Learning to Speak AACtion Plan: Week 1 with a chance to win a $400 Apple gift card!

Learning to Speak AACtion Plan.jpg

Learning to Speak AACtion Plan: Week 1 with a chance to win a $400 Apple gift card!

Posted on January 10, 2016 by Heidi LoStracco, MS, CCC-SLP

    “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must. But take the step.”
                       ~ Naeem Callaway

I have an idea, and I’m asking you to be part of it. If you support someone who uses augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) or if you use AAC and you’re reading this, you can do this. This is not specific to Speak for Yourself.

If you are in the world of AAC, you’ve probably heard of aided language input (also called modeling and aided language stimulation). The field of AAC as a whole agrees that aided language input is an important strategy to integrate into your AAC implementation. In fact, if your child/client has a form, any form, of AAC, immersing that individual in the language that you expect him/her to speak is the most important thing you can do.

Isn’t that great news? As someone who wants to support the AAC user(s) in your life, you can implement the most important support with absolutely no pressure on them. You have complete control over the amount of aided language input that YOU provide each day.
THEY don’t have to cooperate.
THEY don’t have to touch the device… and they especially don’t need you to pull their hand over and force them to activate a button!
THEY don’t even have to appear to be paying attention.

Being in the field and talking to parents and professionals every day, a lot of you wish you were modeling more. In many cases, your AAC users can find words faster than you and the conversation in your head might be some variation of this, depending on how supportive the voices are in your head:
You: I need to model for (AAC user).
Yourself: Yeah, you do.
You: Tomorrow, I’m going to start.
Yourself: Okay.
(Next day) You: I wanted to model but when I looked at the screen, there were so many words.
Yourself: It’s overwhelming when you’re trying to find words fast.
You: Especially when (AAC user) knows it and laughs at me.
Yourself: You just have to learn where words are.

It’s true. If you’re going to teach, you have to know more or know different information. For someone to learn a new language, immersion has been shown to be the natural, most effective way.  To immerse someone in a language, you have to speak the language. It’s true for French, Spanish, Mandarin…and AAC.

You have to speak AAC to model AAC. 

It sounds like a big undertaking to essentially learn another language in addition to an already busy parenting, work, life schedule. I’ve been thinking a lot about how parents and professionals can learn to speak AAC. I know it has to be a short amount of time. It has to be organized and well defined and most of all, it has to be effective. There are some great resources for targeting vocabulary for the AAC user like The Year of Core Words on PrAACtical AAC, but I haven’t seen a plan targeted at giving parents and professionals a way to solidly learn the vocabulary so that it can be used and introduced fluently to the AAC user.

So, I have a plan. An organized, streamlined, effective plan for speaking AAC in 10 minutes (or less) each day. It’s a system that may already be familiar to you, and you can start right now, regardless of where you are in your AAC journey. (I think I’ve been watching too many of those New Year infomercials).

Here’s the plan:

You know how there are mini lessons for kids to learn their spelling words each night? Well, let’s try that type of targeted approach for parents/professionals to learn to speak AAC so that you can begin modeling this week.

There will be 5 words a week. Each day of the week, the mini-lesson practice schedule is the same.
Monday: Get acquainted with the new words: Find (and open) each of the 5 words
Tuesday: Cement the motor plan into your memory for each word: Say each word 5 times in a row.
Wednesday: Generalize the location of the words by changing the order: Say the words alphabetically.
Thursday: Use the words functionally: Say 3 phrases/sentences making sure each of the words is used at least once
Friday: Test yourself! I’ll post 3 sentences using the words from that week (and the previous weeks) and you say them (without using the search feature).
The weekends are for make ups and more modeling attempts.

Can be printed or saved to your phone for easy access.

A few things to consider:
If your AAC user may be overwhelmed by a lot of new vocabulary because of visual or fine motor difficulty, you can still learn 5 new words each week and be selective about the vocabulary you target for modeling. If you want to practice, add a new user to your child’s app/device, import a copy of the child’s setting and practice there. Of course you can also practice on a different iPad if that’s an option.

You may want to color code the words you’re targeting each week on the screen if that type of visual helps you.

When you notice yourself verbally saying one of the weekly words in front of your child, touch it on his/her device as well. As soon as you do that, you’ve used aided language input!

Tell the AAC user(s) in your life that you’re learning their system. If possible, do your “homework” in front of them. When you’re trying to remember where a word is, tell them because it’s very likely that they’ll be able to help. Let them laugh at you. We all remember better when emotions are associated with the experience.

Here’s what I will do each week:

I’ll post 5 new words for each step every week for 12 weeks. If you are in an “analysis to paralysis” mindset, you don’t have to think about where to start or what to do to learn. One of the things I’m excited about is that you can use this to target any words you want within this plan!

If you are already using aided language input, and you feel like these first five words are too easy, go to the next step. Still not challenging you? Go to the next step. You already know and can model all of these words? Then choose 5 new words (you may want to check out the building language post if you have difficulty thinking of words to target) and start combining them into frequently occurring short sentences or phrases.

Here’s a blank visual so that you can add your own words or print it. You can also laminate it (or stick it in a sheet protector) and write the new words each week with a dry erase marker (that’s my plan for my students). You can also print it as a PDF for better quality.

Obviously, you can make any changes you’d like, but if you’re someone who finds it easier to follow through once all of the setup is done, here is Week 1.

Print or save for week 1 practice.

Screen shot of the Week 1 words open in Speak for Yourself. Not scary at all, right?

Once you start learning where words are and using them in front of the child, you’re modeling. You may want to check out the self-assessment sheet (which has emoji data collection points in case you think it sounds complex) in Uncommon Sense Blog’s New Year’s Resolution post.

But wait…There’s more! (and some details)

To make things a little more fun, and also to encourage you to complete the survey each week, there will be a Rafflecopter drawing on April 2nd, 2016 for a $400 Apple gift card, which is the current cost of an iPad mini 4.

There will be a check in survey posted weekly and shared on social media and our website which will allow additional entries into the Rafflecopter drawing. The Rafflecopter will open on Monday, January 11th, 2016 at 12:00 am.

The survey will be open from Friday at 12:00 am EST through Monday at 12:00am EST each week and will be worth the most raffle entries.

The purpose of the survey is to see if there’s any effectiveness to using the Learning to Speak AACtion Plan and on a very basic level, if there’s an increase in modeling and consequently AAC communication by the user. We plan to use your feedback to share information with other parents and professionals and to decide it’s beneficial to the AAC community to continue it beyond the initial 12 weeks that we have planned.

The “test yourself” phrases/sentences will be posted on the Speak for Yourself Facebook page and in the Speak for Yourself Users Group on Fridays at 12:00 am EST. They will be cumulative and include words from the prior weeks for “maintenance.”

The new words will be posted by Sunday night each week.

If you miss a week, jump back in whenever you can. If you’re reading this and we’re already a few weeks into it, start now.

What’s in it for you?

Aside from the chance to win a gift card to upgrade your hardware or get a back up device, if you stick with this and only learn 5 new words each week for the entire 12 weeks, you’ll know the location of 60 words in your child/student’s device! But they’re not just any 60 words, they are core words that you already say many times every single day. Wait until you realize how many things you can start to put together as more vocabulary is added!

If you are someone who feels awkward modeling, knowing where to find words will give you the confidence to get started. You can do this. Now is the time to take the first step.

Click here to go to the website for the Raffflecopter link.

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