How will you decide what device and program is best for your learner?
- Consult an SLP or an assistive tech assessor to assist in the determination! They will run a formal assessment and trial some devices with your child to determine the best option.
How will you teach using the device?
- How large of an array can the child handle right now?
- should all available icons be on the first page for now?
- will the child communicate in single words? two word phrases? full sentences? adjectives?
- does the child work best in the natural environment or a structured, isolated table to initially learn the icons and process?
- does the child have a well-developed non-identical matching repertoire?
How will you instruct mom and dad about the device?
- will they come in and observe session?
- will you go to the house and model?
- will you provide a combination of both?
- Will you give the family a written protocol, just as you do your session staff?
Are you and your staff modeling using the AAC device when you are speaking to the child?
Have you set up a plan for charging the device?
Does the device have a strap so the child can always have it with them?
What specifically are you working on teaching using the device?
Does the child always have the device open and ready to use?
In working with our students, we want to ensure that they have an effective way to communicate. This could be using vocal words… sign language… PECS pictures….. AAC device…. etc. Many times the effective commuication starts with pointing, tantrums and grunting, while possibly also pulling you across the room.
Think about the skill set of your learner.
Are they able to scan a large array?
Do they have an echoic repertoire?
Do you understand that a spoken word, picture or icon is the same as the actual item?
There are many different questions that you must ask before beginning instruction in any of these modes of communication.
In my practice, our young non-verbal learners typically start with echoics and sign language, as there is a breadth of research stating that if the child is going to speak, the combination of gross motor movement and the echoics will prompt the brain connection to promote speech. However, after several months, if echoics are not coming along, then we transition to either PECS or an AAC device.
When you are setting up your classroom, you want to connect with your students. If you don’t build a good relationship and rapport with your students, then they will not respond well to the classroom management (or discipline) that is being implemented.
Think about the organization of the classroom. What kind of learning environment do you want to establish? Collaborative? Independent? Small Group? Whole Group? Think about where the materials are located; processes/routines to access materials, ask and answer questions; participate in different learning enviornments; transitions (how to walk in hallway; what to do when I need to use the bathroom; how to get set up for the day; etc.).
Set up 3-5 positive expectations about what you want to see in your classroom. During the first several weeks at school, review before, during and after every activity. Role play different situations and make them fun! Get the students up and moving, but also reinforce the expectations/rules throughout!
Spend the first few days of school playing ‘get to know you games’ and relationship/trust building activities, while you incorporate the expectations. It is our job to teach the children that are walking in the door, which may or may not be ‘rule abiding’.
We need to teach them everything (even if they are not on par with peers), but that is the exciting challenge of teaching. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks in the coming weeks!