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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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Minspeak E-Newsletter, Issue 56

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August 30, 2012

  • Pixon Teaching Tip: Provide a hands-on experience to teach the Pixon for “which”.
    The Pixon for “which” is a finder pointing at 2 question marks. This Pixon is NOT part of the original set of Pixon pictures. Download this new Pixon as a bmp picture and add it to your Pixon picture file. As your prop, make 2 red question marks. Do a choice making activity. Attach a red question mark to each object. Place one object to the right of your hand and 1 to the left while you ask “which one do you want.... this one (point) or this one (point)?”.

  • Intervention Planning: Create more communication opportunities to encourage your person using Minspeak to ask “which” questions (e.g. which one, which story, which snack).
  • Teaching Materials Exchange: Use the book Labor Day to ask questions about the holiday. It 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.
  • Pittsburgh AAC Language Seminar Series: The next seminar series is September 11-13 and features Caroline Musselwhite as the guest speaker. October 16-18 will feature Gail Van Tatenhove. Go to the Minspeak website for more information and to register for an upcoming series.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ProLoQuo2Go Back-to-School Tips

Follow Proloquo2Go on Facebook (CLICK HERE) for tips like these and more!

1st Tip: How to submit a request for assistance. You can go to this link: or email

2nd Tip: New video! In this 9-minute video demonstration (CLICK HERE), Nate will tour the two new Proloquo2Go 2 vocabularies: Core Word designed for users who are able to put 2 or more words together to make sentences and the Basic Communication vocabulary designed for those who are just beginning to use AAC to express their basic needs.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Grad Course Curriculum: AAC in Autism

In her preparation of curriculum for a 7-week, graduate level course on AAC, Tami Brancamp, Ph.D. (Univ. of Nevada, Reno) asked the ASHA Community SIG 12 for input on the content of her course. I couldn't resist! and would like to share my personal soap box shpeal with you, too...

(From Gwendolyn Meier, Pasadena, CA)
I hope that you will dedicate at least one class session entirely to AAC in autism.  I recognize two primary issues that are of great importance when teaching nonverbal and minimally verbal folks with autism to use AAC: 1) expanding pragmatic functions right from the start, and 2) de-emphasizing symbol recognition and association in exchange for emphasis on motor patterns for expressive communication. 

It is my experience that much graduate instruction as well as continuing education courses focus on providing AAC to persons with intact social communication desires (i.e., disabling conditions other than ASD). In autism, as I'm sure you have also experienced, early pragmatic functions of communication are restricted by the lack of intrinsic motivation to communicate socially. In addition to teaching learners to make requests and to protest using AAC, I find that even at the 1-word/hit language stage, the functions of commenting, interjecting and sharing opinions can be very powerful when sufficiently modeled in motivating interactive contexts. Some examples of content follow:

Early Non-Verbal Language Stages
1.       One word/picture card/button/hit at a time
- Cause-and-effect, One-word/hit requesting (More, Mine, Want, Go, Turn, Open, In, Out, object or action labels)
- Rejecting/Protesting (Stop, No, All done, Break)
- One-hit comments, interjections, sharing opinions, greetings (taught through modeling; Oh man!, Oops, Sorry, Help, Be careful, Funny, I like it, I don't like it, Cool! Hi, Bye)
2.       Two- and three-word/picture/button/hit phrases
- Specified requests ("I want" + item/action, "More" + item/action)
- Specified protests ("No" + item/action, "All done" + item/action)
- Directing others' actions using core vocab (Help This, Give Me, I Go, You Go, Put in, Open it, etc.)
3.       Building phrases and early sentences (3+ words/hits), moving toward grammar, morphology, etc.....

In addition to this content, I think it is important to emphasize that when teaching learners who have complex communication needs, with our without autism, receptive symbol recognition should not be considered prerequisite to the teaching of expressive language concepts through modeling in meaningful interaction.  In the teaching process, consistent location of motivating vocabulary can reduce the learner's reliance on visual recognition, symbol iconicity and metaphoric association - particularly learners with autism. Learners don't need to be able to recognize/"point to"/"give" a symbol that is named before they can use that symbol to get something done in the world. This concept may seem counter-intuitive to some, but is supported by the fact that nonverbal individuals with autism and related disorders have inherent challenges in abstract association of meaning and, in general, their motor systems are relatively more intact than their conceptual and linguistic systems.

Picture communication books or other Velcro-based displays often lack a consistent placement of vocabulary from one use to another, which can put a strain on the cognitive demand of communicating any particular message. If clinicians and teachers capitalize on the benefits inherent in consistent motor patterns when creating and maintaining visual displays for communication in different settings or activities, motor learning will reduce the associative demand. In fact, for all learners, motor planning plays an important and often overlooked role...This is not to say that receptive identification of photos, drawings, etc. is not an important skill to teach! It just may be less important than we think when teaching use of a visually-based expressive communication system.

The Center for AAC and Autism's LAMP program (Language Acquisition through Motor Planning) talks more about this. There is also a wealth of practical and well-organized information on the evidence base for speech generating devices in autism at this site:

Friday, August 24, 2012

PRC CA Coverage Changes

PRC Announcement Regarding Coverage Changes for California

The Prentke Romich Company (PRC) would like to inform you of some changes in California.  Kara Bidstrup, M.S., CCC-SLP, has accepted the position of Manager of Training Services for PRC.  In addition to managing training services, Kara will continue to be the Regional Consultant for San Diego county.  PRC is excited to have Kara accept this new role in addition to continuing to serve as a Regional Consultant. Although she will miss serving her clients outside of San Diego, PRC will continue to maintain the same level of service by transitioning our California Regional Consultants’ territories.

Kara Bidstrup, M.S., CCC-SLP
, will continue to serve San Diego County, as well as assume the role of Manager of Training Services. 

Kara can be reached at or (800) 262-1984 ext. 472.

Julie Dunbar, M.S. Ed.,
Regional Consultant for the greater Los Angeles area and Orange county for the last three years, will continue to serve that area, in addition to Riverside and San Bernardino counties.  

Julie can be reached at or (800) 262-1984 ext. 445.

Joan Sharp, B. Ed.,
Regional Consultant for PRC for 12 years, will continue to serve the Bay Area, as well as Fresno county. 

Joan can be reached at or (800) 262-1984 ext. 419.
As the territories are transitioned, please know that PRC recognizes that the state of California is a large supporter not only of AAC as a whole, but also PRC AAC devices and the Unity Language program.  PRC is very focused on continuing to provide excellent support and service to our California clients and their long term success with our AAC devices.

For specific inquires regarding your Regional Consultant, please search here

Thank you and we look forward to continuing to work with you,

The California Regional Consultants for PRC

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Study opportunity for SLPs: Communication Matrix

From: Charity Rowland
To: SIG 12, AAC
Posted: August 14, 2012 3:58 PM

We are seeking Speech-Language Pathologists and Special Education Teachers to participate in a study funded by the U.S. Department of Education.  Participants must:
·         Currently serve at least one student with complex communication needs at any grade level, including early intervention/early childhood special education.
·         Be responsible for developing communication-related IEP/IFSP goals for one student, as described above.
·         NOT currently use the Communication Matrix to evaluate students
Participants will receive an honorarium ranging from $200-$350 depending on the group they are assigned to.

If you are interested in further details about this study, please email
Grant #H327A110010
U. S. Dept. of Education
Dr. Charity Rowland, P. I.
IRB #1517

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Minspeak E-Newsletter, Issue 55

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August 15, 2012

  • Pixon Teaching Tip: Provide a hands-on experience to teach the concept and Pixon for “all” vs “some”.
    The Pixon for “all” has the family and is based on the metaphor of “all in the family”.
    Collect photographs of people in the person’s family. Put “all” of their pictures inside of a circle. Point at them and talk about having “all” the people in your family in the circle. Contrast this with “some” using 5 colored letters of s, with some placed inside the circle and some placed outside of the circle.

  • Intervention Planning: Create communication opportunities to encourage your person using Minspeak to use the words “some” and “all”. The question “how many” is another word you can teach while teaching “some” and “all”.

  • Teaching Materials Exchange: Learn to ask “how many”, “some”, and “all” using the book “Back To School”. It is coded with Pixons and icon sequences from Unity®45, Unity®60, Unity®84, and Unity®144. (Link to new material in August TME.)

  • 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.

  • Pittsburgh AAC Language Seminar Series: The next seminar series is September 11-13 and features Caroline Musselwhite as the guest speaker. October 16-18 will feature Gail Van Tatenhove. Go to the Minspeak website for more information and to register for an upcoming series.



Monday, August 13, 2012

Research: Online Training for Paraeducators...[in AAC]

child with teacher
Douglas, S., Light, J., & McNaughton, D. (July, 2012).  Online Training for Paraeducators to Support the Communication of Young Children with Complex Communication Needs.  Presentation at 15th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) in Pittsburgh, PA....

...This research project examined the effect of online training for paraeducators to support the communication of young children with CCN during play and generalization activities. The content of training was driven by research in early childhood development and communication and based on research in the area of communication partners as summarized by Light and Drager (2010). During the online training paraeducators were taught the three steps of the  PoWR strategy.

1) Provide opportunities for communication
included teaching paraeducators to provide multiple communication opportunities to their target child by asking questions, commenting about the activity, and providing choices (Fox et al., 1997).

2) Wait for child’s communication
paraeducators learned to wait for at least five seconds after offering a communication opportunity so the child had adequate time to respond (Downing, 2005; Klein, Cook, & Richardson-Gibbs, 2001; Otto, 2010).

3) Respond to child’s communication
taught paraeducators to respond when the child communicates, even if the communication is unclear (Allen & Hart, 1984; Cress & Marvin, 2003; Snell, 2002; Snyder & Sheehan, 1996; Zangari & Kangas, 1997).  If the child did not communicate after five seconds, the paraeducator was taught to provide another opportunity for communication....
(read the entire article HERE)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

SCAAC-N Summer Meeting Notes - 7/24/12

Many thanks to Darlene Hanson and Mei Mei (Rebecca) Liu for sharing their insights into the real world of making assistive technology work for a non-speaking student in general a education high school setting. Mei Mei composed a PowerPoint presentation from her perspective for an assistive tech conference earlier this year. The following bullets are from Mei Mei's perspective.

Technology ... "changes everything"
  • She previously relied on an Alphasmart and a Franklin (palm-sized dictionary that allows typing)
  • The touchscreen of the iPad is less tiring than the devices with keys to depress
  • The Assistive Chat text-to-speech iPad app is her "voice" and her friends at school recognize that voice as hers
  • CD ROMs read aloud to her (she is an auditory learner)
  • Dropbox (online file storage) is used to transfer files between school-home
  • The iPod and iPhone serve as supports for sensory breaks during the school day, as well
  • Without technology, Mei Mei imagined that she could not function at school at all, she would be trapped inside her head and unable to show anyone her intelligence, and unable to "live in the real world."
Low Tech Supports still in use:
  • Token boards
  • Number and letter boards for math and multi-choice questions in class (ABCD choices)
  • Yes/No card out of any scrap of paper when in the community (her vocal responses are inconsistent)
  • Lack of independence
  • Set up is required for class materials and devices
  • Speed when typing
  • Reliance on aide to manage behaviors 
  • Restrictions on district-owned equipment (Pasadena Unified) prevent internet access so that sharing documents, primarily class notes, to her home computer for home work is complicated.
Mei Mei soldiered on, despite the fact that the timing of this event was not ideal based on personal circumstances. Some of the participants commented that Darlene's verbal prompts to Mei Mei regarding regulation were helpful to see and may be applicable to the individuals they work with. 

These included:
- Fix your body
- Use your eyes and hands together
- 3...2...1 (countdown to movement)

Thanks again, Darlene and Mei Mei! 
Please join us in Pasadena at our next Quarterly meeting (date TBA, October/November 2012).

Communication Options Using the iPad

The Back to School Conference was a great success! 
225 attended, 30 of which were SLPs.
My Friday session on Communication Options was entirely too brief, and could have filled an afternoon.  I showed a number of screen shots while explaining basic, inexpensive apps and wanted to share the entire presentation HERE (click to download and view the show).  The handout summarized the information with far fewer visuals. Click HERE to download the handout.

The Mysterious Power of Music - Notes

Thank you to all of the participants at the “Back to School” session on August 10. I couldn’t have done it without your great ideas!! Click HERE to download the handout, including the additional notes.

- Gwendolyn

 Additional Notes, that I promised I would post, from 8/10/12:

Tunes for Teens
For music-interested teens and adults, these 11 Repetition not Rhyme tunes may feel too juvenile. Instead try:
·      Chanted rhythms
·      “Brush Your Teeth” (Raffi, )
·       Baby Shark Song (Scout Song,
·      Karaoke versions of popular songs
From the Audience: One Mom prompted her son to get his shoes and get out the door using the theme song from Angry Birds (listen to it on YouTube- with the following lyrics:
Time to go now, time to go now
Quickly get your shoes its time to go now

A song for calming
When you sing, you are required to take in more air and breathing naturally slows. Your vocal chords are tightened in order to control the melody of your song, a greater volume of air is required in order to vocalize, and the exhale period is longer when singing than when speaking. Deep breathing is often recommended for calming, but can be a challenge to induce in an individual who is feeling anxious or over-stimulated. If an individual can participate in singing a song or phrase, it will promote deep breathing.  Any song will do, but we wrote the following as a group:
(London Bridge tune)
I know how to take a breath, take a breath, take a breath.
I know how to take a breath. Watch me now.

Story-time attention getter
Some students struggle to attend to more passive classroom activities such as book reading. An example of reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar was provided with the periodic chant (while patting your thighs): He’s hungry! He’s hungry! He’s really, really hungry!  Adding drama and high affect in your face and voice also doesn’t hurt when gaining and sustaining attention!

A song for raising your hand
Before a Q&A activity in the classroom, it may be helpful to prime students with a reminder to raise their hand using a song. One option may sound like this:
(Mulberry Bush)
Don’t forget to raise your hand, raise your hand, raise your hand.
Don’t forget to raise your hand, when you want a turn.
Periodic reminders could take the form of a short, chanted phrase just before it’s time to raise hands: (drum roll patted on thighs) Raaaaaise yooooooour hand!

Two songs for trying new foods
One Mom has been singing a Farmer In the Dell song to encourage and sing about trying new foods with verses that describe what a food might feel like in the mouth. I may have used a little creative license (aka. short term memory failure) with the lyrics.
(Farmer In the Dell)
I like to try new foods, I like to try new foods,
I feed my body everyday,
I like to try new foods.

An apple, it goes CRUNCH. An apple, it goes CRUNCH.
I feed my body everyday,
An apple, it goes CRUNCH.

I imagined a song that might turn new food exploration into a sneaky game of anticipation using the Scout’s song Baby Shark. Watch a video of it here: The pattern of this song is not unlike Raffi’s Brush Your Teeth song (which uses a bit of rhyme, but it can be re-written without it!). Hear Raffi sing it:
(Baby Shark Song)
I have an apple, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo
A little apple, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo

It’s on my plate, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo
It’s on my plate, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo

It’s on my lips, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo (2xs)
It’s on my tongue, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo (2xs)
I’m gonna eat it, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo (2xs)
I put it in, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo (2xs)
I make it crunch, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo (2xs)
And then I swallow, doo-doo, uh, doo-doo (2xs)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recruiting SLPs/Teachers for Study: IEPs for AAC ($150)

From: Melanie Fried-Oken
To: SIG 12, AAC
Posted: August 8, 2012, 4:04 PM

[Researchers at Oregon Health & Science Univerity] are looking for school-based SLPs and special educators who will be completing IEPs by December 2012 for K-12 students who rely on AAC. As subjects, you will  receive $150 gift card for your anonymous participation (which should take about an hour)...Thanks, and enjoy the beginning of your school year!

If you are interested, please read the info from the flyer (included below) and email


Our Research Project, “Using the ICF-CY to Guide Communication Instruction for Learners Who Use AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication),” is seeking school-based Speech-Language Pathologists and Special Educators who:
·      Currently work at least weekly with one student with complex communication needs in grades K-12.
·      Are responsible for developing communication-related IEP goals for the student with complex communication needs in grades K-12.
You will be randomly assigned to one of two groups.  The first group will use the ICF-CY for AAC Profile, a new tool designed to make IEP goal writing easier, for the target student and create a report before developing the student’s 2012-13 communication-related IEP goals.  The other group will use any means that they normally use to develop goals.  No identifying information will be collected about the student. Both groups will provide the de-identified communication-related IEP goals and complete a feedback survey about the process. 
It should take no more than two hours to complete the requested activities. All participants will receive $150 Target gift card upon completion of study tasks.

If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact: and indicate:
1.     Whether you are a Special Educator or a School-based Speech-language Pathologist
2.     When you anticipate the 2012-2013 IEP meeting for this student (day, month and year)
3.     The age and grade of the target student

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Survey (Weigh In!): Assistive Tech training needs

The AT Network is conducting an exciting statewide project to provide quality Assistive Technology training options for a variety of communities and we need your help!

Disability community members, advocates, families, educators, and AT stakeholders are invited to share your assistive technology training needs. Responses will be used to develop new training topics.  It would be greatly appreciated if you can take a moment to complete the survey no later than Wednesday, August 22, 2012.  There are nine (9) questions and all responses are anonymous.

Should you have any questions or have trouble accessing the survey please don't hesitate to contact Rosemarie Punzalan via email at

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pasadena NOW: Villa Esperanza!

Villa Esperanza’s Tech-savvy Speech and Language Center Uses Innovative Ipad Applications

Villa's Hjelte-Phillips Speech and Language Center, under the direction of Gwendolyn Meier is dedicated to giving a voice to individuals who are nonverbal

Published: Monday, August 6, 2012 | 12:35 PM

Samantha, a Villa student, also works with Gwendolyn Meier on gaining communication skills using the Ipad.

Vanessa is a high school student at Villa Esperanza Services’ School located in Pasadena.
She doesn’t speak, but instead spent the first 16 years of her life communicating primarily by flipping her hand at the side of her leg to say “Hi,” waving her hand at her waist when she needed to go to the restroom, and screaming while bouncing up and down in her seat both when excited and when distressed.

Villa’s speech and language clinicians worked with Vanessa for years to teach and develop recognition and pointing skills so that she could utilize pictures to help her communicate. Once she had gained some basic skills, an evaluation revealed that Vanessa could benefit from assistive technology in the form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

Villa Esperanza Services knows the importance of staying current with the latest technologies. Villa’s Hjelte-Phillips Speech and Language Center, under the direction of Gwendolyn Meier, MA, CCC-SLP, MT-BC, is dedicated to giving a voice to individuals who are nonverbal; and they are doing so at the touch of a screen. Using “apps” for the iPad and iPod, Villa’s clinicians are helping individuals with autism across a broad spectrum of communication and educational challenges.
Due to the prevalence and relative affordability of the iPad, more students than ever before are being assessed for computer-based augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems.

Students with autism often become adept with the touch screen interface by playing games and videos on family iPhones, iPods and iPads. These basic skills can often be shaped into meaningful communication when an appropriate app and treatment plan are implemented by a trained AAC professional. Before the iPad, the expense of traditional, high tech speech-generating devices for nonverbal individuals (e.g., $4,000-8,000) prevented many with autism from accessing these technologies. These days, the purchase of an iPad and appropriate communication apps can cost as little as $600.

Preparing for a Smooth School Start (Autism)

I thought National Autism Resources had some good visual strategies and tips in this article...

Here are a few preparations you can make to help autistic students start school well.
  • Post a classroom schedule as well as an individual schedule that the student can refer to throughout the day. Knowing what to expect will decrease anxiety and increase independence.
  • For the first day of school have a seating chart ready before the student with autism arrives. Have a plan in place to help them identify and find their seat.
  • Often students with autism have a difficult time understanding personal space.  Define personal space by drawing masking tape outlines on the floor. Make sure there is plenty of room between desks.
  • If possible talk to last year’s teacher. What worked well for the child last year?  Was the child seated in front of the class, in the back, or side of the class?
  • When deciding where your special student will sit be aware of noise.  Many students with autism process normal sound as too loud or quiet. It can be difficult for these students to filter out background noise. Have the autistic student sit away from the hallway, pencil sharpener or water fountain.  Have on hand ear muffs or ear plugs.
  • Keep in mind who will sit next to the student with autism. Is there a child in your class who is especially helpful, kind, or compassionate? If so let them sit next to the student with autism.
  • Develop a specific daily routine and stick with it. Children with autism need and want routine, and likely will be calmer in a well-structured environment.  Have a home or classroom schedule for the start of the day and stick with it.
  • Change the environment rather than the child. If there are factors in the child's environment that are disturbing him, make sure they are removed or replaced by something that the child finds reassuring. For example, many kids with autism are bothered by florescent lights, so if your house or classroom has such a light source, use light filters.
  • Use yoga poses and breathing exercises. A number of schools have yoga programs for autistic students. Yoga programs around the country find that kids are soothed by the routine of the class, the fun of positions such as "downward dog" and the opportunity to get in touch with their bodies by breathing tranquilly and sitting quietly without feeling they are being punished for misbehavior.
  • Play music. Although sound disturbs some children with autism, it can prove soothing for others. In general, music is calming for people of any age, including newborns. So try classical or folk music at low volume to see if your child or the child in your care responds favorably.
  • Provide deep, calming pressure. Temple Grandin theorizes that the firmness of a weighted vests or a weighted blanket on the body may calm and relax kids on the spectrum.
For more helpful tips visit Autism 101 for Teachers.

Starting School: A Sample Social Story

I'm going back to school. 
I will be in _______ grade this year with a different teacher, classroom and friends.
My new teacher's name is ______________.
My new teacher has a nice classroom with many books to read and I am looking forward to looking at all of them.
I will see some of my old friends who helped me last year and there will be some new people helping me this year.
I will see some of my old classmates and there will be some new kids in my class.  I will get to make some new friends.
I can't wait to start school again in my new classroom with my new teacher and all my new friends. It's going to be so much fun!!