Monday, December 28, 2015

A New Year's AAC Modeling Resolution (with printable and social networking)

Happy almost 2016!

With the new year often comes a renewed energy to tackle new projects, or to re-tackle old ones. And what better project to focus on than modeling for the AAC users in our lives? We all know that it's the most important thing that we can do to support people who are learning to use (or learning to master) AAC  (supported by both anecdotal evidence and by research) and yet sometimes it's hard to make it work. It takes time, it can feel awkward (if you're struggling to find words), and it can be overwhelming (what to model? how many words? how often? etc).

But you have to do it. You just have to.

So do I.

Over the summer I hosted a modeling challenge that was great---I learned  things, Maya gained a bunch of new words, my fluency increased dramatically, and I became so used to having a talker with me that it actually felt strange when I didn't have it nearby.

But I couldn't keep it going.

Like many other abandoned projects (or resolutions), a few off-kilter days turned into a few non-attempted days and then it just slipped away. The thing about a few bad days is that they make it hard to remember how good the good days were---how many days you had worked hard for, the effort that you put in.

You know what makes things easier to remember? Data. (Oh man, I love data.)

Resolutions (and other projects) are much more likely to stick if there is some sort of data being tracked. Some sort of check-in. Something that keeps you accountable, and also serves as a confirmation that you are working on something---you have goals. You are doing big things. You are awesome. The tricky thing about the data collection is that it needs to very carefully balance between being-meaningful-enough-to-really-collect-data and not-being-a-lot-of-work-because-really.

So here's my proposal: we (re)commit to modeling, and we collect data. We do it in a way that will yield real accountability (and information), yet also won't be that taxing. I've made some data forms (which you can download, at no charge).  Here we go:

The Tracker


  • Daily tracker grid
  • Week in Review summary chart
  • "New Stuff" comments box
  • Reflection comments box
  • Month in Review summary chart
  • Monthly reflection box
  • Monthly goals box
How to use: This is really simple, guys, but I'm going to go ahead and break it down, because why not.

Step 1: Fill in the month (blue box) and the week (purple box) and print the tracker. The document has 5 weekly trackers built in for each month (it's a 3 page document). 

Step 2: At the end of each day, select the appropriate face/rating to reflect your modeling that day (in the blue box).

Here's how to choose:
  • 0/Sad face = It just didn't happen. I didn't touch a talker today.
  • 1/Neutral face = I touched a talker, but not for long. Minimal modeling.
  • 2/Happy face = I did it! It was a good modeling day!
  • 3/Celebration face = I am a modeling superstar! 
Pick the face matches that matches your modeling that day (important: this is about your modeling, not about your child's interest or AAC use---just rate yourself) and circle it or shade it in. That's it! That's the only daily tracking commitment that you have--it takes about 4 seconds.

Step 2.5: Yeah, I said 2.5. The next step is to shade in the "Week in Review" chart(the purple box). It makes a little bar graph to summarize how many days you spent in each 0/1/2/3 rating zone. You can either do this on a daily basis or at the end of the week (which is why it's Step 2.5). 

Step 3: Use the notes boxes. The first box (blue) can be used to track words that you add, combinations or skills that you're targeting, etc. The second box (purple) is a great spot to keep track of victories or failures, make notes about your child's use, etc. You can write in these daily, or at the end of the week. If you need more space, use the back of the page (I recommend printing one-sided to allow for this). 

Here's an example of what a completed two weeks could look like: 
Step 4: At the end of the month, fill in the "Month in Review" chart. Then write a few reflections on the month, and set a few goals for the month ahead. Here's a sample of what that could look like:

Step 5: Check in on Facebook. There are a few ways to increase your odds of sticking with a resolution: data tracking is one way (check!) and involving friends/community is another. Let's build a community of AAC family members, friends, and professionals who are committed to daily modeling and data tracking. At a minimum, I will put up a weekly modeling check-in (every Friday morning) on our FB page (Uncommon Sense Blog), and you can share your successes, questions, struggles, and photos of that week's tracker :)

  • Hang this somewhere that you're going to be confronted with it. I'm taping mine to the cabinet where I keep our daily medicines---unavoidable. I may even tape a pen on a string next to it (kidding-not-kidding). 
  • For the first month, your only job is to write on this paper everyday. That's it. If you shade in the "0/Sad face" boxes every day for the first month, you are a success. You have followed through. You have tracked the worst month you will ever track, and you will move on from there. But write on the darn sheet, no matter what. The first month is, at a minimum, about getting AAC modeling on your mind on a  daily basis---even if the interaction is "Oh man, I really need to up my modeling game."
  • If you are a January resolution zealot, go with it. Take copious notes. Fill the back of the modeling sheet with details about each day. Staple extra pages to the packet. And know that if you run out of steam some day, and start simply circling that day's face, you are no less successful than you were when you were taking all-of-the-notes.
  • It's not accidental that this is collecting pretty minimal data. I wanted the effort to be low enough that any beginner-to-AAC, or any not-really-a-beginner-but-SO-busy-communication-partner, could get started without hesitation. I expect that some people will find this to be simplistic. I'm ready for that. Let's use this for a month or two, trade ideas about what's working and not working, and roll out another version in February/March if it feels necessary. Or, if you decide to make an alternate version, share it in one of our Friday posts. If this works for you, stick with it. Whatever works is awesome.

Let's do this.

First, download the tracking document here (by the way, the preview on Google docs looks sloppy, but the formatting corrects itself when you download the document).  (Edited to add: Mac users, the formatting won't work for you. Download the Mac friendly version here---you'll have to write in "week one" etc in the margin, I couldn't get vertical boxes to work!)Also, if you want to download the directions/rubric/samples included in this post, I've made a downloaded document that you can get here. 

Next, come on over to the Facebook page on Friday (Jan 1) and say hello to your fellow resolutioners. (You can also come by now and say hello on the getting-started thread---but I'll make sure to have a let's-go-do-this post on Friday morning.)

Last, embrace your awesomeness.

Modeling posts to get you started:



Anonymous said...

How did I just find this blog??? Thank you for posting data sheets and real help. I have two children 12 year old boy severe Autism - then I waited almost a decade because I was scared- and have a three year old daughter with atypical Autism. So love the humor and the help found here. Good Vibes from one mom to another.

Chari R.

Rose-Marie said...

Thanks so much for the data sheets! It's just the kick in the drawers I needed. You've made them simple, quick and very nicely reflective. I love your attitude that doing something at all is a big step--how I need that!

My daughter (19 years old and 6 months into her Tobii accessed with eye gaze) has been telling me in no uncertain terms things like "not" "help" "me" and "have" "it" "myself." Clearly, "helping" her is a violation of her wishes (such a HUGE blessing, because we've been very concerned about the learned helplessness she displays in other areas). But she WILL accept modeling as long as I am using her device to talk to her (just not to help, thank you!).

Your timing with the first of the year approaching is perfect. My daughter is undertaking a photojournalism + written captions project as her communication goal for the new year; this makes a lovely goal for me as her support.

MooseLoon said...

I think this is awesome, and a great way to approach tracking of... anything. I read this and thought "I need this for working on my dissertation!" I agree about the data & checking in for sticking to goals.

RinL said...

The formatting didn't correct itself on my mac. Downloaded as a pdf and everything. Just letting you know - I'll likely reproduce something like this to use instead.

Dana said...

RinL---Ugh, that's annoying. Wish I could help! If you email me ( I can email you the word doc directly, which will maybe eliminate the issue?