UA-115456113-1 Talking With Tech AAC Podcast
Talking With Tech AAC Podcast
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.

 

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 & 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. 

 

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 & 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.

Mary Van Donsel & Anne Kuhlmeier: Creating a Successful AAC Camp

Mary Van Donsel & Anne Kuhlmeier: Creating a Successful AAC Camp

April 14, 2021

This week, we hear from Chris's interview with Mary Van Donsel & Anne Kuhlmeier, Speech-Language Pathologists and educators who have put on a successful AAC camp for many years.  Mary and Anne talk about how they got started with AAC camps, how they train families and campers, the specialists they get involved, and how they train the counselors to support the campers during the week.  Mary and Anne also discuss what keeps everyone focused and moving along,  how they avoid camper burn out, and how they have pivoted to a virtual model during the pandemic.

 

Before the interview, Chris shares how teaching his son to drive reminded him of AAC implementation - you have to learn a motor plan, you have to establish good habits early, and you need coaching from another driver. Rachel discusses how she has moved to providing families with a “package” of services with an emphasis on implementation and ongoing coaching. Her client’s families often need periodic coaching sessions to use the system in a way that is more motivating and will better translate to autonomous communication.

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 Educating families during the camp is extremely important - you don’t want it to just be a fun week for campers, you want improvements in AAC use to continue after the camp is over. 

 

🔑 To get started planning a new camp, you need to think about where you are going to hold the camp - a school, university, or a private space. You need someone on the team who is involved with the location (e.g. a university faculty member). 

 

🔑  If you want to start a camp, find benefactors and partners who will help support your dream. You can enlist people from state AT projects, contact AT lending libraries to provide devices, have non-profit organizations to provide funding, etc. 

 

🔑  When planning an AAC camp, consider possible medical issues, feeding difficulties, and similar needs of the campers. You can get someone who is trained to help manage toileting, feeding, medication, etc, such as a nurse practitioner. 

 

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!

Coaching Call w/ Nikki Stempien (Part 2): AAC Coaching Strategies

Coaching Call w/ Nikki Stempien (Part 2): AAC Coaching Strategies

April 7, 2021

This week’s interview is part 2 of the coaching call with Nikki Stempien! Nikki is an SLP in the schools who was looking for guidance on AAC implementation for a student with autism and complex communication needs, including how to increase buy-in for high-tech AAC and strategies for coaching communication partners!

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel talk about the concept of “education before restriction” where people suggest locking students out of areas of their AAC device rather than teaching AAC users not to do the undesired behavior. There are a lot of teaching opportunities that are squandered if we jump to the “quick fix” of locking the student in or out rather than teaching why they shouldn’t do it. We can lead with strategies like social stories, explaining how it makes others feel, reinforce positive behaviors, and more before moving to restricting. 

 

Key ideas this week: 

 

🔑 Record your work with the student (programming, modeling, etc) and share brief clips to train parents and staff. Then you can save the clips and use them to train SLPs, staff, and more when there is change to personnel. You can ask partners to share videos with you as well so you can all collaborate together. 

 

🔑 If there is a plateau in progress with the device, look at the implementation and at the communication partners - don’t just try and replace the AAC app with a different one.  Follow the motivation - are they motivated to use the device? 

 

🔑 Involve the paraprofessionals as much as possible in implementation, meetings, and more. For example, even if aides can’t attend the IEP meeting, you can solicit input to share with parents. 

 

🔑 If you are interested in connecting with other AAC specialists, you can reach out to device reps to help you find people in your area who also work with AAC. You can also reach out on social media (like the TWT Facebook group) to set up a regular meet up on Zoom to do a book/podcast study, etc. 

 

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!

Coaching Call w/ Nikki Stempien (Part 1): Increasing High-Tech AAC Buy In

Coaching Call w/ Nikki Stempien (Part 1): Increasing High-Tech AAC Buy In

March 31, 2021

This week, Chris and Rachel have a coaching call with Nikki Stempien, an SLP in the schools who is looking for help supporting AAC for a student with autism and complex communication needs. This child previously had high-tech AAC but there wasn’t much implementation and the device was abandoned. Her primary form of communication now currently gestures and a basic picture-based system. Nikki is looking for guidance on with how to create buy-in for the high tech AAC device, how to go about selection, how to motivate the student and the family to use the device, and more! 

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss attributing ideas that are not our own in presentations, on social media, etc. They discuss why it is so important to give credit to a person when you use a specific idea of theirs. In particular, citing gives people a place to learn more about a topic and spreads good research. They talk about some of the  attribution “grey areas”, like sharing ideas that are commonly talked about by a lot of people (e.g. “coaching”) and why that isn’t the same as using a specific idea from a specific person. They discuss how attribution can be more difficult on social media, because people don’t always think about citing sources like they would if they were presenting. 

 

Key ideas this week: 

 

🔑 We can only anticipate so much of what a student wants to say. If we don’t give a system that supports literacy, we don’t give them the tools that support independent, autonomous communication. 

 

🔑 In some cases, approaching a stakeholder who is already working with a low-tech AAC approach (e.g. pictures) and suggesting high-tech AAC can cause some hesitancy. Adopting a patient attitude that seeks to “add on” to their approach rather than “replacing” it can be helpful in getting their buy in. 

 

🔑 If you have successful engagement using an activity or toy in the therapy room, consider how to transition that success to the classroom (e.g. use the same preferred toy to elicit “go” in class as well as in the therapy room) to help demonstrate success to the classroom team.

 

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!

Jennifer Edge Savage - Using AAC with Alexa & Other Voice Assistants

Jennifer Edge Savage - Using AAC with Alexa & Other Voice Assistants

March 24, 2021

This week, Chris interviews Jennifer Edge Savage about using AAC with Alexa and other voice assistants! Jennifer is an occupational therapist by training who is currently a consultant with Saltillo and teacher in the area of assistive technology and AAC. She covers some of the many ways that voice assistants can be used by AAC users independently using their AAC device, including purchasing items, playing TV/music, making calls, and more!

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel ask the question “What do attendees really want when they go to a video or in-person conference?” They explore whether people want to just listen to someone talk for an hour passively, or whether they want to be more engaged. When so much information can be found on Google, YouTube, podcasts, etc, shouldn’t we make being together in person something different? Chris and Rachel talk about ways that they engage participants in their webinars, like asking questions, getting feedback, and doing “hands on” activities when possible. 

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 Putting programmed phrases and specific words to engage in activities on a voice assistant (e.g. a person’s favorite music or TV show) can make using the device more effective and efficient.

 

🔑 Some words need to be pronounced correctly for the voice assistant to work - the AAC device will need to be adjusted to pronounce these correctly (e.g., Al Pacino).

 

🔑 You can help students learn language with a voice assistant using Amazon Skill Blueprints to create your own customized “skills”. This lets anyone set up what Alexa will say if particular inputs are received. You could work on core words, social dialogue, etc with less pressure on the AAC user to perform.

 

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!

Alissa DeSousa: Using Video to Support Cortical Visual Impairment

Alissa DeSousa: Using Video to Support Cortical Visual Impairment

March 18, 2021

This week, Rachel interviews Alissa DeSousa, a mom of a child with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) who started a YouTube channel for kids like her son. Alissa shares about her journey getting a diagnosis for her son, how they came to better understand CVI, why she started a YouTube channel for people with CVI, and discusses resources that support literacy and visual discrimination for people with CVI, like the book “Little Bear Sees”. 

 

Before the interview, Rachel talks about her “Takeover” of Andi Putt’s (@mrsspeechiep) Instagram page. Andi was talking a lot about AAC and doing an entire series on AAC and autism. During the takeover, Rachel got a ton of questions about requiring prerequisite skills before giving AAC. There were a lot people on Instragram who told Rachel there should be prerequisites for AAC, e.g., AAC users must have to have joint attention, visual discrimination skills, early language, etc before getting a device. Rachel disagrees with this mindset, and Rachel wonders where it come from. She proposes that it may come from an expectation an child will use a device immediately upon being introduced to it. She notes that taking longer to learn a device doesn’t mean they have the “wrong” AAC system. We need to provide support to communication partners and encourage modeling, not blame the student’s lack of skills. 

 

Key ideas this week include: 

 

🔑 Alissa shares the analogy of CVI being somewhat like looking though a kaleidoscope - you can “see” the image, but it is jumbled and the brain has a difficult time putting it together.

 

🔑 It can be very isolating having a child with special needs - there are so many appointments and things that you need to do, you end up missing out on a lot of things. Connecting with other parents of kids with special needs can really help parents feel more connected.

 

🔑 Alissa found out that kids with CVI do better with reduced visual clutter, technology with backlights (like an iPad or a TV), and black backgrounds. These preferences gave Alissa the idea that videos especially for kids with CVI could be very helpful.

 

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!

Julia James - Improving Special Ed Online Instruction

Julia James - Improving Special Ed Online Instruction

March 10, 2021

This week, Chris sits down with Julia James to talk about ideas for improving online instruction for students in special education. Julia supports online students as part of a special ed support team for her school district, and she called Chris to ask his thoughts on improving online education with technology.

 

Before the interview, Chris talks with Rachel about the film Crip Camp. Campers who went to this camp after Woodstock went on to be leaders in the civil rights movement for people with disabilities. Chris talks about how he was inspired by what people did for others in this film, and how it motivates him to continue to support people with disabilities. Rachel talks about Camp ALEC, a camp where they teach literacy and AAC. After filming at Camp ALEC, Rachel’s friend Chris Stout was inspired to pursue a feature length film about AAC.  Films like this can showcase how AAC is successful in helping people, which can then get more people on board with AAC. A lot of people don’t know what AAC is and haven’t seen it implemented successfully. 

 

Key ideas this week include: 

 

🔑 Making technological supports, like text to speech, available to everyone and not just one group of students allows students to help each other and allows special ed students to “fit in” with everyone else when they are using those tools.

 

🔑 Make sure that special education has a voice at the table in the selection phase for technology tools. Not every tool has the same level of accessibility options (e.g. some “locked” textbooks can’t be read by text-to-speech). Grackle is an accessibility checker that checks to make sure accessibility tools work with a particular file or document.

 

🔑 We really need to be educating parents and not just providing direct minutes to the students. If we can help parents become better at supporting the students, the students can have more learning opportunities  overall and better accountability from parents. 

 

🔑 Choice, engagement, and variety are really important with online learning. For example, engaging kids with different games and using a variety of activities. We want to provide structure - let students know what to expect when they show up to your virtual classroom with schedules, timers, etc. Give students choices and then reflect on that, even when things don’t work out like you planned or the students pick the wrong thing. 

 

🔑 Kids missed social connections the most during online learning. Providing that virtually can be really rewarding for students. For example, you can let kids have some time to talk in a breakout room as a reward for getting through a lesson. Connections with others can be just as important for learning as the content itself.

 

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!

 

Chris Sawka: AAC User & USSAAC Committee Member

Chris Sawka: AAC User & USSAAC Committee Member

February 18, 2021

This week, we interview AAC user, USSAAC Membership Committee member, artist, and TWT superfan Chris Sawka! Chris provides great insights into some of the challenges and victories he has had as a full-time AAC user, how he socializes with other AAC users, playing sports on a paraolympic team, and more!

 

Before the interview, Chris talks about the ATIA presentation by Kevin Williams, who won the Prentke AAC Distinguished Lecturer award. Chris notes that Kevin said he continues to use multiple AAC tools to communicate depending upon what is right for that moment. Chris and Rachel discuss how the communication “system” for most people today, whether or not they use verbal speech, is made up of a complex web of tools (e.g. text, video, email) that evolve over time.

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 Communication partners need to make AAC fun and not give up if the user doesn’t like AAC at first. Talk to them with the device, use it during activities like dinner, and pass the device around to have everyone use it.

 

🔑 People in public often don’t realize how smart Chris Sawka is. People talk with Chris in a loud voice even though Chris can hear perfectly well, and they talk to him like a child, even though he is an adult.

 

🔑 Chris Sawka doesn’t like it when people talk to his parents or his aide rather than him directly. Chris wants to reply himself and doesn’t appreciate when people talk about him like he isn’t there.

 

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!

Lydia Dawley: AAC User, CEO, and Co-Creator of the NadPen Stylus

Lydia Dawley: AAC User, CEO, and Co-Creator of the NadPen Stylus

February 10, 2021

This week, TWT presents Rachel’s interview with Lydia Dawley, the CEO of the Click, Speak, Connect, and co-creator of the NadPen, an amazing stylus device that is easy to grip and use, especially for people with motor challenges. Lydia has mixed cerebral palsy and is a fantastic AAC user - you won’t want to miss her perspective on involving AAC users in decisions, choosing AAC vocabulary, incorporating peers as communication partners, and more! 

 

Before the interview, Rachel and Chris discuss Rachel’s recent “intensive” 2-week coaching & therapy experience with an AAC user and his circle of support. Rachel shares why this intensive approach can be so effective, and some techniques she uses, including using video to document pogress, coaching every other service provider possible, and keeping the excitement and energy that is created during the 2 weeks going into the future. Chris and Rachel also reflect on how aspects of this intensive approach could be applied to working in the schools. 

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 Involve the AAC users as much as possible with the decision making process, including vocabulary selection.  AAC users may want to use slang their peers are using and not just use adult-like vocabulary.

 

🔑 The most frustrating thing for Lydia is when people don’t wait long enough for her to communicate herself effectively in conversations.

 

🔑 Incorporate siblings and peers as much as possible to make using the device more fun. 

 

To learn more about Lydia, go clickspeakconnect.com. Also, check out Lydia's Kickstarter (bit.ly/nadpenkickstarter) campaign to help get the NadPen into production! Lydia came up with the NAD Pen because it is thicker and easier for for her to hold, her hand is more secure, it has a wrist strap, and the tip won’t break off like other styluses when she uses 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!

AAC After Work: Digital Storytelling to Foster Communication Partner Skills - Part 2

AAC After Work: Digital Storytelling to Foster Communication Partner Skills - Part 2

February 3, 2021

In part II of their AAC After Work presentation, Rachel and Chris do a deeper dive into storytelling with digital tools, aka digital storytelling. They go over all the different ways that digital tools can support storytelling and how we can use storytelling as a way to stimulate communication, support literacy, and teach core words! They also discuss “pre-story brainstorming” where you discuss the setting, characters, and problem/solution with an AAC user before you begin to create the story. 

 

Before part 2, Chris shares about an eye gaze user who he was asked to help support as part of a school team.  Previously, the parent was programming a unique page of vocabulary for every story the AAC user was going to read so the user could participate by answering questions. There was also a limited number of icons on each page of the user's screen. Chris shares about how he worked with the family to increase the number of symbols/vocabulary on the screen after they discovered the student was able to target icons really well. He then discusses changes they made to the implantation strategy (e.g. descriptive teaching) so the student didn’t need a newly programmed vocabulary page all the time .

 

Key digital tools discussed this week:

 

🔑 http://www.mystoryapp.org - allows students to create stories with pictures, stickers, describing words, and more. 

 

🔑 Character generators (heroforge.com, peanutizeme.com, bitmoji.com) let you make a visual representation of a character, including things like what the character looks like, their emotions, outfit, pose, etc. You can then take a screenshot of the character and put that into a storytelling app. 

 

🔑 storyboardthat.com - allows you to create comic-like storyboards.

 

🔑 picmonkey.com - drag words, icons, and more on top of digital images.

 

🔑 thinglink.com - create a story around a single image by adding hyperlinks to the image.

 

🔑 Edpuzzle.com - search for any youtube video and it allows you to add prompts/questions. Send videos to families for carry over practice - you can tell the family what to model as they are watching the video. 

 

🔑 Loom.com - screen record or take a video of yourself that you can share with others, including ideas and feedback for communication partners.

 

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!

AAC After Work: Digital Storytelling to Foster Communication Partner Skills - Part 1

AAC After Work: Digital Storytelling to Foster Communication Partner Skills - Part 1

January 27, 2021

This week, we present the first half of Chris and Rachel’s previous webinar from the AAC after Work conference that focused on digital storytelling. This week’s portion provides an overview of AAC strategies, including expansion, core/fringe/personal core words, “stimming” on devices, using apps to support language, and more!

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel talk about how to deal with the awkwardness of taking a coaching approach with fellow clinicians who need help with AAC. Often, people expect a consulting approach where the “expert” solves their problem, but we know that a coaching approach utilizing reflective questions can help people come to conclusions on their own and they can have their own revelations. When other clinicians are asking for help, that can be really vulnerable and being asked questions might not be what they expect. We all need to remember to have a growth mindset - its more important to be able to learn new information and to know how to go and get it than it is to know every answer already. 

 

Key ideas this week: 

 

🔑 Expansion is all about taking language an AAC user has communicated and going up one more step. When teaching a child how to walk up the stairs, you don’t yell down at them from the top, you are next to them and showing them what is coming next. Similarly, with language, we want to meet an AAC user where they are at and go to the next level. For example, if they say “on” we can expand that and say “turn on” back to them.

 

🔑 Treat multiple button presses on a device ( aka “stimming”) with a “yes, and” approach like actors do in an improv comedy act. Interpret the button presses as something they meant to say on the device and expand upon that with them whenever possible. 

 

🔑 When using apps to support language, co-view the app together rather than just putting the app in front of the AAC user. Have them communicate what they want to see happen in the app to promote more communication, e.g., “what clothes do you want me to put on this character?”. 

 

ATIA - AT Connected will take place this year Jan 25-28th and Feb 1-4th. There will be more than 150 courses covering AAC, Assistive Technology, Education, and more. Registrations options include full conference, single strand, one day, and even a free option! Go to atia.org/talkingwithtech and enter registration code ATIAVISION21 for 20% off of the full registration! Also, don’t forget to check out Rachel & Chris virtual seminar at ATIA on Jan 30th and Feb 6th at bit.ly/TWTATIA21  

 

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: Access to Education Conference - Part 2

TWT Live: Access to Education Conference - Part 2

January 20, 2021

This week, we share Part 2 of the TWT Live from the Access to Education Conference with Chris and Rachel! In this TWT Live, there are lots of useful tips and tricks, including ideas for motivating communication partners to model AAC! 

 

Before the live session, Chris shares about working with a computer science supervisor in his school district to combine AAC with computer science in the classroom. Chris describes how they trained the instructional facilitators who work with teachers to teach core words and block coding together. Chris and Rachel discuss the importance of enthusiasm and why projects like this are so important to fuel you to move forward!

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 When trying to motivate teachers and staff to model more often, ask reflective questions and get insights into the struggles that she or he experiences with the AAC user. This can build rapport and lead to the brainstorming of ideas that have a better chance of being implemented.

 

🔑 Even if a student has moved from primarily being an AAC user to being more verbal, don’t take the device away from him or her automatically (if they still want to use it). That student can be a great peer communicator for other AAC users, and they may want to use AAC instead of verbal speech in some situations.

 

🔑 Don’t always assume that a student is “stimming” on a device when they’re pushing buttons seemingly at random. Sometimes there is communicative intent that we do not yet understand. If the student has true stim-like behaviors on a device, we can try and shope it to be more functional. We can also tell a social story to help them see how the stimming makes others feel.

 

ATIA - AT Connected will take place this year Jan 25-28th and Feb 1-4th. There will be more than 150 courses covering AAC, Assistive Technology, Education, and more. Registrations options include full conference, single strand, one day, and even a free option! Go to atia.org/talkingwithtech and enter registration code ATIAVISION21 for 20% off of the full registration! Also, don’t forget to check out Rachel & Chris virtual seminar at ATIA on Jan 30th and Feb 6th at bit.ly/TWTATIA21  

 

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: Access to Education Conference - Part1

TWT Live: Access to Education Conference - Part1

January 13, 2021

This week, we present part 1 of TWT Live: Access to Education Conference 2020! Before the TWT Live session, Chris and Rachel briefly discuss the importance of using captions, both as a tool to learn to read and to support people who are hard of hearing. There are many small tweaks we can make to make things more inclusive, such as enabling a feature on iPhones that allows captions to be turned on automatically when they are available. 

 

Key ideas shared this week:

 

🔑 If you start with PECS, are you considering what that person will use as an adult? PECS often isn’t a good long-term robust solution compared to something like a high-tech AAC device. Its OK to use many different kinds of AAC but you want a primary method of communication that is robust and can grow with the user.

 

🔑 Virtual learning is a great opportunity to coach family members and communication partners. Service providers can change every year but the family will often be a consistent source of communication and support for the user over the years. 

 

🔑 Look beyond your own discipline for professional development. There are trainings (e.g. cognitive coaching, difficult conversations) that apply to working with AAC but are not listed under the umbrella of education, speech pathology, or AAC. 

 

 

ATIA - AT Connected will take place this year Jan 25-28th and Feb 1-4th. There will be more than 150 courses covering AAC, Assistive Technology, Education, and more. Registrations options include full conference, single strand, one day, and even a free option! Go to atia.org/talkingwithtech and enter registration code ATIAVISION21 for 20% off of the full registration! Also, don’t forget to check out Rachel & Chris virtual seminar at ATIA on Jan 30th and Feb 6th at bit.ly/TWTATIA21  

 

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!

Talking with Tech Year in Review 2020

Talking with Tech Year in Review 2020

January 6, 2021

This week, Chris and Rachel review highlights of the Talking with Tech podcast during 2020. They talk about which countries listened the most to the podcast, the ways the podcast grew in 2020, and a breakdown of the most downloaded episodes of the year and of all time!

Coaching Call w/ Michaela Ball: Supporting a Severely Apraxic Emergent Communicator (Part 2)

Coaching Call w/ Michaela Ball: Supporting a Severely Apraxic Emergent Communicator (Part 2)

December 16, 2020

This week, we continue with part 2 of Chris and Rachel’s coaching call with TWT’s Audio Engineer & SLP grad student, Michaela Ball! Michaela continues to discuss her severely apraxic student who is a multi-modal communicator with Rachel and Chris. They continue to explore the importance of picking a larger iPad when possible, ways to promote direct selection skills, choosing motivating vocabulary to start with, and how to train staff and communication partners.

 

Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss the “Pygmalion effect” and the ways that belief in someone can promote greater performance from that person. This includes the Rosenthal experiments in mice, in which mice who were labeled “intelligent” actually performed better. Experiments with students also indicate that belief in the student promotes better performance on average. This supports the idea that “presuming potential” can actually improve the performance of those we work with.

 

Key ideas this week: 

 

🔑 Visual supports help all students, especially early learners, Consider a classroom approach to aided language input so that everyone gets more practice with core words and how to use them.

 

🔑 Consider putting core words into other places like the playground. For example, you can laminate key rings or core boards and place them on the playground for any kid to use and engage with.

 

🔑 If teaching action words like “go”, instead of having adults model demands on the AAC user with that word, try having the AAC user make demands of others in a fun way, like in “red light, green light”. 

 

🔑 When an AAC user communicates in multiple modalities, whenever possible, avoid “double demands” by communication partners, e.g. saying it verbally and then on the device. It is better to accept what they said and model without expectation.

 

To get 20% off registration for the virtual conference ATIA 2021, go to ATIA.org/talkingwithtech and enter code ATIA21VISION (in all caps).  Chris and Rachel will teach virtual seminar Jan 30th and February 6th - check it out at bit.ly/twtatia2021! 

Coaching Call w/ Michaela Ball: Supporting a Severely Apraxic Emergent Communicator

Coaching Call w/ Michaela Ball: Supporting a Severely Apraxic Emergent Communicator

December 9, 2020

This week, we share a coaching call between Chris, Rachel, and our amazing Audio Engineer & SLP grad student, Michael Ball! Michaela asks the TWT team about a severely apraxic student she is working with who is a multi-modal communicator. With limited therapy time with this student, should Michaela focus more of her time on implementing a device, using sign language, or promoting verbal speech? How can she promote AAC best during the school day?

 

Before the interview, Rachel shares with Chris about a another apraxic student she recently consulted with. Rachel talks about her approach to the difficult conversations that occur when a family is wary of AAC and holding out hope for verbal speech without AAC. Chris poses the option of bringing in more experienced families of AAC users to talk with the new client's family about the benefits of AAC. Chris also brings up the argument that AAC can often be the “lest dangerous option”, especially when compared to doing nothing differently. 

 

Key ideas this week:

 

🔑 When someone communicates in several different modalities, and we have to prioritize which modality to support, one good question to consider is “what modality will be most understood by unfamiliar listeners down the road?”

 

🔑 When we are choosing what word to target first when working with an AAC user, it can be helpful to choose a word that is both really motivating to them in particular and one that he or she will use in many different contexts. 

 

🔑 When choosing between an iPad mini or a full-sized iPad for AAC, it is important to consider the extra “real estate” that the full-sized iPad screen can give. More space often means for more symbols! It can also mean more space between the symbols, which can help students with fine motor challenges.

 

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!

Small Talks 4: Candice Steel, Chris Ramirez, Monique Madrid, Sarah Gregory, and TJ Haley

Small Talks 4: Candice Steel, Chris Ramirez, Monique Madrid, Sarah Gregory, and TJ Haley

December 3, 2020

This week, TWT presents four more short interviews, aka "small talks", covering a variety of topics related to AAC and Assistive Technology!

 

Before the interviews, Rachel talks about a contentious IEP she recently attended for a student she consults with.  Rachel had some ideas about supporting literacy that she shared with the team, but the team was resistant to Rachel’s input as an SLP and didn’t seem interested in changing any goals. Chris shares about a situation early in his career where he was told SLPs “don’t do reading” - but those same people couldn’t say who was responsible for helping the student succeed. Chris then connects this to ASHA’s perspective that reading falls under the scope of practice for SLPs. Rachel touches on some of the mistakes that are often made when teaching a minimally verbal student to read, presumably because teachers don’t know how to support a student’s reading effectively if he or she can’t read out loud. 

 

This week's Small Talks are:

 

🔑 Candice Steel, an SLP & AT specialist working for Gompers, a non-profit in AZ, talks about empowering paraprofessionals to support AAC. Her training focuses on concepts like core vocabulary, operational competence, evaluative feedback, and communication facilitation. You can email her to learn more at empoweringparas101@gmail.com.

 

🔑 Chris Ramirez & Monique Madrid are SLPAs who work with young children, AAC, and home health. Monique shares about being a parent of a child with autism and introducing AAC to her daughter. Chris talks about working with bilingual families and working with a supervisor who supervises SLPAs from out-of-state. 

 

🔑 Sarah Gregory, SLP and AAC specialist, talks about the benefits of using Seesaw and videos to connect with families and teachers. Sarah likes to take videos and share them with families, including videos of students (with permission) that she shares with families. With Seesaw you don’t have have everyone’s email address to be able to contact them instantly. 

 

🔑 TJ Haley - high school SLPA who discusses ways to engage students, including augmented reality. You can broadcast augmented reality for groups and classes using software that is often free and easy to use. He finds augmented reality is a great way to elicit expressive language. Sketch Fab and Jig Space are two apps he uses.

 

Do you have burning AAC questions for Chris and Rachel? Sign up for our Patreon at patreon.com/talkingwithtech and join our TWT Live show for Patreon members only on December 9th 7:30-8:30 pm Eastern Time (4:30-5:30 pm Pacfic)!

 

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

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