It’s back to school time, and teachers might need your support incorporating speech-generating devices (SGDs) in the classroom. SGDs and other methods of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) give students who are unable to verbally produce speech a means of learning and using language.
Where should SLPs start when working with teachers to incorporate AAC in the classroom?
For emergent communicators, introducing and modeling core vocabulary words throughout the school day lets students use language in a variety of ways. Core vocabulary—the most frequently used words in conversation—offers a great place to for teachers to begin as they help AAC users communicate and learn language.
I ask for a copy of the child’s class schedule. Then I offer the classroom teacher examples of modeling core vocabulary around specific activities. Consider typical language development in toddlers and use this as your guide.
Here are a few ideas I came up with using a small sample of core vocabulary:
Target “open” and “close” when opening and closing the book or playing with the flaps. Or target “turn” when turning a page. Model requesting to read “more” and use “stop” or “all done” after the story ends.
Music is a wonderful time to target turning the song “on” or “off.” Demonstrate “go” or “stop” while dancing to the music, and work on “up” or “down” with the volume. If you’re singing “Wheels on the Bus,” for example, help the child sing along by selecting “go” or “on” along with other core vocabulary words from the song.
If the activity includes coloring or painting, talk about colors, but also use this as an opportunity to discuss placing the paintbrush “in” the paint, coloring “on” the paper, or asking for “more” crayons.
If playing with puzzles, work on requesting pieces with “more,” “want” or “get.” Place pieces “in” or “on” the designated space and, of course, take them “out” or “off” after. Model “down” after a pile of blocks a student stacked gets knocked over! While riding a bike, target vocabulary such as “go,” “stop,” “on” and “help.” When walking “up” or “down” steps, talk about it using the device.
Counting games are another great way to target “more.” Try taking items being counted “in” and “out” of a cup or the child’s hands. Place items “on” the table. Work on “mine” when placing items in front of the child or yourself.
If an activity involves movement, such as shaking a bottle, I make it “go” and “stop.” If planting seeds, put the seeds “in” the dirt and request water using “want” or “more.”
Of course target “eat,” “drink,” “more,” “want” and “all done,” but don’t forget to help students label food as “mine,” point to “that” item on the plate, or explain spatial relationships like “on” the table or “in” the mouth.
Suggest teachers help the student express “play” or “want” to join classmates, or ask “what” activity the child wants to “play.” You can “get” a ball and make it go “in” the basket, or request “go” and “stop” on the swing.
Don’t be afraid to repeat vocabulary words over and over or show multiple uses for each word. Repetition is key. I learned a lot through continuing education courses. I also visit PrAACtical AAC and The Center for AAC & Autism for resources. Best of luck with the beginning of the year!
Karen Krogg, MS, CCC-SLP, a clinician for Tecumseh Local Schools in New Carlisle, Ohio, has experience in schools and in outpatient settings. She also creates treatment materials and shares treatment ideas on her blog, The Pedi Speechie. firstname.lastname@example.org