How does one speech-language pathologist provide push-in group speech therapy services all by herself?!?
It’s “all hands on deck” in our group sessions! Melonie Melton and Jaime Lawson, along with their two colleagues, work together with their staff to serve students, aged five to 22, in a regional public day program for six surrounding school districts. Most of these students use some form of AAC.
Through ongoing communication partner collaboration and training, here are some ways YOU can support your students with complex communication needs using a push-in model!
Access to Core Vocabulary We use Universal Core from Project Core in our program. We have one universal core language mat used to direct communication partners during our sessions. If they see us model on the universal core mat we have embedded in our Google slides, they know what to model on individual student communication systems.
In addition, we embed universal core icons into our Google Slides to act as a visual reminder to staff and students of targeted vocabulary. Lastly, we each have a PicSeePal with various communication system overlays, such as Proloquo2go, CoughDrop, and TouchChat, available for direct modeling and prompting with staff and students.
Narrating This terminology has bridged the gap with our staff in understanding and implementing the concept of “modeling without expectation.” Training and demonstration is provided to staff on what prompting looks like for our students, using the most recent AAC prompting hierarchy as a reference tool. With push-in services, real-time support is able to be provided to staff. As most of our students are multi-modal communicators, the focus is on acknowledging and honoring ALL forms of communication.
Rachael Langley, MA, CCC/SLP
Who likes taking data?? It’s hard in an individual session when you’re juggling connection and timing with your student but even harder in a group setting. We’ve come up with some strategies and data collection principles that work best for us.
- Remember that data collection should NOT take up the majority of your session. Think “10% testing/data….90% teaching”! We want VALID data and that doesn’t happen when we are wholly focused on data collection for all throughout the majority of the session. Be organized and make a plan ahead of time…i.e. “I’ll take the first five responses from Billy, Susie, and Joseph today”.
- Enlist the help of staff and/or students themselves. Post-it notes work great for this. This also helps students and staff know the purpose of your session.
- We use the whiteboard, a Boogie Board, or a Rocketbook to take tallies. This also helps to make our data visible so that staff becomes more familiar with our students’ goals.
- Use masking tape on your leg or arm! This works especially well when you are moving around a lot with a student or group of students. We like to dance a lot :-)
- Building routines within your session helps provide natural communication opportunities where data can be taken. We use Google Slides to organize our sessions so it’s easy to put in data collection reminders and opportunities.
As we said earlier, it’s “all hands on deck” so it’s especially important that we plan for ways to engage our staff in planning and working with students. In our program, teachers and staff are responsible for taking data on our goals, too. This helps make them feel accountable for their students’ progress. Communication partner training is huge for us, of course.
We use a number of different resources for this. Check out coaching resources at www.project-core.com and https://www.sharedreader.org/professional-development/ for some great tools. They offer a chance for staff self-reflection and true coaching so that we are just helping them identify areas THEY want to improve.
BONUS! Shared Activities just for YOU!
As an extra bonus, we thought we would share our favorite group activities. These are activities that we felt engaged the WHOLE group well and allowed us plenty of opportunities for addressing goals.
Melonie’s favorites for elementary ages
This activity uses the book Squish available in digital format from www.uniteforliteracy.com. This is an adorable book that explores what happens when you mix different colors. The fun part is that, as you read, you can add colors to a ziplock bag and then let students squish to find out what happens. You can have one large ziplock bag for the group or hand out small individual bags.
Make an ocean!
- Have students help make the “ocean” in one clear, plastic shoebox (Dollar store find!). They choose a color and add it along with water.
- Students take turns adding an ocean animal of their choice.
- Put the “ocean” box inside a second clear, plastic shoebox that contains the lighted LED lights (dramatically turn them on first, of course).
It’s so much fun to watch and talk about the colors! For some extra fun, lighted water toys are available from Amazon here. There are lots of options for these so search around.
Our colleague, Heather’s, favorites for middle school
Writing: Giving students the opportunity to express themselves through written expression. How does this look?
- Adapted keyboard
- Alternative pencil
- Predictable Chart Writing
- Virtual keyboard
- Magnetic board
- Dry erase board
Special Events-Keeping in mind what peers typically get to do
- Rhett’s walk
- Hispanic Heritage month
- Fall Festival/Trunk-or-Treat
- Winter fest
- Valentine’s day
- Olympics event
- Black history month
- Autism Acceptance
- Spring Fling
Jaime’s favorites for high school
With the high school population, we have worked to promote positive mental health through leisure and on-the-job skill training.
“Children learn best in active, engaged, constructive, and interactive environments, when the material they are learning is meaningful to them, when they receive authentic feedback and are probed with open-ended questions.”( Weisburg, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff 2013)
Leisure opportunities are linked to achievement in the academic setting, personal and interpersonal development, social and emotional development, and higher self-acceptance and self-confidence! So what does that look like?!?
Field day and gardening opportunities
On-the-job skills training is linked to improved quality of life and enhanced self-image, changing the rate of employment for individuals that use AAC, application of job specific fringe vocabulary and use of core vocabulary on the job, and helping debunk societal beliefs of what an individual is capable of!
Vocational training and collaborative work opportunities
We hope you’ve gotten a few new ideas to help engage your students during group speech lessons and to help you manage all of the necessary components of your sessions. Feel free to reach out if you have questions or want resources. We love to talk about AAC!
Jaime Lawson, M.S.,CCC/SLP
Melonie E. Melton, M.S.,CCC/SLP