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


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…

Feeling Happy…

This evening, I had the honor of watching my mentor (Ruth Morgan of Chapel Hill Snippets) receive an award for her many contributions to the practice of serving students who need alternative or augmentative communication. It was a much deserved award and her passion for her work was evident.

A WONDERFUL organization called the New Voices Foundation sponsored the event in honor of an amazing individual who used AAC – Laura Jane Parker. They awarded four individuals who have dedicated their careers to serving students with physical and communication needs. Check out their website to see more of the awesome work that they do – I could go on all day!

It was a true honor to be in this room, surrounded by some amazing professionals, celebrating the work of our peers. I will admit that prior to this event, I was feeling kind of low. Political agendas (both state and local) had gotten me down. But sitting in that room – I felt the love.

The folks behind New Voices truly care about individuals with communication needs and for the professionals that are working to serve those individuals. That’s something I haven’t felt in a while. I left with a renewed spirit.

The field of AAC is dynamic. This is the time to be innovative and to collaborative! Tthings aren’t great in the NC public school systems, but there are people out there fighting for us to get the tools and support we need. I hope to work with New Voices in the future.

It’s time to get out of my funk and focus on the good – believe me there’s a lot of good. It’s an exciting time to work in AAC!

What do others do when you start feeling low about your work?


Tis the Season…for Job Interviews

As many of you know, I have the privilege of working with an enthusiastic and hard working graduate clinician this semester. It’s been a true pleasure to work with her and I know she will go on to be a great speech language pathologist. In a few short weeks she will be graduating and looking for her clinical fellowship position. I remember these days, and how nerve wracking the job interview process can be. Luckily for me, a fellow speech language pathologist – TJ Ragan from “The Gladdest Thing Under the Sun” wrote this AMAZING blog post with job interview questions to practice. Click HERE to find the link to those questions.

This was my bible when I was interviewing, so I asked if I could share this on my blog. I hope others find it as useful as I did. Good luck!

Does anyone else have any interesting job interview questions to share?