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?


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!


Whew… This year has been off to a fast and furious start. I’ve started at a new middle school, picked up where I left off at the high school, and my time on the Assistive Technology (AT) team has increased! The increase in AT time has given me an opportunity to really tackle some projects to support our AAC users (and the professionals that work with them). Here are the two major projects that have consumed most of my time:

1. AAC support group for our SLPs that work with students who are using/could benefit from AAC. It’s a great way to share information and evidence based practices, and we talk about what’s working/not working for us. We’ve had our first meeting, and have the next one in a couple of weeks. This seems to be a success and I’m going to go ahead and add it to the win column.

2. Grant writing. After the PODD roll out didn’t go so well (due to my lack of availability to train staff), I thought it was time to take a step back. At the PODD training over the summer, Gayle Porter talked about the need to establish communicative environments for our AAC users. This foundation is KEY and I realized that I skipped this step last year. So, this year I’m going to change it up and support our professionals to effectively work with AAC users. That’s where the grant writing comes in. I’m writing a grant to our Public School Foundation to purchase materials for teachers to implement with their AAC users.

I will blog more about this in detail later, but the major points are:
* Professional development on myths/misconceptions of AAC users
* Professional development on the importance of aided language input
* Core vocabulary training
* Creating core vocabulary boards for teachers to use in the classroom

It’s important for me to really support teachers and staff, instead of adding one more thing to their unending list of demands. I don’t want this to be just one more thing, but something that teachers can easily put in place and will really make a difference for our AAC kids. I’ll keep you posted on how it all turns out.

Has anyone else done training like this before? Any info is helpful!