Learning to Speak AACtion Plan

Posted on January 31, 2016 by Heidi LoStracco, MS, CCC-SLP

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

~Robert Collier

Screen reads “I like hug” in the message window of Speak for Yourself.

We are beginning Week 4 of the Learning to Speak AACtion Plan, and if you’ve been following along and completing the challenge, we are hearing from a lot of you that it’s making a difference and you’re seeing results! I shared some of my experience from this week on our Facebook page, and I’ll share it here as well.

One of the things that we love is that we get to work clinically with students who use AAC. We believe strongly that this is a large part of Speak for Yourself’s success. We are able to see first hand what our clients are doing and use that to improve SfY as a tool. 

Since the beginning of the Learning to Speak AACtion Plan, the way that I’ve been using it is to focus modeling for the students I see to target that vocabulary each week. 

As a clinician, there are a lot of times where you work towards something with very little reinforcement or “proof” that it’s working. Modeling can sometimes be that way. You do it because in all of your education, experience, and evidence-based research, you know that it’s beneficial. You do it with the expectation that the students are paying attention and your job is exposure. You expose them to useful language so they know they have access to useful language. 

And if you stick with it long enough and look for them to be successful, you get to see it click for them. 

Yesterday was that kind of day for me. 

When I went in to see one student, she had independently started using “please” when asking for something (Please was a Week 1 word). Her aide said that it’s much harder to say “no” or tell her to wait when she says “please.” (Guess who figured that out really quickly…the student with extra trampoline, music, and swing time:) While being polite isn’t necessarily a priority when a child is having a hard time expressing wants, needs, ideas, and feelings, this little girl has figured out that the word “please” has power. 

I spent the session with another little girl, modeling “like_______”  and saying “I like apples too” as she was requesting snacks. After a little while, she looked at me, used the app to say “like hug” and hugged me. It was a heart melting kind of day. 

If you’re participating in the Learning to Speak AACtion Plan or you’ve just been modeling and you’re wondering if it’s working, keep going. You’ll be glad you did in that moment when you see it click for that child.

I had dinner after that post with an AAC user in her early 20s who told me she “enjoys shrimp” and that “ice cream (is her) favorite.” Her mom has been modeling around her and making sure she has the words open. It’s working, and some of your children/clients are validating your efforts.

But some are not. If your child/client isn’t eagerly showing you that they can use the new words you’re learning, keep learning and keep exposing them to the vocabulary. If you’re following along and learning your child’s augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system, and you haven’t seen any tangible evidence that it’s “working,” keep going and celebrate any success.

Of course the end goal of learning the location of the vocabulary is to model for the AAC user(s) in your life. If your child/client doesn’t seem to be attending to modeling, my advice is to find a measure of success that depends entirely on YOU, which is where this plan originated. YOU can complete these practice lessons in 5-7 minutes each day, and count it as success that you have done something to focus on communication. YOU can decide to do the practice lessons in front of your child or choose a word that you are going to model 5 times every day this week. Decide to do something that you can commit to and count it as a success.

When I look at the survey results each week, here is what I know: People who are following this plan are doing SOMETHING. You are working towards your children’s AAC success. What you may not realize is that they are noticing.

This week, we are adding the word “to” because it is one of the words that I notice children seem to pick up on pretty quickly. Also, for such a tiny word, it has a lot of function in English…we say it A LOT! We use it to form the “to-infinitive” verb tense (to play), the negative infinitive (he asked me not to go), and as a preposition (to school). It provides intention (I need something to drink), and as grammar gets more complex, the to-infiitive expands its role.

I’ve also seen children use it as a homophone that in context changes the meaning to “too” or “two.” My advice is to go with it. As children become readers and spellers, they figure out the difference between the “to, too, and two,” but for early language learners, the context supplies the meaning. If your child says “I want to pretzels,” by all means, give him two pretzels. If she says, “I play to,” let her play too. For verbal children, we don’t have the visual transcript of everything they say, so we acknowledge their context dependent language. Do the same for your student’s using AAC…listen for their intent.

So here are the words for week 4:

Week 4 Learning to Speak AACtion Plan words

Here are the Practice Lessons:

Learning to Speak AACtion Plan practice lessons

The text only Master List is updated:

Learning to Speak AACtion Plan Master list through week 4.

If you haven’t completed the Week 3 survey, please do!! It will be available until tonight at 11:59 pm EST.

If you are going to be at ATIA 2016 in Orlando this week, please stop and see us! We will be in Booth 704 and we will also be presenting on Friday afternoon from 2:20-3:20.

Finally, here is the link to the site for the Rafflecopter Giveaway:

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