the language system of Signed Exact English). Anyway, kudos to you for being so creative! Making learning fun always makes it easier! :)

Wandering Heart said...

Ahh, fascinating. Thanks!

Jason Skelton said...

That's a hardworking mama! You gave everything and provide the best homeschool resources for her child's fast development. Keep it up!