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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Saturday, September 22, 2012

AAC "buy-in" in the School Setting

Callie Herrenbruck posted a conundrum all too familiar to SLPs involved in AAC implementation in the school setting (read more at ASHA Community SIG 12 discussion board).  In Callie's words:
"...I'm finding it to be very difficult to show some of the general education teachers, special education teachers, and even some of the other SLPs the need for AAC at school...

Some great ideas poured in from SIG members:
  • Let teachers that you know they are very busy and already have a lot on their plates, and also ask them, "How can I help?  What can I do to make this easier for you?"(Jacalyn Baxendale, Collingswood, NJ)
  • Use this five minute, interactive tool (LINK HERE) to help show educators what they may not know about AAC (Jennifer Mitchell, Virginia Beach, VA)
  • When Assistive Technology is checked as a requirement in the IEP, it's a legal requirement and is really not a choice...There are quite a few great resources for training communication partners on the Dynavox website in the Implementation Toolkit.(Lesley McGilligan, St. Louis MO).
  • I found it helpful to teach every person working with the child that an AAC system is the child's "voice."  You have to appeal to their hearts and minds! (Shanna Lund, Sedona AZ).
  • I do think it is best to go to the teachers, Paras and/or SLPs to ask what they would like to see the students use the device to communicate and help them figure out how to use the device to show progress and meet IEP goals.  I've found that it's important to listen to their concerns/issues and try to use their ideas in your programming.  Sometimes it's also good to start small and just prioritize a couple things to use the device for so they see success.  I think there is a certain amount of discomfort with technology for some people and then the resistance is often there because of feeling intimidated or overwhelmed.  Then, of course, there are those that just like to be in control and don't like others giving them instructions so they need to see how it benefits the student and have input into how it's used.  I've also had success when I've found someone who is buying into it, like the SLP or a Para, and have that person help to support the student and show the teacher the success when using AAC.  It's great if you can have examples of how a student can respond to a question in class, communicate a need, contribute to a discussion, make a presentation or interact with others  using a device.  Another idea that may be helpful is to have peers trained to help with the device because they are always so interested, can model the way to use the device, help the teacher and keep the student motivated! (Lisa Kestling, Colorado Springs, CO) 
  • From Heather Helter (South Bend, IN): 
"When I started at my school, one students school-provided device was found stashed in a supply cabinet. Clearly the teacher didn't see the value and/or didn't understand how to use it! What helped was me taking it for a time just as a therapy device, and working on use directly related to what I knew would be useful in the classroom. Then, I would take him into class with the device and have him proudly demonstrate to the teacher. I then asked her what we could work on that would help her with her goals. She wanted him to be able to read, so we practiced reading simple books (level B) in therapy. He was very good, and she was quickly sold. She came up with an IEP goal to have him read a book to the gen Ed class at least once a week. This got the device into the classroom and he then was able to use it to communicate. The whole process took less than a month, and worked. I also hope the next time that teacher has a student with an AAC device, she won't be so reluctant to use it."

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