Talking With Tech AAC Podcast

Join speech-language pathologists Rachel and Chris as they discuss supporting complex communication needs with alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) and assistive technology!

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Episodes

5 days ago

This week, we present Part 1 of Chris and Rachel’s interview with Marge Blanc and Alexandria Zachos. Alexandria and marge are two SLPs who have written and presented nationally on the Natural Language Acquisition (NLA) framework and Gestalt Language Processing. The NLA framework looks at the different ways that people, especially people with autism, develop language. One important aspect of this is “gestalts”which are strings of language that can be long or short, and are often tied to an emotional, meaningful, or dramatic experience. This portion of the interview focuses primarily on delayed echolalia, which is stage one of the Natural Language Acquisition framework, .   Before the interview, Chris shares about a previous experience learning about “learning styles” in grad school (e.g. visual learner, auditory learner), and how that was contradicted by later evidence. Chris discusses ASHA’s triangle of evidence based practice (e.g. what research says, what clients who got the intervention say, and what experts in that area say about the concept) and how he uses it to engage with new ideas and concepts with a balance of skepticism and openness to new ideas.    Key ideas this week:   🔑 Gestalts involve episodic memory as opposed to semantic memory. A gestalt language processor assigns meaning to a whole chunk of sound - it’s the soundtrack from an experience.  For example, a child may pick up the script “To Infinity and Beyond” watching a movie they really enjoy. Later, when they do another activity they enjoy, they might say “To infinity and beyond!” again.   🔑 According to Marge and Alexandria, we shouldn’t jump to teaching a gestalt language processor how to use individual words and morphemes when they are in Stage 1 of the NLAF. Because the NLA framework is a developmental process, we wouldn’t want to jump ahead to teaching Step 4 before going to Step 2 and 3. If we do, they may develop splinter skills in some areas without developing important foundational skills and understanding.   🔑 When older children and adults say a shortcut phrase or idiom (e.g. “Autobots roll out” to leave the house), it is probably not a “gestalt”. Gestalts are tied to emotional, meaningful, or dramatic experiences, and are typically used by younger children in Stage 1 of the Natural Language Acquisition framework.    Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

Saturday Nov 26, 2022

This week on TWT, Rachel interviews SLP and AAC Specialist Becca Eisenberg about her work with older AAC users, including why she created her own YouTube Channel for video modeling called Life Skills to Learn! Becca shares ideas for motivating AAC users, including giving AAC users the freedom to direct therapy in new, more directions that are more interesting to the AAC user.    Before the interview, Chris and Rachel talk about one of Rachel’s older students who is still frequently using the word “potty” to ask to use the bathroom. The AAC user’s therapist asked Rachel about using more “mature” words, like “bathroom”, and she wondered if they should change the word on the device from “potty” to “bathroom”. Chris shares why he wouldn’t change the word “potty” to “bathroom” or anything else, and strategies we can use instead to encourage an AAC users to use a new word. Rachel shares her ideas for helping the student, including adding a bathroom “quick fire” pre-stored phrase that uses “bathroom”.  Key ideas this week:   Chris wondered about using the Frayer model to teach new words to AAC users. The Frayer Model is typically a graphical organizer divided into four quadrants. In the first quadrant, students list the definition of a word, the second contains examples (or pictures of examples) of the word, the third quadrant contains non-examples of the word, and the fourth contains characteristics of the word.    If we want an AAC user to use a new synonym to ask for something we need to explicitly teach the word we would like them to use and, when talking with the AAC user, we should change to use the same word ourselves.    We can use video modeling of functional tasks, like those on Becca’s YouTube channel Life Skills to Learn (https://www.youtube.com/@Lifeskills2learnwithBecca), to teach language concepts and functional skills at the same time.   We can better facilitate communication for AAC users when we give them choices during therapy and build trust.  In Becca’s experience, when AAC users realize they have the freedom to direct where therapy goes next, they often communicate more. Becca sometimes has activities planned that she doesn’t get to on because the student wanted to communicate about something else.   Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

Thursday Nov 17, 2022

This week, we share Chris’s interview with Dr. Cheri Dodge Chin, an AAC researcher, blogger, and professor who recently has done research into the effectiveness of caregiver AAC training via online video chat. She shares valuable strategies for Her results showed that many caregivers were able to learn modeling strategies for shared reading during online video chat in as little as an hour!   Before the interview, Chris shares with Rachel about his trip to the about the ImpAACt Voices Conference (https://www.impaactvoices.org/)! Chris touches on creating opportunities for adult AAC users to gain employment through community training, the need to evaluate how we can better prepare AAC users for employment, and the value in bringing the community and AAC users together to learn from each other.   Key ideas this week:   🔑 Being a good shared reader and communication partner is something that takes practice; it’s not a talent that people are just born with.   🔑 Some parents need to be taught not to turn reading into an interrogation. We want the AAC user to relax and have fun, not just answer a series of questions.   🔑 Dr. Dodge Chin taught the “WISE” strategy parents to use when modeling AAC, which stands for: Wait five (or more) seconds, Invite (don’t quiz), Show (i.e., model), and Expand.   🔑 Dr. Dodge Chin used the “Read Ask Answer Prompt” strategy for building communication skill during storybook reading by Drs. Cathy Binger and Jennifer Kent Walsh. You can learn more from Carole Zangari here https://praacticalaac.org/praactical/building-communication-skills-during-storybook-reading/   Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

Wednesday Nov 09, 2022

This week, we present Part 2 of Chris and Rachels’ discussion with Joanna Holmes (@mummyvsaac), the mother of Lucy, an AAC user with Emanuel Syndrome. Emanuel Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that disrupts normal development and affects many parts of the body, including the speech mechanism. In Part 2, Chris, Rachel, and Joanna share ideas surrounding the Open AAC movement (openaac.org), including making symbols that are free for everyone to use and allowing “open exports” of vocabulary sets between different AAC software applications.   Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss Chris’s frustration with some presenters doing things in a way that are not very accessible to people with special needs. He wants to connect with these presenters to share strategies for making their presentations better, but he is afraid that doing so would make him “that guy” who seems like he is overly critical.   🔑 The words Joanna’s daughter Lucy knows best are the ones that have been modeled for her and repeated many times over the years. Many of these are words she started out with on her earliest layouts. Even if Joanna isn’t sure if her daughter will use a word sometime soon, it’s important we continue to repeatedly expose AAC users to a variety of vocabulary words.    🔑 Sometimes, people in society will look at tools like AAC as a magical way to make someone more “normal.” Instead of looking at AAC as a way to make AAC users more like a speaking person, we should look at AAC as a way for people with complex communication needs to be themselves and speak their truth in their own way, even if it requires us to be patient and supportive of their communication attempts.   🔑 One thing that would be nice for AAC systems would be the opportunity to take a vocabulary set that you are using on one device and move it to a new one. This would allow AAC users more freedom to update their systems while not interfering with the symbols and motor plan they already have. Now, if you want to upgrade your system, you are often forced to learn an entirely new symbol set, which can be a big factor in choosing whether or not to upgrade.   Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!   Links:   Mummy vs AAC Blog: mummyvsaac.blog     Hannah Foley, Sarah Gregory, & Joanna Holmes: Home Grown- Planting Seed for AAC Growth

Wednesday Nov 02, 2022

This week, Chris and Rachel interview Joanna Holmes (@mummyvsaac on Instagram), the parent of an AAC user with Emanuel Syndrome. Emanuel Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that disrupts normal development and affects many parts of the body, including the speech mechanism. Joanna has lots to share about her experience as the parent of an AAC user, including the journey to find the right access method, and having to work with team members who had limiting beliefs about her daughter.   Before the interview, Rachel and Chris ask the question: how often are we asking “wh-“ questions to students who are still emerging in their ability to answer “wh-“ questions? If they aren’t answering “wh-“ questions yet, then try and find another way to ask the student the same thing e.g., providing choices. For example, instead of asking the student “where do you want to go?”, you can ask them a series of more concrete questions, like, “Do you want to go to the park? Do you want to go to Target?” and so on.    Key ideas this week:   🔑 When writing goals, remember that not all “wh-“ questions are the same level of difficulty. Often, students will have an easier time learning “what”, “where,” “when”, and “who” then they will “why” or “how”. Being specific with the “wh-“ words you want to target in a goal is typically a better practice so everyone will know which ones to teach.   🔑 It doesn’t make sense to gather data for a goal week after week if you are not first teaching the underlying skill the goal is measuring. According to the “80/20” rule, we should be teaching 80% of the time and assessing 20% of the time. For example, if you write a goal that a student will answer “where” questions, we should be teaching  how to answer “where” questions 80% of the time and measuring how they are doing on the goal only 20% of the time.   🔑 One idea for teaching how to answer “wh-“ questions  is to have a sorting activity where they student places different objects in the correct “wh-“ question folder, depending on if it is a person, place, or thing.    🔑 As a parent, you should feel you’re on good ground if you’re basing your statements on information about AAC from high-quality sources like https://praacticalaac.org. If you’re getting pushback from members of your child’s team and you have good information, you can share that information with them to help them understand your perspective.  As a parent, you shouldn’t be afraid to be firm about what the next steps should be when you have good clinical evidence that supports your beliefs.   Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

Wednesday Oct 26, 2022

This week, we share the recording of Chris and Rachel’s recent webinar with aaccessible.org in which they answer questions related to AAC assessment, the benefits of a team-based approach to assessment, selecting motivating assessment materials, and more!   Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss Chris’s recent discovery that a student he worked with who was very important for him professionally had passed away. They share about some of the challenges anyone can face working with people who have complex medical needs, including people passing sooner than we expect. They also highlight the importance of teaching students about their bodies and how to say they feel sick or pain and where things hurt. It can also be a difficult balance with encouraging communication when the family is struggling just to keep the child healthy.   Key ideas this week:   🔑 There is little logic to the traditional “three trials” AAC assessment - if you choose only a low tech option, it is potentially wasting everyone’s time. If you choose to trial three robust AAC systems, how to you pick which one is first? How do you determine that the trial is long enough to make a justified decision? A team based considerations approach to assessment that bypasses the three trials can be much more effective.    🔑 When we are feature matching to determine if an AAC device is a good choice, a major consideration should be what AAC apps the team is already comfortable with. While we can always choose a different option, people are more likely to support a device they are already comfortable with.   🔑 A team-based approach to assessment is really helpful for building capacity with your team. If we have an expert model and don’t meet with the team to choose the device, then they will often not take ownership of implementation. If they are involved, often the team will be more likely to embrace the AAC tool and the implementation strategies.   🔑 When you find that a robust AAC system is not working for a student, it is most likely that you chose the correct device and the problem is related to issues related to modeling, training, and implementation.   Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

Wednesday Oct 19, 2022

This week, Chris interviews Daniel Parker, Kathy White, and Stacy Duffy, individuals behind the creation of Assistive Technology Forward, a group that created a statewide “community of practice” to support Wisconsin assistive technology. ATF has recently begun a free program that provides “microcredentials” that are focused on a particular area of practice within assistive technology.  Learn more here. These modules can be completed in a few hours and many can be taken by parents, administrators, and others who are not as familiar with assistive technology. Chris chats with Daniel, Kathy, and Stacy about Assistive Technology Forward, how they came to create microcredentials, some of the benefits of microcredentials, and a discussion of the virtual “community of practice” that ATF has created for assistive technology!    Before the interview, Rachel shares some thoughts about an upcoming assessment report that she has been asked to write. Chris and Rachel discuss preparing for a student who has aggressive behaviors, dealing with the pressure to have standardized assessments as part of a report, and some of the questions that Rachels asks when she begins an AAC assessment.   Key ideas this week:   🔑 Many people are frustrated with their jobs in education, and one reason is because they don’t feel supported or comfortable with what they are asked to do every day. Microcredentials can help people feel more confident in their jobs, which may increase overall job satisfaction.   🔑 It can be costly and very time prohibitive to go through a full, formal AAC certification program. While that may be a good choice for some people, micro transactions offer another way to learn about the technology thatAT specialists, educators, and others can use to become more effective in support assistive technology.    🔑 ATF created an virtual, assistive-technology-focused “community of practice” i.e. a group of people who interact regularly to develop their skills. They often have meetings where a subject-matter expert facilitates a cooperative discussion with the group on topics related to assistive technology, which they record and save for other members of the community of practice. Some of these sessions can be viewed on You Tube here   🔑 Assistive Technology Forward has a number of online free learning modules that provide lots of free information about assistive technology, including training for people who are not as familiar with AAC.   Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

Wednesday Oct 12, 2022

This week, we have the privilege of interviewing Hank Poore, an AAC user and Tobi Dynavox ambassador who has his own foundation, hankpoorefoundation.org. Hank shares about becoming a proficient AAC communicator, the AAC journey Hank took to come to his current eye gaze system, advice for looking for a job as an AAC user, work Hank does with his foundation, and more!    Before the interview, Rachel and Chris discuss a breakthrough that Rachel had with one of her coaching clients. Her client’s Mom and Dad have been sending in videos of them working with their child, after which they watch the videos with Rachel and talk through how they can become more effective communication partners. Recently, when watching a video of a session, they noticed how anxious the AAC user was getting when asked a question that he doesn’t know the answer to. The family discussed with Rachel how they can switch from questions that have a “right” and “wrong” answer to questions that are more open ended to help their child feel less anxiety when asked a question. The family would never have noticed if it wasn’t recorded, so in this case, video was an excellent resource.    Key ideas this week:   🔑 There is evidence to suggest that people with disabilities are asked more questions than people without disabilities - make sure that you are not turning a communication exchange into an interrogation.    🔑 When we are selecting an AAC device for a user, sometimes we can get caught up in picking the one “best” tool. We shouldn’t focus exclusively on selecting the one tool or the primary tool that they will use - in some cases, like Hank’s, it may be that a combination of tools will be successful for a user.   🔑 Technology is changing and growing at such a fast rate, in some cases a tool that didn’t work years ago may have been improved. For Hank, he tried eye gaze years ago, but it was too difficult to use. However, when he tried it again more recently,  the technology had improved and it was much more effective for him.   Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

Thursday Oct 06, 2022

This week, Chris interviews Ken Hackbarth, Christine Baudin, and Micheal Dicpinigaitis about 3D printing custom items related to assistive technology, including keyguards! Ken, Christine, and Michael share about discuss Ken’s website volksswitch.org, which has resources for how to create files for 3D printers that tell it to build a keyguard that fits an iPad with AAC apps perfectly.    Before the interview, Rachel and Chris talk about environmental core boards (e.g. “playground boards”) and some considerations to make before you install one, including making sure that the board is at the correct height for the students who will be using it.   Key ideas this week:   🔑 Keyguards are applicable in many instances where you wouldn’t initially recommend them.  They can help individuals with moderate motor control take advantage of larger language sets by helping them effectively select smaller buttons on an AAC device.  Volksswitch provides free, ready-to-print keyguard designs for a collection of popular AAC apps and popular iPad cases!   🔑 One great thing about volksswitch.org is that they provide an app that lets you customize your keyguard based on several common combinations of iPads, cases, and the most common AAC apps (e.g. LAMP WFL, Proloquo2go, TouchChat). This allows someone with limited coding and engineering experience to create and print a keyguard effectively.    🔑 Michael sells 3D printed keyguards on his Etsy website, https://www.etsy.com/shop/AdaptedCreations. In addition to selling keyguards, he also sells cases that match the keyguards, switch adapted toys, and switch mounts.   🔑 One reason that keyguards were an obvious choice for 3D printing is the high cost of getting a keyguard professionally laser cut (approximately $80-$150). As as long as you have access to a 3D printer, you can make many keyguards for the price of one laser-cut keyguard.   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/print-keyguards  

Wednesday Sep 28, 2022

This week, Rachel invites Gemma White back to TWT to talk about personal safety awareness and self advocacy for AAC users. Gemma recently gave a presentation at AAC in the Cloud, “Where is the Penis?: Equipping AAC Users to Discuss Personal Safety Awareness with Personal Safety Curriculum”. Gemma talks about this presentation, why words like “penis” and “vagina” should be in AAC users devices, ways that we can collaborate to support personal safety awareness, and other ways that we can empower AAC users to protect themselves from neglect and abuse.   Before the interview, Rachel and Chris discuss some comments made by an SLP who works with one of Rachel’s clients and focuses only on verbal speech. This client has Childhood Apraxia of Speech and is highly unintelligible. He has been making good progress with his AAC and is now choosing to use it more often. Recently, the other SLP commented that “AAC is holding back verbal speech” because the client chose to use his AAC more than verbal speech to communicate. Rachel shares how she responded, the reasons why the other SLP may have believed this, and why following the student’s lead is so important when accepting communication modalities.   Key ideas this week:   🔑 If your school or practice has a curriculum developed to teach children about personal safety awareness, then you can collaborate with the whole team to add language to AAC user’s devices that support what they’re learning about their bodies and safety.   🔑 A person’s gender does not always match the body parts they were born with - It’s important to separate words related to gender and labels for private parts to foster a more inclusive environment.   🔑 We need to focus on self-advocacy from the beginning, e.g. "no," "stop," and "all done." Often refusal and negation can be motivating, especially if we are asking a student to do something they don’t want to do.   Links from this Episode:   Gail van Tatenhove: The Power of Core: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqfVAPuGzpI   Gemma White, AAC in the Cloud: “Where is the Penis?: Equipping AAC Users to Discuss Personal Safety Awareness with Personal Safety Curriculum” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-kw4_HH6FI   Visit talkingwithtech.org to access previous episodes, resources, and CEU credits that you can earn for listening to TWT episodes!   Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at patreon.com/talkingwithtech!

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Join AAC experts Rachel Madel and Chris Bugaj as they dive into a weekly discussion about all things AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). Every episode they deliver practical resources, clinical guidelines and relevant research to help clinicians better utilize technology for individuals with complex communication needs.

Episodes include interviews with industry thought-leaders, clinicians, parents, researchers and app developers to keep you on the pulse of the educational technology scene and better support communication through the use of technology. 

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