Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sometimes a Little AAC is All You Need


Fat Chat Apps fills a bit of a vacancy in the AAC Apps world.  It doesn't pretend to be a comprehensive solution.  Fat Chat Apps are a family of small, fun AAC apps for joking around, sky kids in new situations or extending conversations and fixing communication break downs.  The most important thing about these apps is they are fun!

Pirate Chat and Outback Chat are two of the joking around choices.  Fun, unique picture symbols combine with thematic phrases to allow kids (and adults) to have fun.  You can even send your messages through Twitter, e-mail,  IM or text.  Perfect for participating in talk Like  A Pirate Day or being a Pirate or Aussie Cowboy for Halloween.

Spooky Chat, Santa Chat, and Bunny Chat are situational AAC apps.  Perfect for shy toddlers, those not wanting to haul around bigger AAC devices or when a non-speaking communication book just won't do.  Now you have a solution for trick-or-treating, visiting Santa and the Easter Bunny.

Finally there are some apps for short term solutions to AAC talk.  Snappy Chat provided kid-friendly conversational extenders while Fast 20 is a core word solution utilizing the top 20+ core words and Chat Repair gives you 160 phrases to fix communication problems and extend conversation.  Phrases range from "my bad", to, "excuse me" and then some.  These apps are nice back up tools, choices for those who are understood just fine when communicating with familiar listeners but need help with new listeners and those who maybe just need a hand when tired or ill.

In general these apps are only $.99 and are available for iOS and Android.

I am hoping, "Doctor Office Chat", "Dentist Chat" and "Birthday Party Chat" are coming soon.  And maybe "Performance Review Chat" for those of us who get verklempt at our annual evaluations!  (Wait, Yiddish Chat!  We want Yiddish Chat!)

How Many Sentences Can You Make?

To the left is a board with 20 core words on it.  Some people wonder how many things can be said with 20 words.  I thought I would give it a try:

  1. I like you.
  2. You like me.
  3. I like it.
  4. I like that.
  5. I want some.
  6. I want more.
  7. I want some more.
  8. You want more.
  9. You want some.
  10. You want some more.
  11. I want that.
  12. You want that.
  13. I want help.
  14. You want help.
  15. I want (to) go.
  16. I want (to) go in.
  17. I want (to) go out.
  18. I want it.
  19. You want (to) go.
  20. You want (to) go in.
  21. You want (to) go out.
  22. I am all done.
  23. You are all done.
  24. You go in here.
  25. I go in here
  26. I like (to) go out.
  27. I like (to) go in.
  28. You like (to) go out.
  29. You like (to) go in.
  30. I want you (to) stop.
  31. You want me (to) stop.
  32. It go on here.
  33. It go out.
  34. It go in.
  35. What (do) you want
  36. That what I want.
  37. It is what I want
  38. I want some in here.
  39. You want some in here.
  40. What?
  41. What go(es) in?
  42. What go(es) out?
  43. What is here?
  44. Mine is here.
  45. It is mine.
  46. What is that?
  47. Some like it.
  48. Some like that.
  49. Not on this board.
  50. It not on this board.
Obviously my list assumes facial expression to imply a question versus a statement, but 50 possible sentences from 20 squares really increases that value of what some call a limited about of "real estate" on a communication board.

On the right is a 25 word communication board.  (It happens to be a photo of a poster a family uses to model core words and sentence building for their AAC user.)  This board is a print out from a dynamic display device, so abox is lost to "back", although back can certainly be used as a word as well.  By adding "not", "who", "that", "eat", and "now" to the above board how many more sentences can we make?
  1. I want this.
  2. You want this.
  3. I want this now.
  4. You want this now.
  5. Who want(s) this?
  6. Who want(s) this now?
  7. I am not all done.
  8. You are not all done.
  9. It is not all done.
  10. I am not all done now.
  11. You are not all done now.
  12. It is not all done now.
  13. Who is not all done?
  14. What is not all done?
  15. Who is all done?
  16. I (will) not eat that.
  17. I (will) not eat this.
  18. I (will) not stop eat(ing).
  19. I (will) not stop eat(ing) that.
  20. I (will) not stop eat(ing) now.
  21. I (do) not want it.
  22. I (do) not want that.
  23. I (do) not want this.
  24. I (do) not want (to) eat.
  25. I (do) not want (to) go.
  26. I (do) not want (to) stop.
  27. I (do) not like it.
  28. I (do) not like this.
  29. I (do) not like that.
  30. I (will) not go here.
  31. I (will) not go there.
  32. I (will) not go in.
  33. I (will) not go in here.
  34. I (will) not go in there.
  35. Not mine.
  36. I like this.
  37. You like this.
  38. What is this?
  39. Who is this?
  40. Who is out?
  41. Who is in?
  42. Who want(s) you?
  43. You want who?
  44. What want(s) help?
  45. Who go(es) in?
  46. Who go(es) out?
  47. Who is in now?
  48. Who is out now?
  49. Who is all done?
  50. Who wants (to) go?
  51. Who wants this?
  52. Who wants that?
  53. Who wants it?
  54. I eat this.
  55. I eat that.
  56. I want (to) eat.
  57. I want (to) eat this.
  58. I want to eat that.
  59. I want (to) stop eat(ing).
  60. I am all done eat(ing).
  61. I am all done eat(ing) now.
  62. I am all done eat(ing) here.
  63. I am all done eat(ing) that.
  64. I am all done eat(ing) this.
  65. Who is all done eat(ing) now?
  66. You are all done eat(ing).
  67. You are all done eat(ing) now.
  68. It is all done.
  69. It is all done eat(ing).
  70. It is all done eat(ing) now.
  71. It is all done eat(ing) here.
  72. It is all done eat(ing) this.
  73. It is all done eat(ing) that.
  74. It is all done go(ing).
  75. It is all done go(ing) out.
  76. It is all done go(ing) in.
  77. It is all done go(ing) now.
  78. I am all done go(ing) now.
  79. You are all done go(ing) now.
  80. That is more.
  81. This is more.
  82. It is more.
  83. This is all done.
  84. This is all done now.
  85. Now it is all done.
  86. Now you are all done.
  87. Now I am all done.
  88. Now that is all done.
  89. Now this is all done.
  90. Stop eat(ing) that!
  91. Stop eat(ing) this.
  92. Stop eat(ing) that now.
  93. Stop go(ing) now.
  94. Stop it now.
  95. Stop that now.
  96. Stop this now.
  97. Who stop(ped) that?
  98. Who stop(ed) this?
  99. Who is stop(ed) now?
  100. Who is stop(ped) here?
  101. What is stop(ed)?
  102. What is stop(ed) now?
  103. What is all done now?
  104. Who is all done now?
  105. Who is all done?
  106. Is it all done?
  107. Help it go.
  108. Help it eat.
  109. Help you eat.
  110. Help me (I) eat.
  111. You help me eat.
  112. You help me go.
  113. You help me go here.
  114. You help me go out.
  115. You help me go in.
  116. You help me go now.
  117. Now you help me.
  118. Now you help me go.
  119. Now you help me eat.
  120. I help you eat now.
  121. You help me eat now.
  122. I go back.
  123. You go back.
  124. It go(es) back.
  125. I go back now.
  126. I go back here now.
  127. You go back now.
  128. It go(es) back now.
  129. It go(es) back here.
  130. I go back here.
  131. You go back here.
  132. I go back in.
  133. You go back in.
  134. It go(es) back in.
  135. I go back out.
  136. You go back out.
  137. It goes back out.
  138. Who go(es) back out?
  139. Who go(es) here?
  140. Who go(es) back in?
  141. What go(es) back out?
  142. What go(es) back in?
  143. What go(es) back?
  144. What go(es) back here?
  145. What go(es) back here now?
  146. Now what go(es) here?
  147. Now who go(es) here?
  148. I (do) not want help.
  149. You (do) not want help.
  150. It (does) not want help.
So with 25 core words that is a total of 200 different things that can be said.  There are definitely some missing from my list too.  Feel free to add the ones missing to the comments.  Imagine how many things could be said with 30, 35, 40, 50 or 100 core words?  20 Core words is absolutely a starting point in working towards more self-generated language.  It has it's shortfalls: you can't say everything, there is no way to provide context (excluding multi-modal communication like pointing, eye pointing, gestures, nodding/shaking a head or a set of fringe vocabulary), there is no way to provide verb tenses (and therefore give context as to time) and 20 words is only a teeny, minuscule portion of what there is to say in the world.  

An intuitive and attentive communication partner can allow an AAC user to guide the conversation by asking clarifying questions, such as:
AAC User:  I go there.
Partner: You went there?
AAC User:  (Using gestures) No. (Using board.)  I want go there.
Partner:  Oh, you want to go somewhere?
AAC User: (Using gestures) Yes. (Using board) You help I (me) go there.
Partner: You want me to help you go somewhere.  Somewhere in the school? 
AAC User: I go eat.
Partner:  You want me to help you go to the cafeteria!?!
AAC User:  (Using gestures) Yes. (Using board)  I go eat now.  You go eat now.  Go eat there.
As you can see it takes some work on both sides, but try saying all that if you had twenty-five buttons that only had complete sentences like, "I want to listen to Raffi" and "I want to go potty"!  Core words do not have to replace pragmatic, phrase or sentence based alternative communication, but they are an excellent add-on to those systems.

Students can be taught to "try to tell me with your core words" when they cannot find a way to say what they want to say within their other pages.  If a core word page set is linked to a more pragmatic phrase or sentence based set of communication pages it might even be faster to say "stop" or "more" using the core words pages instead of navigating deep into the boards to find those things!

Core word pages can also be printed and laminated to make a portable, water proof and convenient solution on the road, in the pool or on a walk.  If you go to an office center like Staples or Office Max (or online at Vista Print) you can print out a core word board poster size (and have it laminated) to use around the house, outside or even hang it over the AAC users bed on the ceiling so he or she can "talk to myself".

You can try doing this sentence building activity yourself.  Try it at a staff meeting with aides and others or at home with your family.  Using pointing and gestures to provide context and see how much you can say.  This activity, sort of a sentence scramble, is a great way to train communication partners in how far you can go with just core words.  It could work in training adults or children to be good communication partners.

Core words can be limiting but its better than a world of yes/no questions and hoping someone guesses the questions to ask correctly, isn't it?


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pinterest for Our Classrooms

Pinterest seems to be a big hit that is here to stay.  I've been pinning for a while now and here are some boards you might find useful.  Please add links to your boards in the comments!
  • AAC in which alternative and augmentative methods of communication are on full display
  • Android and Kindle Fire for AT and SpEd in which Android apps and devices strut their stuffCrafts in which crafts - for the classroom and home - inspire you
  • Assistive Tech on which all things technology that can help a person who is differently abled take center stage
  • CVI and Low Vision in which resources for cortical vision impairment and low vision are shown
  • Free AT in which the focus is on assisitive technology that won't break the bank
  • iOS for AT and SpEd in which there are lots of images of things in the iPad family 
  • Life in the Switch Lane in which switches and things to do with them are highlighted
  • Sensory Ideas in which sensory activities and inspirations make you wish you were on a swing 
  • Special Needs in which we see things and information for people with special needs and those who love them 
  • Teaching and Learning in which general education and special education teachers find ideas for better practice
  • Visual and Emotional Supports in which ways to show instead of tell are seen on the screen
And just for fun:
And be sure to check out the Pinterest Special Needs Directory!


Attainment's New Stuff

A browse through the new products at Attainment Company just made me start humming, "I Want to Be A Millionaire"!  Here are just a few of the things that made me think about my credit card:


  • SymbolSupported iPad App - like Pix Writer for your iPad this app adds literacy support symbols from Imagine Symbols and PixWriter as you type, perfect for directions and recipes all on your iPad (or save as a PDF and send to your printer) $29.99
  • Classic Attainment software programs as iPad apps - programs we have all been using for 15+ years coming to your iPad, for now just Community Success and Dollars and Cents at $39.99 each, but I am sure more will be on the way (these two programs have also been updated to look and act more modern when used on your computer)
  • ELSB now available as a software program - a literacy program for learners with with special needs that was only available in a print version now for your computer 
  • New Early Numeracy and Early Science print curriculum for elementary students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities pricey at $599 and $499 respectively these program will fill in a missing piece for those of us using Unique needing a more intense focus on Math and Science
  • GoNow iPad Case has a built in handle, and is designed to both protect iPad 2 or 3 and direct the sound out in one direction (it seems to be more for users to hear - not for communication partners to hear when using AAC apps however); also easy access ports for charging and syncing for $59.99 it is certainly worth a try
  • Attainment eBooks are how Attainment is going to be offering all of their books (for teachers and professionals) in a version that will be available on iOS, but the process is kind of convoluted, still it might be worth it for schools to purchase in this manner (I don't quite understand why they can't just be sold in the iBooks store, but I am sure there is some reason)
  • This last product I can't wait to get my hands on StepPAD is a small, handheld prompting device with the ability to record series of auditory prompts for a user to access later, it also has an overlay holder for visual cues.  I can envision this being used for students with working memory deficits as to assist in following instructions, especially for individual or home work , $99.99


My hopes for Attainment next round of new products:
  • More updates of classic computer programs to new computer and iOS versions
  • Age appropriate versions of ELSB and the new numerancy and science curriculums for older learners with severe disabilities
  • Computer and iOS versions of all curriculums
  • A sharing website for SymbolSupprt and Go Talk NOW creations teachers, SLPs and families make for students

Monday, October 1, 2012

Motivate, Model and Move Out of the Way!


I received a text message today from a proud parent.  She had heard from her daughter's speech therapist who told a story about how the child had independently used her speech device to access iTunes and turn on Adele when another child was playing music she didn't like.

This post is for all the proud parents and parents with high AAC hopes.

That mom commented that it was like I had mentioned before, "You need to move back!"

It's true.  Communication is sloppy and nearly impossible to teach in a formalized structure.  I have discussions with parents all the time about how to "bring AAC home".  Here are some tips from my experience:

1) Set it and forget it!  - Set up and turn on the speech device and then take the focus off of it.  The device is a tool.  It is your child's voice but in reality the focus is on interaction and connection.  The more you try to focus on the device and just asking questions of your child or insisting they "find _____" the less motivating communication will be.  Once the device is set up...

2) Motivate - focus on the fun or connection in an activity or family situation.  Around the dinner table?  Don't force asking to pass the peas or for a glass of milk - boring!  Instead tell jokes, share about your day and encourage interaction.  Focus on comments, descriptions and the AAC user asking, not answering, questions.  Make communicating irresistible and then...

3) Model - language in equals language out (to paraphrase Linda Burkhart).  The device is set up, you have a topic at hand and it is fun.  Now YOU use the device.  Have your other children use the device.  Have visitors use the device.  Communicate with the device as you communicate with your voice.  Want to say that something is awesome?  Use the device!  Want to tell someone to quiet down?  Use the device! Show, don't tell, how to use AAC to communicate and then...

4) Move out of the way.  Leave the device set up, there is no such thing as "device time being over" or "being too tired".  If someone is too tired to communicate then they just won't say anything.  It is absolutely fine to have a device set up and then not say anything!  You don't talk the every minute your mouth works, do you?  Moving out of the way means letting life unfold and being ready for the surprises your child throws are you.  You never know what they are going to say until you give them the time and space to say it!

5) Finally grow the device before the user needs it.  By this I mean add vocabulary and information slightly faster than your child learns to use what is there.  Make sure there are new mountains to climb.  Rarely have I seen someone have too much vocabulary, but constantly I see someone have too little.  If you only had the same 4, 32, 128 or 400 things to say over and over and over and over would you bother making the effort?

Good luck.  Comment with your stories of communication success here or on Facebook!

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