UA-115456113-1 Talking With Tech AAC Podcast
Talking With Tech AAC Podcast
TWT Live: Closing The Gap - Part 3

TWT Live: Closing The Gap - Part 3

September 15, 2021

This week, we hear from Part 3 of TWT Live - Closing the Gap 2020. This week’s portion of TWT Live has lots of helpful ideas for communication with families, coaching, motivating students, advocating for high-tech AAC with clinicians who always start with PECS, and more! 

 

Before the interview, Chris shares about his recent experience as “Shadow the Labrador”, a mascot at a local school. He and Rachel discuss why we need to be the zaniest person in the room sometimes to get people motivated to talk. They also discuss a situation Chris was in recently where he wasn’t sure if he should ask for compensation for consulting with a company about their newest new technology tool. Rachel gives Chris some tips about asking for compensation and strategies she uses in negotiations.

 

If you would like to listen to Part 2 of this presentation, you can listen at talkingwithtech.org/episodes/twt-live-ctg-2

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑  If you have limited enthusiasm in your district for AAC, try finding teachers and/or staff who are excited about using technology in their curriculum and start working with them first. 

 

🔑  What motivates a person can change over time. Periodically, do a preference assessment with your students to maximize motivation.

 

🔑  Have students give you directions on what to do (e.g. drink water) using their device - a lot of times, students are told what to do all day, and turning the tables can be motivating

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

To listen to this episode, search "Talking with Tech" in your podcast player of choice or go to www.talkingwithtech.org/episodes/twt-live-ctg-3

TWT Live: Closing the Gap - Part 2

TWT Live: Closing the Gap - Part 2

September 9, 2021

This week, the TWT team presents part 2 of Talking with Tech Live: Closing the Gap! This week, Rachel and Chris discuss several topics with the audience, including personal core /key vocabulary, the importance of literacy, and overcoming barriers to high-tech AAC in school districts. 

 

If you would like to listen to Part 1 of this presentation, you can listen at talkingwithtech.org/episodes/twt-live-ctg-1

 

Before Part 2, Rachel and Chris discuss PECS in greater detail, including why motor planning is so important when comparing PECS to other AAC options, the consensus among experts that Chris and Rachel trust about PECS vs. more robust AAC, and why choosing robust AAC has the least chance of harming the client.

 

Key ideas this week: 

 

🔑 Without the benefit of a motor plan, using PECS to communicate can be more fatiguing than using more robust AAC. For some of Rachel’s clients, making limited progress on PECS made the family resistant to other AAC options later on.

 

🔑 When making a difficult decision between strategies as clinicians (e.g. PECS vs robust AAC for a client with some verbal skills), we should choose the intervention with the lowest chance of doing harm. If we assume the client will will need AAC in some form forever, the time spent teaching PECS could have been better spent learning motor plans on a robust AAC device.

 

🔑 If we are trying to help teachers and admins embrace robust AAC, you can point to the abuse and neglect statistics for people with disabilities. Teaching language through robust communication systems gives students a better tool to future abuse and neglect in the future.

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

TWT Live: Closing The Gap - Part 1

TWT Live: Closing The Gap - Part 1

September 1, 2021

This week, we share Chris and Rachel’s presentation from last year’s Closing the Gap called “Brainstorming Solutions to Real-Life AAC Questions”. During this week’s Part 1 episode, Chris and Rachel share about evaluating evidence-based practices, when to consider “verbal” clients for AAC, how to determine when someone is ready for AAC, and more!

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss ABA therapy and why working with ABA therapists can be very helpful in some cases, but difficult in others. Rachel shares about working with an ABA team that refuses to follow suggestions about working with her client’s AAC device, and how that has impacted her client’s progress using AAC. Chris also shares his three questions that he asks himself before employing a strategy like AAC:

 

  1. Is it research based?
  2. What are professionals saying?
  3. What are the people who are using the strategy saying worked for them?

 

Chris notes that, in particular, the last question can be very important. Chris wonders whether the people who are getting ABA are saying “thank you” afterwards for the intervention.

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 Consider AAC when someone has a high level of scripted phrases - AAC can be a great way to build novel generative language skills. Build vocabulary skills with more abstract language concepts.

 

🔑 Just because someone has speech some of the time doesn’t mean they have speech all of the time.  AAC can be a great backup for people who have inconsistent difficulty with expressive language.

 

🔑 There are no prerequisites for high-tech AAC - people learn to use AAC when they are given the time and the oppertunity to learn it.

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Megan Roberts: Research Supporting Parent-Implemented Interventions

Megan Roberts: Research Supporting Parent-Implemented Interventions

August 25, 2021

This week, Rachel interviews Megan Roberts, an Associate Professor and SLP at Northwestern University. Megan started the Early Intervention Research Group, where she researches early parent-implemented interventions for children with hearing loss, autism, and developmental language disorders. Megan has lots to share about her research behind parent-implemented interventions, early behaviors that are a predictors of autism, and how to approach conversations with parents about their child's possible autistic-like behaviors.

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss a listener’s email about a difficult situation with an administrator. When the listener requested a high-tech AAC device for a minimally-verbal student, her school administrator told her she needed to give him low-tech AAC, because there was no way to get the student high-tech AAC. Rachel and Chris talk about how this administrator was stepping out of their role, and how Rachel and Chris would approach the situation to push back against this.

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 Megan’s most robust predictor of autism in her assessments have been the presence of contact gestures, e.g., the person uses another person’s body part as a tool.

 

🔑 When we notice possible signs of autism in a young child and want to discuss this with parents, focus on identifying the behaviors that might interfere with learning rather than the “autism” label. Then, you can “wonder” about those behaviors with the parent, how they might impact the student, and how these maladaptive behaviors might be suppressed via intervention.

 

🔑 Girls with autism can present very differently than boys with autism early in their development - we need more research to better define what the differences are.

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Amanda Soper: AAC Implementation Strategies for People with CVI

Amanda Soper: AAC Implementation Strategies for People with CVI

August 19, 2021

This week, Rachel interviews Amanda Soper, AT Specialist, SLP, and Professor at Gallaudet University. She supports, among others, people with cortical visual impairment (CVI) who also use AAC. Amanda shares from her experiences working with CVI, including: how she teaches vocabulary, the importance of reducing visual complexity in the environment, talking through navigation, and the three main red flags for CVI:

 

  1. You notice there is something not quite right about a child’s functional vision. There is nothing structurally wrong with their eye, but they are having vision problems.
  2. There is a medical history of neurological conditions, such as a lack of oxygen to the brain, or chromosomal disorders.
  3. 10 visual behaviors that characterize a person with CVI’s vision, including: need for movement, color preference, visual field deficits, absence of visually-guided reach, and difficulty with visual complexity.

 

Learn more about Amanda’s strategies at http://www.aacreatively.com/. You can email her at amandasoperslp@gmail.com

 

Key ideas this week: 

 

🔑  Pull students out of class when introducing a new device or a new overlay, because the complexity of the class environment can make it more difficult to understand the new symbols.

 

🔑  When using AAC with someone who has CVI, you can talk through the navigation when you are introducing new vocabulary to help them track and follow. (“press the red apple, then the blue man”)

 

🔑  Try and teach AAC vocabulary to a person with CVI in context, like working on “fork” during eating time.

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Amy Fleischer & Melissa Petersen: Benefits of a Universal Core Board for All Students

Amy Fleischer & Melissa Petersen: Benefits of a Universal Core Board for All Students

August 11, 2021

This week, Chris interviews school-based AT Specialists Amy Fleischer and Melissa Petersen! Amy and Melissa share lessons they have learned about putting universal supports in place, including universal core boards in Melissa’s district. They discuss many of the reasons why Melissa wanted to put a universal core board in place, how her district decided on what words to include, and the improvements she has seen in overall AAC implementation since that time. You can view  the website she made for her district here

 

Before the interview, Rachel and Chris discuss a recent trip Chris took to visit his cousins and all of the visiting with his family. Chris shares about tempting his young relatives with fun games, and then waiting for them to come over on their own, and relates that to motivating AAC users with a “tempt and pause”.  

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑  When Melissa made a low-tech support universal, teachers who were previously afraid of technology said they felt more confident with the core board. This helped them to focus more on modeling and descriptive teaching, and less on the technology.

 

🔑  Putting the district logo on their universal core board helped Melissa to get buy in from some teachers and staff - they said it make the board look more “official”. 

 

🔑  If we want communication partners to take on extra responsibility via coaching, it helps to give them resources they can pick up and run with. A great way to do this is with a low-tech board, because we are giving them something inexpensive they can go out today and start using with students. 

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Jayme Grant: Effective AAC Assessment, Treatment, and Progress Monitoring - Part 2

Jayme Grant: Effective AAC Assessment, Treatment, and Progress Monitoring - Part 2

July 22, 2021

This week, we share Part 2 of Chris’s interview with Jayme Grant. Jayme is an Educational Technology and Assistive Technology Specialist in Beaufort, South Carolina who wanted to interview Chris about AAC and Assistive Technology. In Part 2, Chris and Jayme discuss obtaining funding for AAC and AT, shifting away from a direct therapy model for AAC users, monitoring progress, and more!

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel finish up answering some questions from one of our Patreon users about changing the mindset of AAC communication partners. In this listener’s school district, classroom staff appear more interested in AAC assessment than AAC implementation. Rachel and Chris share why it can be helpful to break coaching sessions up into smaller “bites” and how to reduce the negative impact of staff turnover on AAC users by coaching family members as well as school staff. 

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑  School should be an opportunity to get kids excited about things they never would have been excited about in the first place. SLPs can benefit from fun activities in therapy, because we can get students to talk more about things they are interested in.

 

🔑  Mindset is the most important first step in a successful implementation. Many people who work with people with disabilities start with a mindset that a student must prove they can use AAC before we give them AAC and help them learn to use it. We must help them see the AAC user’s potential before we move on to assessment or implementation.

 

🔑  When measuring progress of AAC users, don’t measure how much he or she uses the AAC tool, measure whether or not the desired outcome was achieved. It is difficult to say if the AAC tool we provided is the total reason someone is communicating more, or if it is a combination of factors. By measuring the outcome, you don’t have to worry how much the AAC device was the cause.

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

 

To listen to this episode, search "Talking with Tech" in your podcast player of choice or go to www.talkingwithtech.org/episodes/jayme-grant-2

Jayme Grant: Using Team-Based Assessments to Determine Long Term AAC Needs - Part 1

Jayme Grant: Using Team-Based Assessments to Determine Long Term AAC Needs - Part 1

July 14, 2021

This week, we share Part 1 of Chris’s interview with Jayme Grant. Jayme is an Educational Technology and Assistive Technology Specialist in Beaufort, South Carolina who wanted to interview Chris. The resulting interview is packed with useful tips and ideas for improving AAC assessment and implementation! 

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss more questions from a Patreon user about how to change the mindset and culture surrounding AAC in her district. Rachel and Chris talk about coaching teachers to use core words to describe fringe words, why we shouldn’t create temporary pages for specific activities or academic topics, and more!

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑  Rather than add academic vocabulary to a device that will only be used for a particular lesson or unit, try coaching the team to describe academic words using core words. This helps teach core words and doesn’t create temporary folders  and additional fringe vocabulary words, which can interfere with motor planning.

 

🔑  Technology is a tool, not a quick fix. Make sure the team understands that giving a device to someone is only the beginning. Parents sometimes demand a device without understanding the work that goes along with teaching how to use this tool.

 

🔑  During assessment, consider having a team member, such as a teacher, describe what they want a potential AAC user to be able to do with the device long term. Even better, consider collaborating with a variety of communication partners to determine AAC needs. Collaboration amongst the team on assessment can help avoid disagreements later about the decisions that were made about device selection and implementation. 

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Mark Nichols: Supporting AT and Universal Design in Higher Education

Mark Nichols: Supporting AT and Universal Design in Higher Education

July 7, 2021

This week, Chris interviews his long-time colleague, Mark Nichols, an AAC/AT Specialist who is the Senior Director of Universal Design and Accessible Technologies at Virginia Tech. Chris and Mark talk about the differences and similarities between higher education and K-12 for universal design and AT, the types of technologies that are often very useful in higher education, how to determine how much a university supports inclusion and assistive technology, and more! 

 

Before the interview, Chris shares memories and thoughts about the late, great Joy Zabala with his wife, Melissa Bugaj. They talk about the importance of Joy’s SETT framework, the impact Joy had on AT, and Melissa and Chris’s personal relationship with Joy and how she influenced their personal life. 

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 You can set up software to identify how inclusive your materials are. Software like Grackle for Google Docs (grackledocs.com) will scan a document to determine if there are accessibility issues (e.g. a pdf image that does not support text to speech) before the document is posted.

 

🔑  Accessibility and universal design are not just for a select set of people with disabilities - many times, typically developing students will benefit from making materials more accessible. Also, making the solution universal students don’t have to ask for the tool to have it available.

 

🔑  Consider making a training video for staff that outlines all the ways that universal design and accessibility can make a big difference for students and then gives training on how to use the technology services currently available to make more accessible materials. 

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Kate McLaughlin - Celebrating Small Successes With Better Progress Measurement

Kate McLaughlin - Celebrating Small Successes With Better Progress Measurement

June 30, 2021

This week, Rachel interviews “The AAC Coach” Kate McLaughlin! Kate and Rachel discuss resetting our expectations surrounding what progress looks like for AAC users, the importance of layering small AAC habits over time to get big results, how to create more effective goals for AAC users, and more! This episode is packed with lots of practical ideas and tips – you won’t want to miss it! 

 

Before the interview, Rachel and Chris talk about Rachel’s recent Hawaii vacation and respond to an email sent in by a Patreon subscriber. This subscriber is looking for help being more effective, because she feels like she is stuck having the same conversations and coaching the same strategies over and over again. 

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 Don’t focus so much on the device that we lose sight of meaningful progress. If the goal for an AAC user is successful communication and as much autonomy as possible, we should celebrate any steps toward autonomous communication, regardless of whether the device was used or not.  The focus should be on building connections with others and not on a particular modality.

 

🔑 Many AAC users make slow gains. If we switch the AAC program and symbols prematurely due to “lack of progress” then the AAC user may never make significant gains. Celebrate the small wins and try and measure progress in a way that shows meaningful growth.

 

🔑 Layering small AAC habits over time can lead to big changes. When a family starts with an AAC system, they can take time to get comfortable – e.g. start with carrying the device around everywhere. We want to build fluency and naturalness using the system and not let the device disrupt connection between the communication partners.

 

🔑 When writing goals, we should write them so we can track progress in a meaningful way. Communication should be for real reasons. There is a lot of pressure on therapists to write goals that are easily tracked in contrived communication settings. Instead, write goals that look at the AAC user’s participation in shared activities - also consider different settings and/or different people. 

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Meryl Schnapp & Mark N. Brown: Becoming a District-Wide AAC Implementation Coach

Meryl Schnapp & Mark N. Brown: Becoming a District-Wide AAC Implementation Coach

June 23, 2021

This week, Chris interviews Meryl Schnapp & Mark N. Brown, AAC Implementation Coaches with Chicago Public Schools. They discuss how the position of AAC Coach was created in their district, why it is so helpful having coaching as a separate position in a school district, what they have learned from instructional coaching research, and more! 

Before the interview, Chris talks with Rachel about participating in the recent Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (GISH) mini-hunt. Chris shares some of the unique activities Chris and his family did on their GISH hunt. Chris and Rachel discuss ways that these types of scavenger hunts could be used to make AAC coaching more fun for AAC users and communication partners.

 

Key ideas this week include:

🔑 AT Specialists and AAC Coaches have different roles in Chicago Public Schools. The AT Specialists engage in device selection and training, and after the training the AAC Coaches collaborate with staff to implement the device effectively in the classroom. 

 

🔑 In the education field, instructional coaching is a well established form of professional development with a large evidence base. Mark and Meryl were exposed to literature from researchers like Jim Knight and Michael Bungay Stanier to help develop Chicago Public School's current approach.

 

🔑 In Chicago Public Schools, students aren't the only ones who have goals! Some teachers and SLPs have self-created goals to help improve their skills supporting AAC users.

 

🧑💻👨‍🏫 Meryl Schnapp and Mark N. Brown have a FREE AAC in the Cloud presentation about AAC coaching on June 24th at 6:00 pm EST .

 

🧑💻👨‍🏫 Chris also has a presentation at AAC in the Cloud on June 24th at 2 pm EST - its about interactive choose your own adventure games! 

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Heidi Hosick Joyce: Reflective Coaching Strategies for AAC Communication Partners

Heidi Hosick Joyce: Reflective Coaching Strategies for AAC Communication Partners

June 16, 2021

This week, Chris interviews Heidi Hosick Joyce, an SLP and specialist in both AAC and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Heidi and Chris discuss some of the differences between coaching in sports and coaching AAC communication partners, including "reflective coaching" - helping someone to change what they are doing at the level they are capable of. They talk about the importance of building a positive relationship, giving positive reinforcement, and using "I wonder" phrases to encourage self-reflection amongst communication partners. Heiti also discusses PACT, a “low dose” therapy method that includes therapists using video to coach care givers how to support their autistic child’s social communication at home and in the community. Find out more here. Heidi also shares about her survey for SLPs who support AAC users -  learn more at redcap.link/AACtraining

 

Before the interview, Chris discusses his upcoming session for Closing the Gap with Shaun Pearson and Katie Robertson called "Voice and Choice -- Learning Made Fun Through Interactive Choose Your Own Adventure Games". This session will focus on all the ways that generative language and core words can be encouraged playing "choose your own adventure" games. Rachel shares a strategy for logging an AAC user's spontaneous language - you can use a virtual assistant (e.g. Alexa, Google Home) to create a communication log all day long whenever communication occurs.

Key ideas this week include: 

 

🔑  Help communication partners to reflect on what they did when working with the student - there is a temptation to focus only on what the student is doing.

 

🔑 One reason "consulting" doesn't work is because you don't always have the context to totally understand something you witness. Feedback based on incomplete information can cause interpersonal problems and lead to incorrect advice.

 

🔑 Use videos. When something is going well, you can send to parents. Then your example can act as a training model for them (e.g. longer wait time). 

 

🔑 We can better move the needle towards AAC proficiency if the family and school staff understand where an AAC user's language level is at, meet them there, and push them to improve to the next level.

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Beth Poss & Tonya Williams-Walker: Improving Equity for AAC Users

Beth Poss & Tonya Williams-Walker: Improving Equity for AAC Users

June 9, 2021

This week, Chris interviews Tonya Williams-Walker and Beth Poss about improving equity for AAC users. Tonya is an Instructional Specialist, AAC Specialist, AAC professor, and SLP. Beth is an author, SLP, AAC Specialist, and Director of Educational Programs for LessonPix.  Beth, Toyna, and Chris discuss the meaning of equity, how equity is different from equality, ways that we can improve equity for AAC users, and how they have adjusted their own practices to confront biases surrounding people with complex communication needs.

Before the interview, Rachel and Chris discuss some of Rachel's concerns with the amount of time that some SLPs are prioritizing working on verbal speech when they work with young children with limited speech skills. Rachel is working with 8 and 9 year olds who have only worked on verbal speech for 5 or 6 years. Ethically, its an SLPs responsibility to build the foundation for language development, and if verbal speech isn't working, SLPs need to either introduce AAC or refer out to an AAC specialist who will.

Key ideas this week:

🔑 When looking at whether a young child (e.g. 3 years old) is a good candidate for AAC, look at imitation and approximation skills.  If those skills aren't there, we should have the conversation with the family about language development and giving their child "visual supports" or robust AAC to build comprehension and alleviate frustration.

🔑 Listen to all the ways that AAC users are communicating with us about their systems, what is important to them instead of imposing on them what we think is best. To listen better, Tonya asks AAC users and families "What do you need in order to feel successful?" and then "How can I help?".

🔑 "Equity" is not the same thing as "equality". Equity can mean supporting people who have been disenfranchised more than others so they can get to a place where they have the same access, power, and opportunities as everyone else.

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

To listen to this episode, search "Talking with Tech" in your podcast player of choice or go to www.talkingwithtech.org/episodes/poss-and-williams-walker

 

Mike Marotta -  Best Built-in Accessibility Features on Devices

Mike Marotta - Best Built-in Accessibility Features on Devices

June 2, 2021

This week's interview is with Chris's long-time friend and fellow assistive technology specialist, Mike Marotta. Mike is a specialist in inclusive design, and he joins Chris to discuss how accessibility features for common devices like iPhones, iPads, Chromebooks, and Android phones can be used to meet assistive technology needs. They talk about which features they like the most, adding captions, universal logins for accessibility, how to decide on which tools to offer people, and more!

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss ways that accessibility has been improved in the past year despite the pandemic, including Instagram adding automatic closed captioning for videos. Rachel discusses reaching out to technology companies for help with an accessibility issue, such as when she asked makers of the Word Wizard app to add high contrast.

Key ideas this week: 

Many "accessibility" features on our devices are not just for people with access problems (e.g. vision problems). Features like text to speech are helpful for many people - it can help everyone proofread their writing, for example.

Captions are a great way to promote literacy and draw learners in. You can even mute the TV audio to require learners to read to follow the story.

We don't want to overwhelm people with too many assistive technology tools. Work with the learner's team to dig into what the real issues are and then decide on one or two tools that will address those issues. You can always add more tools later as they become more proficient. 

Karen Janowski - Strategies to Support Literacy & Inclusivity

Karen Janowski - Strategies to Support Literacy & Inclusivity

May 26, 2021

This week, Chris interviews Karen Janowski! Karen is an inclusive technology and assistive technology specialist who is also co-author of Chris’s new book, Inclusive 365. In the interview, they discuss some of the many ways that we can support literacy for all and make classrooms more accessible to all students (e.g. audio supports, digital texts that can be read aloud, etc). 

 

Before the interview, Chris shares about a former student he has worked with who is moving to a new situation that does not support robust AAC. Chris discusses why this was such a disappointment, and how this experience motivates him to better support the students that he works with now. Rachel talks about the difficulty of supporting students who don’t make progress and/or have AAC taken away from them.

 

Key ideas this week: 

 

🔑 General education teachers should choose inclusive instructional methods and ways for learners to demonstrate what they know, even if those students are in special ed.

 

🔑 Student-selected books for reading and self-selected topics for writing are very compelling for learners. Choice can really drive the love of learning. Writing for an authentic purpose  (e.g. having learners write a letter asking for support for a cause that is important to them) can be very effective as well.

 

🔑 Worksheets are a classic example of an instructional output method that is limiting for many students. Worksheets are OK as an option, but we don’t want to require everyone to use them. For example, you could also choose an input option that allows dictation, keyboards, spell check, etc.

 

🔑 Start your thinking and planning with each learner's strengths in mind. Figure out what learners are best at and what they love to plan activities that are more motivating.

 

Resources

Book Creator - bookcreator.com

Seesaw - web.seesaw.me

Inclusive 365 book site: inclusive365.com 

Brittany Dube: Author, YouTuber, and Part-time AAC User

Brittany Dube: Author, YouTuber, and Part-time AAC User

May 20, 2021

This week, Rachel has an informative and engaging interview with author, YouTuber, dog trainer, and part time AAC user Brittany Dube! Brittany shares about why she is a part-time AAC user, how parents and others can better support part-time AAC users, and how we can show AAC users the respect they deserve in conversation.

 

Before the interview, Rachel shares a fascinating story about one of her clients who has improved his verbal speech by watching others model AAC, even when the client doesn’t use AAC himself. Its a great reminder that AAC is an excellent tool for teaching language even when it isn’t used by the client to expressively communicate. Rachel also shares the disappointing decision by the school team not to support AAC for this client because the client is “already verbal.” 

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 All forms of communication should be given equal respect by parents. Parents understand that one-size-fits-all doesn’t work in education and healthcare, but when it comes to communication some only want to pursue verbal speech.

 

🔑 We don’t have a right to speak for someone just because they use AAC - we need to remember to give AAC users whatever time it takes to speak for themselves.

 

🔑 Brittany finds using AAC is most useful when she is in an overwhelming situation, like when a doctor is asking her how she feels. Using a device gives her more time to process than she would get using verbal speech alone. 

 

🔑 It’s always important to remember a lack of verbal speech doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t understand - people who use AAC are often intelligent and aware of their surroundings.

 

You can learn more more about Brittany on Instagram and YouTube!

Colleen Warn - Improving Equity in AAC Evaluation and Implementation

Colleen Warn - Improving Equity in AAC Evaluation and Implementation

May 12, 2021

This week, Chris interviews Colleen Warn, Director of the Center for Assistive Technology for the NYC Department of Education. Chris and Colleen discuss how we can make assistive technology more equitable, especially for racially/culturally diverse students and students with a lower socio-economic status (SES). They talk about how their Center for Assistive Technology has pushed to teach teachers and staff about AAC, how they have changed the referral process to be more equitable, and how they seek to empower service providers across NYC. Colleen also shares about supporting her child, who has complex communication needs, and how her family has learned more about AAC.

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel talk about their upcoming preconference seminar, “Designing and Delivering Empowering Experiences to Teach Language Using AAC” and their excitement to be able to connect with learners in a more intimate and collaborative environment. Learn more at bit.ly/designaac

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 One important consideration when looking at equity in assistive technology is the speed in which a school or district gets an AAC device when they need one. Make sure everyone gets a device at the same speed, regardless of SES.

 

🔑 If one district or school is sending in many more referrals than other districts, look at the makeup of the students who are not getting referred for AAC and their service providers. Are there cultural or SES barriers to implementing AAC? 

 

🔑 When a related service provider (e.g. SLP) sends a referral to do an AT assessment, consider coaching that person how to do the assessment itself.  This will improve their skills and may improve their ability to refer the correct students with AT needs in the future.

 

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Amy Fleischer & Corinne Nelson - Implementing a Specific Language System First Approach to AAC Selection - Part 2

Amy Fleischer & Corinne Nelson - Implementing a Specific Language System First Approach to AAC Selection - Part 2

May 5, 2021

This week, we present part 2 of Chris’s interview with Amy Fleischer and Corinne Nelson! Amy and Corinne  continue with their questions about changing their district to a “specific language system first” model of device selection, and how it can be adapted to best fit the needs of their school district. They also discuss whether PECS should be a prerequisite for getting a device, ideas for rolling out training on modeling, and more!

 

Before the interview, Rachel discusses a recent conversation she had with a mother of a person with complex communication needs. This person doesn’t have access to a robust AAC system and was initially given only a switch to communicate with - even though she has no access issues. Rachel questions why so many children she hears about with complex communication needs are being given a switch when no access issues are present. Rachel feels many of her clients have been held back due to myths, such as “an AAC user must show cause and effect with a switch before they can use high-tech AAC.”

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 If you are concerned with hesitancy with changing how device selection occurs in your district, you can use a collaborative approach to select the device for a few students, then down the road you can look back and have everyone decide what is best.

 

🔑 To be more collaborative with device selection, you can take a facilitative, coaching approach to the meeting (e.g. teachers, related service providers). Then, in the meeting, try and fill out a grid or chart that looks at the communication needs of the student and the needs of the circle of support. Focus on long term growth, not just what would be easiest to learn in the short term. If you try device selection with a more collaborative approach, then down the road you can look back and have everyone decide on what worked best. 

 

🔑You can pick one strategy or process to teach modeling, like SMORRES, and adopt it across the district. You can implement this modeling strategy more quickly than moving to a specific language system first model that would take a longer amount of time. 

 

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Amy Fleischer & Corinne Nelson - Implementing a Specific Language System First Approach to AAC Selection - Part 1

Amy Fleischer & Corinne Nelson - Implementing a Specific Language System First Approach to AAC Selection - Part 1

April 28, 2021

This week, Amy Fleischer & Corinne Nelson talk with Chris about moving their school district to a Specific Language System First” approach to AAC device selection. There is currently no set standard in Amy and Corinne's district for device selection, and many students go get an outside AAC evaluation before getting a device. There are many different AAC apps being used at different sites for a variety of reasons, and this has led to disagreements about which app to use, confusion about the device selection process, and inconsistent device implementation across their district.

 

Before the interview, Chris shares some good news he’s heard about his two latest books with ISTE - The New Assistive Tech  & Inclusive Learning 365.  Rachel talks about adding early intervention content to her AAC Ally course. They both talk about dealing with “imposter syndrome”, especially when charging money for something you have created.

 

🔑 Under the “system first” approach, most students who need AAC across the district get one robust AAC system. When students have needs that are not met by that particular AAC system, then a different system is selected. You don’t force a particular system on anyone, but you look at it first.

 

🔑 One benefit of a “system first” approach is better implementation in many cases. If the school team knows one system better, they can usually teach students how to use that system better.

 

🔑 Trialing multiple AAC systems during device selection, even if you trial for a few weeks, may not be the best way to choose one system over another. Often, implementation of each system isn’t very robust and the student isn’t trained extensively on each device. It is difficult to learn much about how proficient a student will get in one system over another in a couple of weeks.

 

🔑 You can take a phased approach to implementing a “systems first” device selection process. All the new students get one AAC system (unless there are good reasons to choose another) and every student who has already made progress with a different system keeps the one they are already using.

 

Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

 

Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!

Kim Albrecht: Learning to Model AAC as a Family

Kim Albrecht: Learning to Model AAC as a Family

April 21, 2021

This week, Chris interviews Kim Albrecht, host of the LOMAH podcast and mother of two teenage daughters, one of whom is a minimally-verbal AAC user with autism. Kim shares about how her family came to embrace AAC for her daughter, the importance of siblings and peers modeling AAC, the idea behind the LOMAH podcast, her upcoming podcast series on literacy instruction for people with disabilities, and more!

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel share an excellent idea from TWT listener and Patreon member, Bill Wallace. He suggested using a “sabotage series” -putting desirable items and undesirable items in a bag, then taking them out one by one and talking about them. This can a fun way of reinforcing the concept of both "yes" and “no”. Rachel and Chris also discuss finding the middle ground between following the child’s lead and setting up certain situations (e.g., communication temptations) to practice particular vocabulary words and concepts.

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 Treat AAC vocabulary on a well-designed AAC device like a sudoku puzzle - if you get stuck and/or don’t like where a word was placed, consider that you just haven’t figured out why it was placed there and don't jump to the conclusion it was put there randomly or by mistake. 

 

🔑 It took Kim time to embrace using the AAC device all the time at home. If she could do it again, she would have started using the device and modeling AAC at home right away.

 

🔑 One reason it’s so important to train families about AAC is they are often the most consistent factor in the student’s life over time. Given the many SLPs, teachers, and aides that work with a student during their education (with varying degrees of experience with AAC), training the family will often lead to better and more consistent AAC implementation in the long term.

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