Times are Changing

Well…it’s that time again. All of my colleagues in Chapel Hill are preparing their classrooms and offices for the start of another school year. I write this with a heavy heart because I will not be joining them. 

Over the summer, my little family and I packed up and moved to Michigan. We wanted to be closer to family for our baby and a job opportunity came up that was too good to pass by. 

I am now a SLP specializing in AAC in outpatient pediatrics at the University of Michigan Hospital System. 

It hasn’t been an easy switch. I feel like a CF again! In NC, I had all of the processes and paperwork down. In MI, I feel like I’m starting from scratch. It’s been quite the learning curve figuring out insurance and how to navigate such a huge system. Everyone says it will get better. 

I’ve been there for less than a month and I’ve already gotten my hands on some pretty cool devices. I’m learning how to program a lot of different systems and navigate insurance funding. On Wednesday, I had two separate families ask me if I knew of Dr. Karen Erickson. They were thrilled to know that I actually do know her and had the distinct pleasure of working with her in the schools. 

I miss NC like crazy, but I’m trying to stay open to the possibilities that UofM has to offer. I can already tell that I’m a better clinician after this move.

Who knows what’s next? 

For now, I’m going to try not to mess up the documentation too bad, enjoy treating a broad range of patients, and focus on my AAC eval and treatment skills. 

Good luck to the staff and students returning to CHCC this fall! 

“I’m going to Carolina in my mind…”

AAC Devices: Tip of the Iceberg There’s More to Good AAC Implementation Than Meets the Eye

By Ruth Morgan M.S. CCC-SLP  and Ashley Robinson M.S. CCC-SLP, ATP


How often have you heard this?:  “I saw XYZ new device and I think it would be great for my student,” or “Last night I saw XYZ device on tv and it was a miracle!”

High tech AAC devices are just the tip of the iceberg of things that need to be in place to make students successful communicators. Here are 10 other key components.


Image by Ruth Morgan. Use but PLEASE CREDIT

    1. Systematically organized core and fringe vocabulary. Here are some examples:
    2. Peer language models. This doesn’t even have to be other device users. Kids need to see other kids using language.
    3. Opportunities for functional communication (including commenting, asking questions, greetings/salutations, requesting, and rejecting). Not just making choices
      • The Communication Matrix is one of many tools that allows you to see a range of communicative functions
    4. Data collection methods
    5. Lite Tech backups should always be in place for high tech devices. Batteries tend to die at the most inopportune times.
    6. Room for growth. Students need to be able to combine symbols to make more complex language. Always be thinking ahead.
    7. IEPs with SMART goals
    8. Training and planning time for staff. This is crucial!!!
    9. Adult modeling of AAC use.
    10. Stakeholder support (including parents and administration) for funding of devices and implementation of all of the above!


If teams focus solely on the device (the tip of the iceberg), then you may very well end up with a really expensive book end or fancy choice board.  What’s underneath the surface is vital to successful implementation.


Author Bios:

Ruth Morgan is a full-time speech language pathologist at Ephesus Elementary school and author of Chapel Hill Snippets. You can find her materials on Teachers Pay Teachers.


Ashley Robinson splits her time between providing speech language pathology services at the secondary level and working as part of the district Assistive Technology team. 


2015 NCACA Conference Handouts: Building Classroom Communities to Support AAC Users

I had the distinct pleasure of presenting at the 2015 NCACA Conference in Winston-Salem NC (my first time ever!). It was an honor to be a part of a conference with people that I truly look up to and see the great work they are doing all over the state.

During my presentation, I outlined the training process I have been using in my district this year. Basically, I am working to help classroom teachers build a foundation to support AAC users in the classroom. This is not where I’m going to end up, but it’s a start.

Check it out!

NCACA 2015 Conference

Blank AAC Training Plan

Completed AAC Training Plan

Communication Environments: Part 1


The first thing I wanted to do was get my stakeholders on board. Since I am trying to disseminate information across the district, I established a group for speech language pathologists (SLPs) in my district who work with students who use AAC (or would benefit from AAC use). This could easily be applied to professionals who work in a school setting. Basically – just get together the people who you will need to enlist to help carry out the process.

We meet once per month as part of already scheduled SLP meetings. I know not everybody has regular scheduled SLP meetings, so I would suggest looking into alternative times where people are already gathering – faculty meetings perhaps? I know this is an added thing, but I’ve found it so helpful and our group has grown in the last three meetings!

Our first meeting focused on brainstorming topics that we wanted to discuss. This was helpful for me to see what the concerns were across the district. Funding, consistency, and equity were some of the issues that came up. These issues are going to take time, and I don’t have the answers off the top of my head. Luckily, I work with a great group of SLPs who can help me figure it out.

Since our first meeting, we have met three times. I’m following a plan set by Lauren Enders on my favorite AAC website – PraAACtical AAC. Our first topic included a crash course in vocabulary organization.

I mostly pulled from information from the UNC Center for Literacy and Disability Studies but also included information on PODD. I realize that these are not the only two, but I wanted to hit on the two that we see the most right now. Remember: this is just our starting point…

The topic we discussed at this training was my idea for getting some resources in the classroom. Luckily the grant was funded!!!! Stay tuned for more information on that!

What vocabulary organization resources have you found?


It’s that time of year to stop and reflect on what we are thankful for. Today I got some WONDERFUL news and I want to thank those who made it possible.

The grant I wrote was funded!!!!

Thanks to the generosity of the Public School Foundation and A Better Image Printing in Chapel Hill, all system level teachers in my district will have resources to support the instruction of our low verbal and nonverbal students. It’s actually happening!




Stay tuned for Phase 1…

Creating Communication Communities in the Classroom

Is that enough of a tongue twister for you?

I haven’t had much time lately, but I want to fill you in on what’s happening.

I’ll go back to the beginning. Over the summer I was able to attend a PODD workshop. It was AMAZING! You can find a link to that post here. While the information on creating and implementing PODD systems in the classroom was important, what really stood out to me was the information Gayle Porter provided on creating an environment that supports aided communication. In our excitement to get students a communication system, I think we forget to really spend time building a foundation to support device use. I am guilty of this – think back to my huge PODD role out last year. Spoiler alert – it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Mostly because I was not able to provide the NECESSARY staff development to make it work.

This year I’m really taking my time to build that foundation in my school district. Of course I am still working to address AAC referrals, but I’m walking a parallel path of providing resources and professional development regarding AAC use. I want to empower school staff – not just dump one more thing on their plates.

I want to share this journey with you. I’m thinking a series of posts that details my steps along the way will be the most useful. While these aren’t new ideas (there are all kinds of resources out there on this topic), I want to make sure that I am telling the real story from the view of a public school employee.

Let me know what you think!