Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Key Concepts in Action

Linda Burkhardt's handout "Key Concepts for Using AAC for Children who have Complex Communication Needs" is a valuable resource in our classrooms but often times it is difficult to explain to support staff, general educators, typical peers and/or administrators what it looks like to carry out those key concepts from day to day.

One key concept that is often overlooked is that AAC should always be available, 100% of the time, no exceptions, (just last week our eyegaze device user had a clear plastic bag over her device with a cut out for the cameras so she could paper mache and communicate!  Not my idea, but a brilliant one!). 

Here are some reasons and ideas we can share with others to help them understand why:
  • students with only one reliable switch site working on developing partner assisted scanning or PODD use skills can always have their switch programmed for "That's the one!" and intentionality can be taught by responding to every switch hit as if it was meant, if the student says, "That's the one" while the radio is playing turn up the tunes and dance or if she says "That's the one!" while eating proceed to make a big deal out of how delicious that bit of food was, don't reserve communication for when you happen to be offering choices (imagine what it would be like if you lived like that?)
  • students without speech may not have a means to engage in self-talk, thus setting up an AAC device, even a sequential voice output switch during a "down time" at a low volume becomes an opportunity for self talk; the switch can say, "I am resting on this mat.  It is cool and quiet in this room.  Nice soft music is playing.  My break will be over at noon."  or it could be used as a means of self cueing (something we all do with internal self talk) and say, "I am feeding myself my lunch.  I am scooping my yogurt with my spoon.  If my chin feels wet I can wipe it with a napkin.  If I need help I can press my help switch."  or even during "freshing up" (as we call it) "I can getting freshened up.  Soon I will be clean and dry.  Then I will head over to circle time with my friends!"
  • increased communication skills invariably lead to a decrease in negative behavior, thus a student who is moaning or yelling for attention who is offered a series of sassy messages can be reinforced to learn that those messages get more attention than moaning or yelling and a student who shuts down in order to get a break can be given a way to communicate, "I need some space" and taught to state that through others respecting that comment and thus the student may shut down less - All Behavior Is Communication!
  • we must always be moving towards and teaching with the next step in independent expression of thoughts and ideas in mind - we must always consider the consequences of a life lived speaking other peoples words and participating in a constant multiple choice test and find ways to help our students move past that


  1. We are working with our six yr old non verbal daughter with her new Ipad. Thnks for this info as we are trying to learn how to present it to her.

  2. K, I wish you lived near enough to come be our advocate when we put Nik back in school! Or even just to finally meet you IRL and have you experience the wonder that is Nik! :-)

  3. Dream jobs include working with families and schools on just that!

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