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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Notes from Norco - PRC Implementation Training (Kara Bidstrup)

This afternoon's PRC training at the Norco USD's Learning Center was excellent!

Some highlights and points to ponder from Kara:

The “Nouners”:
Many students have a wealth of nouns in their spoken or augmented, expressive vocabulary.  While it is great to know the names of the stuff (nouns) that are important in your life, communication with nothing but nouns can hardly happen.  If a learner expresses only nouns, it is his partners’ job to infer or guess (accurately, or inaccurately) the intent or meaning of that expressed noun.  For example, the learner says “cupcake.” The partner may think this message is a request for a cupcake – BUT, there is so much more that may be behind this message, if only the learner had a variety of verbs and/or descriptors in his repertoire.  The message may be: want cupcake, but it could also be:
·      make cupcake
·      where cupcake
·      mommy cupcake
·      pink cupcake
·      eat cupcake
·      drop cupcake
…vocabulary beyond nouns allows the learner to be more clear about their intended message and reduces the need to guess.

Recommended Listening:
The Radio Lab Podcast NPR (to listen, click here)
We meet a woman who taught a 27-year-old man the first words of his life, hear a firsthand account of what it feels like to have the language center of your brain wiped out by a stroke, and retrace the birth of a brand new language 30 years ago (Kara liked this segment of the program on hearing impaired individuals create their own gestural language in South America).

 An argument for providing both WORD-based language teaching as well as access to and practice with PHRASE-level messages:
·      WORDS - In teaching signs we would model PLAY where if we were to mount a voice-output button on the wall, we might record the phrase "I want to play." We would never attempt to teach a new signer the entire, grammatically correct phrase I+WANT+PLAY, but would start at the 1-sign level.  The same should apply to voice output learners - just because can the technology can do it, doesn't mean we should start with phrases.  If we want learners to learn and use a language system, following the course of normal language development is recommended.  All true languages...
... have anaphora (reference back to a previous term so that exact repetition is not needed; e.g., 'Joe is a man, he is good.' ['he' refers back to 'Joe'])
… are generative (you can use the rules of grammar to generate/create/build novel utterances)
… are recursive (the process of repeating items in a self-similar way)
… have metaphor (figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable)
... have polysemy  (words that have 2 or more similar meanings; e.g.,  The house is at the foot of the mountains.  One of his shoes felt too tight for his foot)
  The Quad Profile – Checklist for Profiling Language Samples – is a great resource and guide to remind us about early development of morphology and semantic relations. Download it free by clicking here.

·       PHRASES – offer efficiency when you need it, emergency messages (e.g., "I need the bathroom"), time-sensitive social communication (e.g., cordial greeting - "nice to meet you")

Teaching Ideas - Core Vocabulary:
Gail VanTatenhove has designed a curriculum for teaching core vocabulary.  Known as the Pixon Project Kit ($150), it utilizes Minspeak symbols and relates to PRC's Unity language system (semantic compaction). To view the site, click here.
From the PRC store website:
The PixonTM Project Kit (VanTatenhove) is an early language development program built around the use of low-tech manual communication boards. The program provides materials and strategies needed to support effective early AAC intervention.
The curriculum provided in the Pixon Project Kit focuses on teaching a small set of high frequency, re-useable core vocabulary words. The goal of the curriculum is to provide individuals with complex communication needs with the same words used by typically developing children.
The Pixon Project Kit is a fantastic communication and language curriculum. But it also works as:
  • a stand-alone low-tech communication system.
  • a teaching tool to build language concepts prior to making a transition to a high-tech speech generating device.
  • a complement and back-up system to a high-tech speech generating device.
Sign up for Gail VanTatenhove’s FREE monthly newsletter of great, creative ideas for teaching core vocabulary one target word/concept at a time.  Subscribe in the lower left-hand corner of the Minspeak website, by clicking here.
A recent issue focused on "can" questions, and how to teach use of this question form in a variety of activities.

Kara distributed a CD-ROM to each participant with materials such as games and books to teach and reinforce single and early, multi-hit/word learning.  Many of these resources are online at PRC's AAC Language Lab, here.

Implementation Video Samples:
View over 60 videos, both of users as well as instructional clips, posted on the PRCaccess channel on YouTube. Click here to view their videos.

Mobile Technology Materials:
PRC has developed 16 similar books for the iPad and they are FREE in the iTunes store (search "prentke romich") as well as for Kindle and Nook at, in the Kindle store (search "prentke romich")

PRC's iBooks target the following vocabulary, one book per bullet:
·      on and off
·      in and on
·      stop
·      go
·      play
·      want
·      get            
·      make
·      feel
·      make
·      eat
·      drink
·      going to
·      using “a” and “the” (Title: Scavenger Hunt)
·      using “is” and “are” (Title: Emily and Claire are Friends)
·      Where are Mike and Mickey?
·      Who Took the Bananas from the Banana Tree?

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