It's that time of year when backpacks get filled, pencils get crisply sharpened, and communication becomes a focus of classroom activities.
Yup, it's Back To School time again!!
It's kind of a wonderful thing.
As students, parents, peers, therapists, paraprofessionals, administrators, and others gather for the glory of eduction, here are a few classy moves you can make to keep AAC supported and integrated into all-around learning.
1.Breakdowns Happen – Backups are a MUST
No matter how much you plan and prepare, there will be moments when communication breakdowns creep up on you. It may be that someone forgets to charge the iPad or the charger doesn't work for some reason. It may be that sunlight makes it really hard to see the screen or a mishap has left the device unusable. It might even be that the tablet was left at home or on the bus on accident. Yikes!!
Whatever the cause, we can mitigate communication device disasters by prepping a back-up ahead of time.
A laminated version of at least the main speech board of the communicator's device can be a lifesaver in a LOT of different situations. Having one on or inside the desk makes for quick word selection if the device is out of reach. A pocket sized option in a folder or on a lanyard can be really helpful in a conversation pinch. Even just a yes/no option available in the lunch room or library can be helpful and could even benefit students who don't rely exclusively on AAC.
Thinking ahead and preparing for breakdowns before they happen can help everyone have a better outcome.
2.Communication is Key – but not just with AAC users
While communication growth is a major goal when it comes to AAC communicators, it is also an essential component of keeping a support team connected.
As an AAC parent or teacher, start off the school year by opening a line of communication with important supporters at school and home. Don't be afraid to be the first to reach out and get some correspondence going. Share concerns, ideas, successess, expectations, advice, insights, and suggestions. Remember that the best way to support and encourage growth is by working as a team – this isn't a competition or a blame game. This is a chance to pull together so that everyone is informed and involved in learning.
The smoother and simpler the communication stream, the more everyone can give their time and energy to supporting the AAC communicator.
3.Enable Introductions and Expressions
One big part of many back-to-school moments is that good old getting to know you moment.
While many teachers have activity to try to accompolish these introductions, there's no harm in creating a quick speech board for your AAC communicator with an "about me" focus.
Add a speech board with some favorites or insights to your CoughDrop sidebar so it is readily availabe without disrupting the regular home board set and altering the motor plan. You could add favorite activites or colors, prefered foods or movies, expressions your communicator loves, tidbits like nick names, age, or pets, or anything else that helps people know who this communicator really is.
Even if your communicator is not necessarily in a place to make selections on an "about me" board, it might still be a good idea to make one available so that a teacher, paraprofessional, or other supporter could hit these buttons while modeling and still get to know a bit more about this AAC user.
4."Ship" it – beautiful melding of school and home
You've probably heard the phrase "I ship it" when a teen thinks that two things or people should be connected (think "Grocket" to ship Groot and Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy).
Well, one great ship is the connection of home and school when it comes to AAC in eduction (does that make it "hool" or "schome"??).
Nothing is as classy for back to school as a fluid integration of learning from home to the classroom and back again – and it is totally possible.
Whether this looks like a core word of the week focus that keeps everyone involved modeling and encouraging use of certain words, reinforcement of needed skills in the home and in the classroom, efforts to include peer interactions on the playground , or anything else this cohesive flow of targets and objectives that reaches beyond a specific location is an unstoppable way to develop new opportunities and cross all other boundaries.
5.GOAL! GOAL! GOAL!
Whether you are supporting an AAC user at home, at school, or somewhere in between, remember the end goal and keep that at the forefront.
There are SO many great goals that might help you reach the broader objective of robust communication.
The end goal is NOT the steps needed to get there but those steps can be great increments to help you progress. They could include things like modeling 25 words a day, reading one AAC supported story together, having 10 focused interactions, settings up a core focus word each week, take turns speaking, etc. These are FABULOUS steps – things that ought to be celebrated when they happen – but the real goal should be much deeper. (And if you need some ideas check out these options shared by Robin Parker and PrAACtical.)
Don't make goals a secret. Share them with everyone involved with the AAC communicator (and especialy the AAC communicator). People can't help the user progress if they don't know there they are supposed to be going. Be sure to involve your communicator in setting and celebrating goals and think about displaying a visual reminder so that everyone can see exactly what you are trying to achieve.