Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy to be an SLP Blog Hop!

Yep, I'm so happy to be an SLP! What a great profession we have!  
Thanks, Felice (the dabbling speechie) for inviting me to share some SLP tidbits during this Better Speech and Hearing Month! 

When I was in graduate school at LSU,  my main responsibility as a graduate assistant was to maintain and operate the AAC lab. I was privileged to learn from and practice alongside the clever (and fun!) Dr. Judith Oxley. 
 I fell in love with AAC.  

For any newbies or students or non-speechies here, 
AAC stands for augmentative and alternative communication:
  • Augment means to add to or to enhance. For example, we can all augment speech by using gestures, body language, facial expressions. Individuals with communcation disorders who cannot be understand by speech alone, should augment their speech to be better communicators. 
  • Alternative means a choice or a substitute.  Alternative communication consists of using other means like pointing to symbols, “clicking” on pictures,  signing or spelling to communicate. 
AAC is the term used for all communication that is not speech but is used to enhance or to replace speech.  An AAC System refers to all methods a person uses for communication, for example, gestures, eye “pointing,” vocalizations and pointing to symbols all combined.  AAC systems can be temporary or long term.  They meet the need of non-verbal individuals (or those with limited verbal skills) to express their wants and needs and have some control over what happens to them!

ASHA explains it like this: 

AAC is truly multimodal, permitting individuals to use every mode possible to communicate. The ability to use AAC devices may change over time, although sometimes very slowly, and the AAC system chosen today may not be the best system tomorrow. In any case, an AAC system is an integrated group of four components used by an individual to enhance communication. These four components are symbols, aids, techniques, and/or strategies.

Check out these cool research based facts about AAC: 
  1. According to ASHA, by recent estimates, over 2 million people who with significant expressive language impairments use (AAC). This is, of course,  because they have difficulty communicating via traditional means (speech!)
  2. Although some parents worry that AAC may hinder their child from communicating orally, numerous studies have found that the introduction of AAC usually has a positive affect on speech; children who are given AAC often develop speech faster than they would have otherwise (Bodine & Beukelman, 1991).
  3. IN FACT, the introduction of AAC correlates with the improvement of natural speech—-even in situations in which no speech therapy has been given. (Berry, 1987; Daniels, 1994; Romski & Sevcik, 1993; Konstantareas, 1984; Silverman, 1980).
  4. Here’s some added bonuses:  Studies have shown that children who use AAC have shown improvements in behavior, attention, independence, self-confidence, class participation, academic progress and social interaction (Abrahamsen, Romski & Sevcik, 1989; Silverman, 1980; Van Tatenhove, 1987)
Over and over again throughout the years I have heard SLPs that they don’t know enough about AAC. For that reason many of us feel uncomfortable working in this area. 

 Remember when I said, I fell in love with it?  
Well, in all honesty, over the years, I fell OUT of love with it.  Why?  
Because it is tedious and time consuming.  The technology our there is mind-blowing.  With high tech AAC, the technical difficulties are sometimes frustrating.  With systems of all kinds, the troubleshooting can be exhausting and the need for updating and tweaking is constant.  When there is lack of follow through from teachers and others after setting up AAC systems, it’s discouraging.  
Have you been there?  I feel your pain.  
Keep in mind....
It will never be perfect.  We will never know enough.  Still, it’s important that we make it happen for our patients, students, clients, etc. because...
it changes their lives. 
In fact, that very idea is where my blog name and logo came from...

We really DO put words in the mouths of those we help. 
We have the power to give them a voice.  How cool is THAT!? 

Wanna know what has completely changed MY life?  
A free and fabulous AAC app iPhone or iPad called Sounding Board!
 It’s not perfect and it’s not made for every child, but for many children,  in my experience (especially those who cannot obtain expensive technology), it has been a great solution. It’s a great start for many. For ME, it has been a great solution in therapy because it’s fast, easy, and functional. 


 If you are a swamped school SLP juggling a {over} full workload, this may be your lifesaver. 
(Oh, and by the way, I am in no way affiliated with AbleNet- they don’t even know I exist!)

I’m always shocked how few SLPs know about or use this app. I couldn’t live without it now that I’ve found it.  Now that I have become good at (which didn’t take long),  I can create a customized, voice output communication board in under 5 minutes.  It’s SO easy.  

You can use the symbols and/or pictures that come with it or you can take your own photos in a flash using your iphone or ipad. You can purchase more images through the app (although I will say I wish there was a larger selection). 
I typically use it as a point/touch system but there are also options for switch scanning or audio scanning. The options will FREAK you out (in a great way).
Prior to starting an activity, I take photos of all of the items we will be using (or options for the students during the activity) during the therapy session.  You can also take pictures as you go if you prefer. Then I customize my board, adding the voice output (I record my voice right on the iPad or iPhone) and the written text.  Even for non-readers, the text is important because the ultimate goal - even for those who display NO emerging literacy skills - is literacy.  

You can even link other boards so that the choices become more dynamic or export boards to other devices which is a huge time saver if you have a group of kids all using their own iPad with sounding board. 

Once my students’ special ed. teachers saw how easy it was, they started created boards, too.  Now there are several paras on our campus who take the initiative to create communication boards. It’s like a sounding board lovefest around my school, and the kiddos are the ones reaping the benefits! 
It’s just perfect for schedules, requests, and storyboards.  I think the possibilities are ridiculous!  

I could go into great detail about “how-to.” but alll you really need to do is play around with it to figure it all out. 

Here are some examples of communication boards I have made for therapy: 

All of these were made in mere minutes with voice output and all :)  

 I hope this got your AAC juices flowing!  
If you’re a sounding board junkie like me, I’d love to hear YOUR tips!!
Now back to the blog hop...
Grab your letter below to help you figure out the secret phrase!

Head to the next blog to grab more tips and ideas!
Don't forget to enter the big giveaway at the last stop!  
Happy Better Speech & Hearing Month! 
Keep putting words in those mouths! 

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  1. Great suggestions! I think I downloaded that app but have never used it. I'll have to check it out again. I totally have a love/hate relationship with AAC. Takes a ton of time. Thanks for the awesome blog hop! Happy BHSM!

  2. What a great app--I had no idea it existed! Thanks for the suggestion.


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