The Southern California Augmentative and Alternative Communication Network... a support group for professional development, problem solving, leadership, mentoring, and training in the use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to develop communication in non-speaking and minimally verbal individuals in the Southern California Region.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SCAAC-N Summer Meeting Notes - 7/19/11

18 Network members attended; discussion directed and moderated by Sharon Rogers, Ph.D., CCC-SLP; hosted by Villa Esperanza Services, Pasadena, CA

The Importance of Literacy [for AAC Users]:
·      If you can spell, you have access to all of your words
·      The greater the individual’s literacy, the greater their chances to produce volitional, spontaneous communication.
·      Literacy affords users greater opportunity for sustained engagement and allows for greater control over their environment
·      Literacy ore effective participation in the classroom
·      We all know that literacy is a language modality, but for a non-speaking person it is often their only expressive mode
·      We learn to read and then we read to learn
·      Reading can be enjoyable, we are introduced to new perspectives through reading; we experience other ways of being and seeing the world; reading can be a pleasurable, leisure activity
·      We all connect and communicate through print mediums (text message, email, etc.). There are rarely time constraints on written communication (a person doesn’t have to be standing there waiting)
·      Literacy is a fundamental human right

What Has Worked for You: 6 Literacy-Building Teaching/Treatment Ideas from the Network

1.  Interactive Reading books by Greenhouse publications (
Books on two rings, come already made with Velcro picture cards for the last components of a 3-word phrase
·      Actions!
Sample: Where can I dig? I can dig in the sandbox (can you help me make that sentence?)
·      What color is it?
·      I go to school
·      How do I feel?

2.  Matt & Molly picture stories by Linguisystems (click here to view their site)
Simple but funny stories
Seasons, Animals, they come in sets
Read the 4-card stories, then ask questions (possibly Yes/No)

3.  Encourage families to send in pictures of events that were memorable for the student.  Many children had very challenging access issues. Partner assisted communication can help through use of laminated construction paper prompt cards - Identify the big picture of the story in 3 words, put them in a graphic organizer that was color-coded 
(Carol Goosens; click here for more info on color-coding)
·      Yellow (noun), pink (verb), descriptor (blue) - laminated construction paper prompt cards
·      We need a noun – “Mom” (put it up in the yellow slot)
·      ‘Okay, lets look and see what other words we can use to tell your story’

4.  Visual supports for Edmark Reading Program, Level 1 - the TouchChat communication application for the iPad  can be easily customized to include picture-only, pages to match its vocabulary.  The student is then able to “read” the Word Recognition worksheets alongside speaking peers by activating the corresponding picture/button (for nouns/verbs) or a matching sight word (for function words; a, and, I). Click each for more product info:

5.  Picture/word cards for subjects, actions, descriptors, locations in the Reading Milestones curriculum to aide non-speaking students in responding to comprehension questions in joint book-reading with teachers/staff. Click each for more product info:

6.  Accessing intentional vocalization through paired body movement
Singing – changing all beginning phonemes to  /w/ paired with a gross motor movement for that phoneme
Providing a tactile and/or visual prompt to help students pair the feeling with the auditory cue
“Look at my lips, what sound might I be saying”

Additional Literacy Ideas from SCAAC-N

Books for shared reading (from S. Rogers)
·      Flossie and the Fox – children’s book, African American main character
·      Gerald McBoing Boing (Dr. Seuss) lots of sound effects

Nurturing Narratives (Lauren Franke, Psy.D., and Christine Durbin, SLP)– goes through simple books and simplifies the text (Available at, $37.95)

Describes a practical application of the program
Phase 2 – reading and writing simple text
·      Made a personalized book for Jackson
·      What do you see? (Title)
·      Do you see a car? (no pic)
·      Jackson sees a red car (pic of car)
·      Do you see a dog?
·      Jackson sees a dog with a red hat (pic)
Some keyboarding/spelling while the prompter draws out the phonemes

Write:OutLoud software - available from Don Johnston 
From their website - Simple to use and reads words as they are typed, providing real-time auditory feedback. Writing tools, including talking spell checker, homophone checker, and dictionary help your students confirm their word choice in language they understand.

Writing With Alternative Pencils - CD, $35,
Purchase online, click here
– alternate access techniques for physically limitations
Eyegaze board with letters in quadrants, etc:
Center for Literacy and Disability Students
      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
      Bondurant Hall, Suite 1100
      Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four Blocks Way
(Karen Ericson, David Koppenhaver) Book
(Available at, $20.89)
·      Self-seleceted reading
·      Guided reading
·      Writing
·      Working with words

Balanced Literacy and the 4-Block Model - Carol Musselwhite
·      Handout can be downloaded here
·      Focus is on reading and also, always, WRITING
Gloria Soto – lots of work on narratives. Also, download forms and materials on "Collaborative AAC Services in Inclusive Early Intervention Settings" by Soto, Nancy Robinson, & Marci Hanson - click here

SCAAC-N Review of one, packaged literacy curriculum - 
The bulk of our meeting time was spent in small groups, reviewing and evaluating the Curriculum  Guide for the ALL Reading Program.  Read on...

Accessible Literacy Learning Reading Program from Mayer-Johnson
From the Mayer-Johnson website:
The Accessible Literacy Learning Reading Program (ALL; Mayer-Johnson)  is an evidence-based reading instruction program that has been proven highly effective in teaching students with disabilities to read. Developed by Drs. Janice Light and David McNaughton of Penn State, ALL eliminates the need for oral responses, helping even non-verbal students learn to read.
Mayer-Johnson will lend a copy of the Curriculum Guide to individual clinicians or teachers for review.  Sharon Rogers, on behalf of SCAAC-N, obtained a loaned copy for participants to review in small groups as part of this meeting (7/19/11).  The following notes include a mix of the provided Introduction and Goals (Mayer Johnson) as well as SCAAC-N member comments on each section of the Curriculum Guide.

An outline of each content area (nearly identical to the content of the Curriculum Guide) as well as video examples from Light & McNaughton can be viewed at

Each unit includes a GOAL for the unit and a description of the sequence for instruction in that content area, including:
1.    Introduce the Task
2.    Model the Task
3.    Provide Guided Practice
4.    Provide Independent Practice
5.    Data Collection form Example (most units)
6.    Transition Activities
7.    Follow-Up: Extending to Other Texts

I.  Sound Blending
Introduction: Sound blending involves the ability to build words from individual phonemes (sounds) by combining or blending sounds in sequence (e.g., blending the sounds represented by the letters r, u, n to form the word run). Sound blending I essential to the process of reading. As typically developing children learn to decode words, they often say the sound for each letter and then blend these sounds to produce the word.  This chapter provides:
·      a definition of sound bending skills
·      an explanation of the importance of sound blending skills
·      a detailed description of instruction to teach sound blending
GOAL:  The learner will listen to target phonemes in a word presented orally with each phoneme extended 1-2 seconds, blend the sounds in sequence, determine the target word, and indicate the word by selecting the appropriate AAC symbol with at least 80% accuracy.
SCAAC-N Review:
·      Its easier to blend sounds that are held continuously (voiced sounds are easier to blend than voiceless)
·      Exaggerate the sound mmmmooooooommmmm, then identify the picture in a visual field of 4 pictures (no text; e.g., Pic Comm Symbols for: pot, mom, mop, man)
·      Video – ID “toss” and then “bed”
·      One student identified 150 pictured words and gradually learned some intentional vocalization

II.  Phoneme Segmentation
GOAL: The learner will listen to a target phoneme presented orally and will match the phoneme to a word that begins with the target phoneme by selecting the appropriate symbol with at least 80% accuracy.
SCAAC-N Review:
·      Make the sound (not the letter name) = /t/
·      Then say the 4 words, illustrated with picture only, no text, and have the student identify which picture starts with the target sound
·      /m/ easier - up, mom, pot, bat
·      /m/ more difficult - nap, mop, win, hum

III. Letter-Sound Correspondence
Introduction: In order to read, all students need to learn not only the phonological awareness skills of sound blending and phoneme segmentation, but also the code of the written language – specifically the correspondences between the phonemes (sounds of speech) and ht graphemes (letters of the written language that represent speech). This chapter provides:
·      A definition of letter-sound correspondences
·      An explanation of their importance in literacy learning
·      Procedures for teaching letter-sound correspondences
GOAL:  When presented with a sound orally, the learner will identify the letter that represents the target sound by selecting the appropriate letter with at least 80% accuracy.
SCAAC-N Review:
·      Introduced using the most frequently used letters (rather than learning in  A, B, C order)
·      For letters that look similar, they separate them to make them more distinct
·      Short vowels are taught before long vowels
·      They encourage use of lowercase keyboards, because they are more often used
·      Start with highly motivating words (name, favorite characters)
·      Be careful of different fonts – keep the font consistent (Helvetica is often easier to read)

IV. Single Word Decoding
GOAL: When presented with a regular CVC word in print, the learner will decode the word independently and then indicate the word by selecting the appropriate symbol with at least 80% accuracy.
SCAAC-N Review:
·      I’m going to point to the letter and say the sound in your head
·      Start slow and speed up
·      Read license plates, engaging text in the environment

V. Decoding During Shared Book Reading
Introduction: As soon as learners began to acquire single word decoding skills, you should give them numerous opportunities to apply these skills during reading activities with books or other written texts, such as magazines, letters, email, or websites on the internet.  This chapter provides:
·      Insight into the importance of applying decoding skills in authentic reading activities.
·      Instructional goals.
·      Instructional procedures for applying decoding skills while reading.
GOAL: When the instructor reads a sentence in a book aloud, pauses, and points to a regular CVC word (that includes known letter-sound correspondences) in print, the learner will decode the word independently and then indicate the word by pointing, etc. to the appropriate symbol with at least 80% accuracy.
SCAAC-N Review:
·      Pick or make your own simple books that lend themselves to filling in a word
·      Read a line and have the student fill in the last word
·      Highlight the target word where it appears on a page
·      Provide response choices that are already taught, familiar words
·      Reading Milestones books modified by addition of picture choices/communication board for the content of the story – be sure the vocabulary is understood in advance of shared reading

VI.  Sight Word Recognition
Introduction: Not all words in English are regular words that can be decoded using knowledge of letter-sound correspondences and sound blending skills.  This chapter provides:
·      A definition of sight word recognition skills
·      An explanation of the importance of sight word recognition in literacy learning
·      Instructional goals to teach the recognition of sight words
·      Instructional procedures to teach sight word recognition
·      Discussion of the application of sight word recognition skills in book reading activities
·      Extension activities for practicing sight word recognition skills
GOAL: When a target word is presented orally, the learner will identiy the written word that represents the target word independently by pointing to the appropriate written word with at least 80% accuracy.
SCAAC-N Review:
·      Master the sight word first by introducing a foil that is highly different (e.g., discriminating the from in rather than from their)
·      First with one foil, and progress sequentially up to four foils
·      Teach new words and then add some previously mastered words
·      Practice the words, but also include them in a sentence, then ask the student to “read” the sight word in the context of a story by finding the matching sight word from visual choices
·      Includes a data collection form
VII.  Reading Sentences and Short Stories
GOAL: When presented with a short sentence in print (including regular words that can be decoded and sight words that have been taught), the learner will read the sentence independently and then indicate the meaning of the sentence by pointing to the appropriate picture out of a field of 4 with at least 80% accuracy.  Alternatively, the learner will indicate the meaning of the sentence by responding to questions summarizing the content of the sentence or text with at least 80% accuracy.
SCAAC-N Review:
·      Goal to understand the meaning of the sentence, understand it, determine facts, answer questions
·      Picture foils rather than word foils – to identify the picture
·      EX: Discriminate an image that matches the sentence “Zach has a hat”  from the following images: Zac Efron with a hat, other people with a hat, and then Zac with a cat
·      Asking Who and What questions at the start
·      Moving on from single sentences to short stories
·      Students determine facts
·      Encourages use of (and creation of) customized reading materials that match each individual students’ interests in order to increase motivation - Likely time consuming to fabricate, teacher-created response plates

Fall Quarterly Meeting – Save the date for Tuesday, October 18, 2011

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