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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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

AAC Quotables

“Having a communication device doesn’t make you an effective communicator, any more than having a piano makes you a musician (Beukelman, 1991)”.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Minspeak E-Newsletter, Issue 54

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July 30, 2012

  • Pixon Teaching Tip: Provide a hands-on experience to teach the Pixon for “why”. The Pixon shows a woman pointing to her head with a question mark. One teacher made a question mark and attached it to a headband. The person who was wearing the headband would be “it” when playing the “why” game. The “why” game involves asking a series of questions about a situational picture, much as a little child continually asks “why” when you are explaining something.

    Situation = A girl is crying. A broken vase is on the floor.
    1. Why crying = because she is sad
    2. Why sad = because she broke something
    3. Why break = because she dropped it
    4. Why drop = because it was heavy
    5. Why heavy = because she is too little to carry it

  • Intervention Planning: Create more communication opportunities this week to encourage your person using Minspeak to ask “why” questions, combining “why” with another word or phrase (e.g., why not, do you know why, tell me why).

  • Teaching Materials Exchange: Friendship Day is the first Sunday of August. Use the Friendship Day book to ask questions and learn about it. The book is coded with Pixons and icon sequences from Unity®45, Unity®60, Unity®84, and Unity®144.

  • Core Vocabulary Webinar: Gail Van Tatenhove will be doing a webinar entitled “Using Core Vocabulary in General Education Classrooms: Dealing with the Academic Vocabulary” on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 from 3:30 − 5:00 EST as part of the ATIA 2012 Online Webinar Series. Don’t miss this opportunity.

Saturday, July 28, 2012 Apps for Ed Spreadsheet (Wow!) blog
lists apps in the following categories:

·      Early Learning  
·      Elementary  
·      Middle Secondary  
·      Adult  
·      AAC  
·      Abstract Language  
·      Artic/ Phonology  
·      Auditory Processing/ Hearing  
·      Describing  
·      Early Concepts  
·      Executive Function  
·      Expressive Language  
·      Following Directions/ Receptive Language  
·      Grammar/ Syntax  
·      Literacy/ Reading/ Spelling  
·      Memory  
·      Pragmatics/ Social  
·      Semantics/ Vocabulary  
·      Speech  
·      Written Language  
·      Interactive Books  
·      Handwriting  
·      Visual Perceptual Skills  
·      Reference  
·      Math  
·      Other Curriculum  
·      Other   Games        

ASHA Perspectives Exams (for CEUs) are BACK!

Perspectives Exams/June Issue Previous  
Posted: July 27, 2012 3:36 PM
Subject: Perspectives Exams/June Issue
PDFs of CE questions are back! Responding to your requests, we're adding preview copies of test questions to Perspectives. In SIG 12's June issue, which published earlier this week, click the link "CE Questions (PDF)" from the issue's Table of Contents page:

Over the next few weeks, we will be uploading the CE questions PDFs to older issues. Stay tuned!

To take the test, click on the "Earn CEUs Now" link from the Perspectives page. This will take you to the ASHA Store, where you can simply locate your SIG's issue of Perspectives, purchase the exam for $5, and then:

1. Access the ASHA Learning Center using the link on your invoice or select "My Account" in the top right corner of the ASHA website.
2. Login using your ASHA login (your e-mail address) and password.
3. Select "Access Your ASHA Courses."
4. Locate the course name, click "launch," and begin the test by selecting "exam" from the left navigation bar.

Please contact ASHA Professional Development ( with questions, concerns, and feedback related to Perspectives CE self-studies.

Reminder: As a SIG affiliate, you may read the content of any of the 18 SIGs' Perspectives issues free of charge.

Victoria Koulakjian
Rockville MD

Friday, July 27, 2012

5 Great Things (PrAACtical AAC)

New Favorite Blog: PrAACtical AAC! Link HERE.  A little taste...posted by on July 14, 2012 and July 25, 2012 in PrAACtical Thinking 

5 Under-Used Strategies in AAC

5 Under-Used Strategies in AAC
1. Partner-assisted scanning (PAS) offers great flexibility and spontaneity. Don’t want to take your SGD to the beach? A print-out of the screens and PAS is a great option. Missing key messages for the trip to the doctor’s office? A minute of brainstorming and the use of PAS may just save the day. No way for your client to access her device once she’s in bed? A communication board/book and PAS just might do the trick.
2. Voice banking: For people are likely to lose their speech due to a degenerative disease, like ALS, the option of saving samples of their speech and having it digitized for future use seems to hold great appeal. We’d love to see more SLPs familiarize themselves with this strategy and the tools to implement it, so that this option is more widely used about individuals whose speech is deteriorating.
-5 Under-Used Strategies in AAC
3. Qualitative rating scales to express opinions and indicate gradations in feelings. (This free app, Autism Help 4 Me, is a good example of a scale to indicate pain or discomfort in emergency situations.) Make your own for an easy way for a client to express opinions and preferences.
4. Aided language input is a powerful way to build language in people learning AAC. If we had to name a top strategy for AAC clinicians to master, this would be it.
5. Task analysis: SLPs are language teachers but we don’t always get the in-depth training we need in general teaching methods. The skill of breaking down a task to its component steps is helps us be clearer in our instruction and gives us the option of teaching through backward chaining or forward chaining.

5 Ways to Use Rating Scales to Enhance Communication with AAC

5 Ways to Use Rating Scales to Enhance Communication with AAC
In an earlier post, we lamented the under-utilization of a quick and effective strategy: qualitative rating scales. You may not know them by that name, but we all know them. Also called Likert-type scales, we’ve seen these a multitude of times when we were asked to give an opinion. Strongly agree to Strongly Disagree. Excellent to Poor. Always to Never.
There are only a few guidelines to using these with AAC folks. One is to make sure to use appropriate visual supports.  Literate AAC users may be very comfortable with text-only options, but for other learners, we need to add images so it makes sense to them. Another suggestion is to stick with an odd number of options: 5 seems to be the norm in clinical practice, but you can certainly adjust to fit the learner’s needs. For some a 3-point scale would be best. Others may want more detail and use a 7-point scale. Finally, once you have the scale, create a short activity to teach the AAC learner how to use it. For example, you might have a stack of pictures of foods, some of which are wonderful and others which are awful. Going through those one-by-one and placing them on a scale (e.g., Love It/Okay/Hate It, Yummy/OK/Yucky, Great/Not Sure/Awful) give the learner a better understanding of what to do.
5 Ways to Use Rating Scales to Enhance Communication with AAC
Here are some ideas for how to use rating scales in your AAC therapy.
1. Express opinions: We can create scales to help clients give an opinion.
  • Possible Anchor Points: Love it/Hate it, Wonderful/Terrible, Beautiful/Ugly, Cool/Geeky, Awesome/Boring
-2. Choose topics to be included in their vocabulary: Involve the learner in selecting vocabulary for his/her device by presenting options and getting their input on content.
5 Ways to Use Rating Scales to Enhance Communication with AAC
  • Possible Anchor Points: Essential/Not Essential, Keep it/Toss It, Absolutely/Never, Love It/Hate It, Perfect/Perfectly Awful
-3. Choose wording for the messages: Once the learner has rated the content you suggested for vocabulary, you can use rating scales again to have them give input on the specific wording of the message. For example, a client who needs messages to be able to interrupt others might be given these options to rate using the scale you made for # 2: Excuse me; Pardon me; May I tell you something?; Need you for a second; I have something to tell you; Do you have a minute? etc.-
5 Ways to Use Rating Scales to Enhance Communication with AAC
4. Quick way of indicating pain: Pain scales are becoming more popular in hospitals, but they’re also useful at home and in school. If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know how important it would be to differentiate that from a regular headache. Our AAC learners need these options, too.
5. Inviting the opinion of others: Use rating scales to give the AAC learner a way to engage partners in dialogue. Some years ago, we had campers in our AAC & Literacy Camp do daily surveys on topics of interest and have people around the clinic rate things such as how well they liked a song, movie, or book. These scales can be used to invite people to rate things like current events, hobbies, foods, vacation spots, pets, outfits, places to eat, etc.
We’d love to hear more ideas of how you’re using rating scales with people who are learning AAC. Send a comment to Praactical AAC and Carole by clicking HERE.

JOBS! AAC Advisor, Jharkhand, India

Start Date: November 15, 2012
Term of Assignment: 12 months
Application Closing Date: Sunday, 30 September 2012 

What does the role involve?
You will work with the staff of Deepshikha (agency) to build their capacity and improve their knowledge and skills in working with children with disabilities and specifically autism. To do this you will:
  • Assist community based rehabilitation (CBR) and institution based programmes
  • Train staff on Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC)
  • Organise workshops on alternative means of communication and enabling staff to work effectively with children with disabilities, especially Autism.
  • Assist the existing CBR & Institution based programme
  • Organise workshops for staff on alternative means of communication both the theory and practice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Perspectives: Review of 21 Communication Apps

Today's Division 12 Perspectives has a great-sounding article. If you're not a member of this ASHA Special Interest Group, join HERE.  Click on the title below for a link to the article (requires login).
A Review of 21 iPad Applications for Augmentative and Alternative Communication Purposes. Authors: Ashley Alliano, Kimberly Herriger, Anthony D. Koutsoftas, and Theresa E. Bartolotta. Source: Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication 2012;21 60-71


Using the iPad tablet for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) purposes can facilitate many communicative needs, is cost-effective, and is socially acceptable. Many individuals with communication difficulties can use iPad applications (apps) to augment communication, provide an alternative form of communication, or target receptive and expressive language goals. In this paper, we will review a collection of iPad apps that can be used to address a variety of receptive and expressive communication needs. Based on recommendations from Gosnell, Costello, and Shane (2011), we describe the features of 21 apps that can serve as a reference guide for speech-language pathologists.
We systematically identified 21 apps that use symbols only, symbols and text-to-speech, and text-to-speech only. We provide descriptions of the purpose of each app, along with the following feature descriptions: speech settings, representation, display, feedback features, rate enhancement, access, motor competencies, and cost.
In this review, we describe these apps and how individuals with complex communication needs can use them for a variety of communication purposes and to target a variety of treatment goals. We present information in a user-friendly table format that clinicians can use as a reference guide.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Assistive Techology Blog

The Assistive Technology Blog is a publication of the Virginia Department of Education's Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) at VCU.

The Case Against Assistive Technology (Don Johnston)

Everyone Communicates - Communication Partners

Everyone Communicates is a site dedicated to people who are still waiting for a means to communicate more effectively. They hope thier site helps to bring access to communication to more people so that someday soon everyone will have the opportunity to communicate effectively, and no one will have to spend days or years or a lifetime in silence.

Learn More Links

Communication Partners
Education of Service Providers who Deal with Persons who Communicate Using AAC, A Speaking Differently Position Paper. "... [of] greatest concern is the tendency for persons such as doctors or government employees to ignore persons with little or no speech in favour of their attendants or facilitators during examinations, treatment, meetings and other interactions." Includes recommendations for training of professionals.

Strategies for Supporting Friendship for All Students by Carol Tashie and Zach Rossetti. "Some strategies that students, teachers, and families in New Hampshire have found useful to value and support all students to have the rich and enviable social lives they deserve ... As you think about strategies, it is crucial to keep in mind that unless a student is truly valued, fully included, and consistently treated with the highest of expectations, well-meaning strategies can easily result in relationships based on benevolence and pity, not mutual respect and appreciation."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

RERC (Webcast): Supporting Communication of Individuals with Minimal Movement

Not a new post, but a valuable one to tide you over during these quiet summer months...

Webcast Description

Susan Fager, Ph.D. CCC/SLP and David Beukelman,Ph.D. CCC/SLP 

For many years we have provided AAC services to people with minimal movement capability. Their medical conditions include brainstem stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Guillan Barre’ Syndrome, and chronic myasthenia gravis. As with others who rely on AAC, these people are multi-modal communicators in that they use high and low technology options depending upon the situation and the listener. High technology options include commercially available devices as well as technology under development. During the past year, we have provided presentations related to our work in this area at RESNA, the World Congress on Disability, and ATIA. In this webcast we present the content of those presentation through an interactive discussion format.

Slides and handouts

Transcript of presentation (pdf)
Transcript of presentation (txt)
Powerpoint slides as a handout (pdf)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pittsburgh: Core Vocabulary Series

Core Vocabulary Learning:
Make It Fun!  Make It Interactive!

Dates and TimesTuesday, September 11, 2012:  8:30am - 4:30pm
Wednesday, September 12, 2012:  8:30am - 4:30pm
Thursday, September 13, 2012:  8:30am - 1:00pm

Location1000 Killarney Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15234
This program is part of the Pittsburgh AAC Language Seminar Series and is provided "FREE OF CHARGE."  Lodging and meals are provided.
This seminar provides clinically proven ideas for using the Unity® language system with children and adults who are both nonspeaking and possibly language impaired.  Participants will learn how to enhance language growth leading to successful use of communication devices including the SpringBoard™ Lite, Vantage™ Lite, and ECO™2. 

Bruce Baker, A.M., L.H.D., (Hons. Caus.) will provide an in-depth, research-based discussion on language development and core vocabulary as it pertains to AAC. He will also present various methods of representing vocabulary, a comparison between the referential and descriptive methods of instruction and a discussion on motor automaticity.

Guest Speaker, Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite, PhD, is a speech-language pathologist and assistive technology specialist with over 25 years of experience working with students with severe disabilities in educational settings.  She has presented hundreds of workshops and is a founding member of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication.  Caroline will provide a quick-paced, interactive session providing strategies that will support students in using core vocabulary for authentic purposes, with peers, and using repetition with variation.  Strategies include:  barrier communication games, using interactive apps, combining core vocabulary and literacy, and determining authentic purposes for all practice.  Participants will engage in multiple ‘try-it’ activities to help learning generalize, just as we hope to make core vocabulary generalize for our AAC users!  Participants will receive a CD with sample activities and forms.   

Katya Hill, Ph.D., CCC-SLP is a professor in the Departments of Communication Science Disorders and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Pittsburgh.  She is the founder of the AAC Institute, a web-based resource for parents, professionals and AAC consumers.  She is the founder of the ICAN Talk® Clinics.  Katya will provide an in-depth discussion of evidence-based AAC assessment and how to generate successful funding requests. 

Russell Cross, BSc. (Hons.) DipSCT, MRCSLT is the Director of Clinical Applications at PRC. He will demonstrate tools to enhance clinical practice within the PASS software and further explore symbolic representation and metaphor with regard to representing language in AAC.

Learning Outcomes:
1.   Participants will be able to explain why core vocabulary should be emphasized in AAC intervention rather than extended vocabulary.
2.  Participants will be able to describe the relationship between the use of core vocabulary and normal language development.
3.  Participants will be able to discuss the use of Minspeak® as a strategy for representing core vocabulary and promoting language development.
Here's what some of the previous participants have had to say about attending the Pittsburgh AAC Language Seminar Series:
"I learned so much, became so empowered and energized to meet the challenges my career brings forth."
"It was an incredible experience and I learned more in 3 days with you than had I previously learned in years of practice."
"I really learned a lot and I am excited to start implementing the tools that I learned." 
"We came for the Language Seminar and were truly amazed, both by the quality of information and presenters and the absolutely marvelous hospitality of our hosts."  
 AAC devices are not required for participation in the seminar.  Participants are encouraged to bring personal computers to practice using Unity® via  PASS, a free-emulation program.
Download PASS

For more information about the seminar, housing and the schedule of events, please click here.
Registration is limited to 22 participants.  Priority will be given to those who have not attended a previous seminar.  Additional registrants may be placed on a waiting list in the event that there is a cancellation.

To register, please click here to download a registration form.
For additional information, please contact Renee McGough at (412) 885-8541 or via email at


Bruce R. Baker, A.M., L.H.D., (Hons. Caus.)
Adjunct Assistant
University of Pittsburgh

Guest SpeakerCaroline Musselwhite, Ph.D.

Katya Hill, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Associate Professor
University of Pittsburgh

Russell T. Cross, Bsc. (Hons.) DipCST,
Member, Royal College of

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

PARTICIPATE - Online Survey: How SLPs design AAC

Sent to ASHA SIG 12 discussions: 07-16-2012 01:17 PM
From: Jennifer Thistle
Subject: Recruitment for research project: Designing AAC Displays
Dr. Krista Wilkinson and I from Penn State University are conducting research seeking to identify in the decisions SLPs make as they design AAC displays for school age children. If you are an SLP who works with elementary school age children who use AAC, please consider participating by completing an online survey.

For more information about this research study, please go to
To directly access the online survey, please go to 
Or feel free to contact me off list at:
Thank you!
Jennifer Thistle
State College PA

New from PRC: Accent 1200

A Powerful, New AAC Solution
from PRC!

  • Large 12-inch touchscreen display
  • Dual cameras for photos
  • Pre-loaded with learning resources
  • Built-in help tools
  • Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth®
  • Windows® 7 operating system

Enter to
Win a FREEAccent™ 1200!

Go to and register by July 20, 2012.
No purchase is necessary to enter the drawing. 

For complete contest rules, visit

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Get a FREE Demonstration from Your PRC REGIONAL CONSULTANT

We Believe Everyone Deserves a Voice™.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Closing the Gap 2012: October 17-19 (Minneapolis, MN)

Over 200 presentation and hands-on lab hours that describe and/or demonstrate successful applications of assistive technology for persons with disabilities will be held during the three days of the conference. Click HERE to download the brochure.

Wednesday through Friday, October 17-19, 2012


CTG Regular conference presentations will be announced August 1, 2012. 

Twenty-one, full-day, in-depth preconference workshops (Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 15-16; additional fees) will be presented by experts in the field in very practical and effective ways.  CLICK HERE for all the preconference details (prepare to crave)

Some personal favs:
  • Multi-Modal Communication Strategies for Children Who Have Complex Communication Needs PODD Communication Books (Two-Day Introductory Workshop; Linda J. Burkhart)
  • Beyond Wants and Needs: Supporting Social Interactions Between Students with Autism and Their Peers (Pat Mirenda)
  • Jumpstarting AAC: From Light Tech to iPad to Devices (Pati King DeBaun)
  • i (Need To) Customize  (Judith P. Sweeney)
  • Secrets of the Balanced Literacy Club: Apps Included! (Caroline Musselwhite)
  • And many more (SLPs, OTs, Educators, AT specialists, software developers): Eric Sailers, Karen Kangas, Dan Herlihy, David Niemeijer / Mark Coppin / Bonnie Johnson, et. al., Dave L. Edyburn,  Elizabeth (Libby) S. Rush / Celeste Helling / Lori Dahlquist, et. al, Karen M. Casey, Christine Roman Lantzy, Lisa Rotelli,  Paul Hamilton, Susan Norwell / Judy Lariviere, Denise C. DeCoste / Linda Bastiani Wilson, Keri Huddleston / Moira Soulia / Teru Langsdale, Mo Buti / Katharina I. Boser (forgive me if I've overlooked some presenter names...)