My First Blog Post – EVER!

Welcome to my very own blog (eek!). I hope to use this space to chat all things AAC, share experiences, stories and hopefully not go off on a tangent too often! I hope to keep my posts anecdotal, light-hearted and full of my own personal perspectives which have been established through years of supporting those who have communication impairment and/or use AAC in numerous settings.

I’m currently very privileged to be working for Liberator at the moment. So if I refer to devices or vocabularies to illustrate points I will use Liberator products. But I hope you will see that most of what I talk about can apply to any vocab, on any device in any setting.

I fully acknowledge that you may disagree with my thoughts and hope you will be kind in your feedback if that is the case.

One final thing I should mention – I have a little girl who I am insanely proud, of and besotted with, so if I talk about her too much just tell me to shut up! 🙂

Happy reading and Happy days.

 

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Love is in the air….

So, Valentines Day is upon us tomorrow – and so begins the last-minute panic for so many of us as we realise only the really cheesy cards are now left on the shelves (those or those massive ones the size of the financial times), the roses have suddenly tripled in price and only the chocolates no one really likes are left on the shelf. Or even worse – we’re trying to work out if the when our other half said ‘We aren’t doing presents’ did they mean it or was it secret code to get a surprise present?? The agony of decisions!

Thankfully for the lovely young people we support valentines day isn’t about this – it’s just about telling someone you think they’re great. In our house this year my little girl has decided it’s Daddy she loves the most so he’s getting a card – although it was a toss-up between him and Mousey (her favourite toy) for a good while.

There’s so much core vocab we can use around this holiday – like, love, look, good, mine, I, you, we. Describing words are gold at this time of year as we think about what we love most about someone – my daughter decided Daddy was ‘Funny, kind and gave good hugs’ – some awesome core vocab right there!

It shouldn’t be any different for those who are just starting their language learning journey on AAC – think about the words you can model during valentines activities.

To get the mental juices flowing I’ve created a quick activity plan around making valentines cards – have a go, have fun and feel the love.

Capture

You can click on the image or this link here for the PDF version.

Happy Valentines to you all my lovely friends 🙂

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The ‘Smart’ way to cheat when learning icon-sequences in Unity

Soooo.. when I left you last, we were thinking about the super-awesomeness of vocabulary builder tool within the Unity Vocabularies on the Accent Range of devices.

(NB if you haven’t read these posts yet you can here!!

The right tool for the job – using Vocabulary Builder.

Vocabulary Selection made simple – using pre-made sets in Vocabulary Builder)

So, to finish the journey it seems only right to think about how we can use some features within the PASS software to truly get the most out of the vocabulary and support it’s instruction.

For those of you who don’t know the PASS software is a FREE PC software which can easily be downloaded from this link. The software essentially replicates an Accent device on your PC meaning you can explore vocabularies, edit them for transfer back into a client’s device and create some awesome resources using the tools we’re going to look at today and in my next post.

Sometimes my beloved Unity can get a bad rep in the early days, as people feel overwhelmed with the icon sequences they have to learn (it soon passes). So today let’s think about how we simply teach those troublesome icon sequences in the early days…

When using the PASS software with Unity you have a nippy little tool at your disposal called Smart Charts. This tool will take all the unmasked words in the vocabulary and list them, with the icon sequence for each word next to it. So, let’s look at a real time example.

Say I want to get a client to practice some vocabulary within a bubbles activity. I can load up my PASS software and open-up the Unity 84 Sequenced Vocabulary. Then I can select the ‘bubbles’ vocabulary builder set.

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Here are my ‘bubbles’ words ready and waiting!

Now I can go to the ‘vocabulary’ menu option, select ‘Vocabulary Display Options’ then ‘Create Smart Charts’ and then ta-da! Here are all the unmasked words!

smart chart
Pretty Smart ey?

You can now copy this, paste in to word, make it look nice and then you have a super lovely cheat sheet of all the icons! You can then share this with anyone supporting the client.

bubbles

Don’t forget you can create your own vocabulary builder lists too meaning you can create vocab teaching sheets for any topic you wish!!! Here are some lovely examples.

coloursfirst 50preps

The world is your smartchart 😊

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Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Vocabulary Selection made simple – using pre-made sets in Vocabulary Builder

Can someone please tell me where on earth the rest of last year went? It seems like in the blink of an eye we hurtled in to 2019 – phew! Anyhoo, welcome to a great new year! Now all the festivities, Christmas play rehearsals, parties and lunches are out of the way we can get back on track to thinking about lovely AAC and all the emazing things we can do to support others.

In my last blog The right tool for the job – using Vocabulary Builder. we took a look at Vocabulary Builder and thought about how we could begin to use it with the vocabularies Unity 2.0 and LAMP Words for Life to support gradual teaching of vocabulary words we selected.

Today we’re going to take a closer look at Unity 2.0 and more specifically at the brilliant pre-made vocabulary builder sets and think about how we can use them to our advantage. For today’s piece I’m going to focus on the Unity 2.0 vocabulary ‘84 Sequenced’ however it’s important to note that the pre-made sets options are also available in Unity 2.0 60 Sequenced, 45 Sequenced, 36 Sequenced and 28 Sequenced.

So on to my lovely 84 Sequenced Vocabulary…

When you are in your vocabulary you access the Vocabulary Builder sets by selecting the blue ‘Tools’ button (or using the left off-screen key if you are using eye-gaze) and then selecting ‘Vocabulary Builder’ from the menu which appears to the left of the screen.

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Simply select the tools button..

From here you’ll now go to the pre-made vocabulary sets.

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..and tada! Vocabulary sets for Play

The tabs to the left of the page represent the different categories of vocabulary set you may wish to use with whichever tab is yellow identifying the current category (see below images).

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Vocabulary sets for Home

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Vocabulary Sets for School

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Some great general sets to help you start building your own

When you then select an activity – tada! The pre-made list jumps in to action and unmasks words which may be pertinent to that activity. Pretty cool ey?

NB When you select a pre-made vocabulary builder set it will overwrite any previously used set or customised list. If you have a personalised vocabulary builder list you have created make sure you save it (see the user manual or YouTube) before selecting a pre-made set.

SO why bother using these I hear you cry?? Well here’s 3 of the reasons I think they are awesome!

1 – They give you some inspiration of words to work on in an activity.

We can all easily get stuck in a rut of using the same old words everytime – these sets give me a gentle nudge in the ideas department about some new words we can be modelling within activities.

2 – They can give you a wealth of assessment sets to use super quickly.

There seems to be a set for pretty much every item in my ‘go-to’ activity box -which means when doing sessions I can establish what someone may be interested in looking at and then quickly flip to that set, revealing appropriate vocabulary.

3 – They allow for quick targeted vocabulary teaching within sessions

Being a big believer in child-led intervention I never quite know what’s going to take place in a session – I have my ‘go-to’ box so I have an idea of what we may look at but I can’t be certain. The beauty of these pre-made sets means I can quickly respond to a client’s interest and load the appropriate set to do some great targeted teaching of vocabulary words.

So, horror, if the individual decides to do something I don’t have a set for? I simply load up one of the ‘Build Your Own’ vocabulary sets as you’ll most likely find some great vocab to tide you over in there.

And when the session is finished? I can flip back to a personalised vocabulary set, unmask all of the words if appropriate or merge the set I’ve used with a client’s own set! Simple as!

The great thing about the words in the sets is that they allow for vocabulary development, simple sentence building and multiple language functions – smashing as many goals as possible in one session – good times!

Why not have a look now and see for yourself and if you haven’t yet downloaded it get your free copy of the PC-based version of our NuVoice Software which runs the Unity 2.0 vocabularies and see for yourself what you can do. Click here for free software loveliness and get in touch with the lovely Liberator team if you want to know more!

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Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Have fun exploring!

Next time? Creating icon sequence ‘cheat sheets’ to help teach targeted vocabulary.

The right tool for the job – using Vocabulary Builder.

Show me a Speech Therapist and I’ll show you someone who has a car-boot load of toys and activities which they have accumulated over their years of service. The collection of items will vary (of course!) between individuals but largely you can count on most Speechies to have the following in their kit:

  • Bubbles
  • Balloons
  • Some sort of light-based spinner (usually nicked off your kids after a trip to Blackpool or similar!)
  • A mix of items in various colours such as cars, blocks, beads
  • Playdoh

I could go on, but I think we all know what I’m talking about right?

All of these items are great as not only can they be HIGHLY motivating, you can use some awesome core vocabulary around them. The problem can often be determining if we work on the same core in each activity especially if someone is in the early stages of developing their AAC vocabulary. Do we have a few generic words we use for everything? Or will there be subtle shifts in the language we model between activities? Should we make different pages for each activity, so we can pop in the relevant words or will this mean lots of relearning?

One thing myself and my other lovely Liberator colleagues talk about is PRESUMING COMPETENCE. When we do this, we anticipate that the person we support has more to say than they are at present – they have the potential to use more language – once they have had opportunity to have that language modelled to them and had natural consequences occur when they themselves use new words. In a nutshell – IF YOU ONLY HAVE THE WORDS YOU KNOW SOMEONE KNOWS AVAILABLE HOW WILL THEY EVER LEARN TO USE MORE?

But I acknowledge this can raise its own range of dilemmas. For instance – if we start with a full, robust vocabulary will the client be overwhelmed? Will they struggle to learn a small range of words due to having just too many to look at? How can we teach them specific words whilst not limiting them to restricted vocabularies for the rest of their lives?

Those of you who already know the Unity or LAMP WFL Vocabulary will already be aware of the super awesome vocabulary builder tool which goes a long way towards addressing this issue. This fab tool essentially allows you to decide which are the priority words you want to focus on, pop them into a list, and then enable that list so that temporarily all other words are hidden, NOT REMOVED, just hidden. The words we are choosing to teach remain in the same location they were when all the vocabulary was available. Hence – no relearning of vocabulary location as vocabulary grows.

Essentially what the tool does is allow you to move as many or all the ‘umasked’ or visible words as you like into the ‘masked’ or hidden list.

Then you can spell out a list of the words you want to reveal.

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Which moves these words into the ‘unmasked’ list.mask4

 

Then we hit OK and go back to our vocabulary and…. Ta da!

Brilliant!

Let’s look at this in action. For this example, I’m going to assume I’ve assessed someone, and they can physically access the icon size within an 84-cell location. So, even though they have a limited vocabulary at present I’m starting here because long term it means they have 1000’s of words at their fingertips.

Firstly, we use vocabulary builder to simply reveal the words we know the client knows and a few extras.

vocab builder1

Then we begin to unmask more words as skills develop.

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And more

vocab builder3

I could go on, but I think it’s clear what happens – gradually that huge vocabulary can be revealed in a manner which is appropriate to the interests and activities of the client and timely to their skill development.

Being able to quickly and easily turn of our vocabulary builder list also means you can quickly look at the new words you have learned in the context of the FULL vocabulary. Also, really importantly, by turning it off we allow clients free reign to explore all the words in their AAC system and learn what they mean through the natural consequences we provide (does this remind anyone of ‘typical language development processes at all?)

TOP TIP: When using the WFL or Unity Vocabulary with Vocabulary Builder enabled, ensure time each day to explore the full vocabulary by turning vocabulary builder off.

What also rocks, is that you can save vocabulary builder lists as you go along (I always recommend this as there is nothing worse than accidentally masking everything and having to start again). Not only does this prevent the list accidentally being wiped but, if you save at regular intervals and include the date in the save name – you instantly have a way to track development of vocabulary growth! Now before you all start heckling I KNOW I KNOW – just because we’ve revealed words it doesn’t mean someone is using them. But it sure gives us a great idea of how we are extending what we’re modelling, and it ensures we are always presuming competence by exposing someone to more language than we know they know so that they can begin to know more too.

This is just a drop in the ocean of what this awesome tool can do and over the next few posts I’ll think some more with you about how we can use it to its full teaching advantage.

But for now – if you want to know more you can download this FREE PC-based version of our NuVoice Software which runs both the Unity and LAMP WFL vocabularies and see for yourself what you can do. Click here for free software loveliness and get in touch with the lovely Liberator team if you want to know more!

Happy Building!!

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Photo by David McBee on Pexels.com

Next time? Using Pre-Made Vocabulary Builder Lists in the Unity Vocabulary to support assessment, implementation and language development.

 

 

Can-do, will-do: AAC resources for parents, family and friends

In previous Blogs I’ve looked at the AAC Language Lab and the various resources it has for Clinicians, Classrooms and for use with Apps. There is one area yet unexplored however and it may be one of the most important there is!

AAC implementation resources often focus on ideas for therapy sessions or interventions and ideas for the classroom. This is great – it means we can nurture an immersive AAC rich culture within health and education services.

But you’re about to read a shocking collection of figures…..

Let’s say the average school day lasts from 9.00am – 3.30 pm, 5 days a week for approximately 40 weeks a year. That equates to about 1300 hours a year in school. Wow! That’s LOADS (although I’m sure some of my school based friends would say it feels A LOT more than that).

But let’s consider this in a wider context…..

Let’s assume the average child sleeps for approximately 11 hours in any 24 hr period (NB this is a broad assumption to give a general picture – no heckling please). That gives them 13 hours a day where they are awake, learning language and all of life’s lovely lessons.

That means over the course of a year a child spends roughly 4745 hours awake.

So if they spend 1300 hours in school where do they spend the other 3445 hours?

I’ll give you a clue…..

extended circle

With children and young people spending the majority of their lives in places other than school wouldn’t it be awesome if there were a resource for parents, extended family and the wider community to help target AAC skills??

Thankfully a beacon of light in the form of AAC Language Lab’s ‘Can-do’ cards is here! In the words of AAC Language Lab, these are:

“..fun, motivational activities the entire family can do to help your child improve their communication skills. Most activities will fit nicely into your daily family routines. There is a section on each card for Communication Partners. Print the Can-Do Activity Card and Communication Partner card and share them with anyone who interacts with your child.”

How great is this?!? So not only are there activities ideas for you to use at home but each card comes with an attached card to pass to others who may interact with your child (think back to the picture above). Here’s a little free sample of the brilliant ‘No No Don’t Eat That’ Activity (an important life lesson for us all!). Each card will also come with downloadable resources such as books and games for you to use.

No No Don't Eat That!
No, No, Don’t Eat That!

No No Don't Eat That Book
Downloadable content to support the activity!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cards are grouped by category (my daughter would LOVE the nature category!) and then sub-divided by language stage to help you establish which activities are most suited to your child’s current abilities.

Language Stages

When thinking about the ‘Can-do’ Cards , the AAC Language Lab has divided language development into 3 ‘stages’, which are a compilation of information on language development gathered from a vast number of resources and organised into teachable segments.

AAC Language Lab summarises each stage as follows:

Beginner Stage – Initially using single words for simple language functions building up to short phrases of 2 or 3 words. A vocabulary of up to 200 words.

Intermediate Stage – Initially using phrases of 2 or 3 words building up to longer sentences which have more meaningful word order, increased language functions and increased use of word endings (-in, -ed etc). A vocabulary of 200 to 2000 words.

Advanced Stage – Initially using shorter sentences with appropriate word endings building up to complex sentences with correct word order and grammar. Language development continues as vocabulary expands. A vocabulary of between 2000 and 5000 words (or more!).

 

Each stage is detailed fully on the website with example videos of communicators and links to target vocabulary lists and lessons.

It is quite normal for someone to overlap between stages and as such you shouldn’t feel you need to only focus on one stage if activities feel like they may target appropriate skills!

So, once you’ve established which language stage your AAC user ‘best fits’ into, go explore the activities which are felt to be appropriate for their language level and have some fun.

Who can do it? YOU CAN DO IT!

Enjoy!

NB. AAC Language Lab UK contains both free and paid-for content which can be accessed by subscription.

Scaring you to your very CORE!!!

Mwah ha ha! (FYI that was supposed to be a VERY scary laugh) The season of devilment, witches, ghouls and all things spooky is almost upon us!

I love Halloween – mainly for all the Simpsons Treehouses of Horror episodes which seem be repeated frequently around this time of year, but also because it signals for me the start of autumn and all things warm, toasty and Christmassy! (The fact my birthday is only a few days after Halloween is nothing to do with it!)

Now as with any holiday I know the temptation is great to go out and design a new ‘Halloween’ specific page for your AAC systems (honestly how do you find the time?) but as I always say – SAVE YOUR ENERGY!! Because in fact we can use Halloween to focus on some fantastic core vocabulary and teach descriptive language skills.

So instead why not try this simple game which focuses on describing skills and allows us to focus on the features of popular Halloween items and characters as opposed to simply naming them?

You simply take it in turns to choose an item (ideas below) each of which will have a ‘Halloween themed’ picture attached to it (sorry to state the obvious but any labels which will be submerged in water may need double or triple laminating…..).

Kinder Egg ‘Pumpkins’ – with the words inside (if you are VERY clever you can separate and reseal the eggs so they get the chocolate too!)

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Bobbing for A(AC)pples – with the words attached to stalks

Ghostly Mallows – with a marshmallow on each word (use edible pen to decorate!)

Hook a (scary) duck – with the words attached underneath

Once someone has chosen something can they then use some words to describe the item?

Think about words such as:

halloween core words

To summarise it nicely for you I’ve included this all in a little session plan .

Simply click here to get your copy.

Now what are you waiting for? Get spooking!

Happy Halloween

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Realize Language™ – Monitoring AAC awesomeness

Crikey! Where is this academic year going? I can’t believe how far into the first term we already are! I hope for those of you working in school settings things are going well and you and your new class (and colleagues) are getting along like a house on fire.

When supporting teams in schools the discussion regarding monitoring progress with AAC often crops up. The conversation can take many forms including ‘How can we monitor how a device is being used?’, ‘How can we assess if goals are being met?’, How do we determine the next goals to work towards?’ and many more!

It can be hard to evidence progress particularly when there can feel like an increasing pressure to demonstrate progress and accountability. Whilst we typically think of this in the context of education, the reality is that for any of us delivering services in ANY setting, we can often feel the pressure of evidencing progress and feel a need to be able to monitor what is taking place – especially at those times separate from our client contact time.

The super news is that for anyone using one of Liberator’s devices or associated apps (LAMP WFL or TouchChat) you can use the amazing Realize Language™ site! This is an absolutely fantastic online resource through which linked devices can upload data either periodically (when connected to wi-fi) or via manual USB transfer or manual wi-fi upload. The data collected includes minutes of use, keys pressed, times of use across the week, words used and more!!!

The site has loads of useful ‘How to’ video’s and guides to get you started (or refresh your knowledge) and a brilliant ‘Starter’s Guide’. You can easily find them here

The really great thing is that the site will format the data for you and present it in easy to read displays or graphs (as appropriate to the type of data). Perfect for including in progress reviews and great for comparing over time periods! Here is a sample report taken from the Realize Language™ Website.

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A brilliant ‘at a glance’ summary of AAC Awesomeness

Being able to look at data from specific time periods is also a fab feature as this allows you see the specific words used across key times (a great resource to create a ‘What I did on my holiday’ word cloud to share with school).

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‘What I did on my half-term holiday’

Finally – being able to set specific word list goals is a really simple way to monitor if goals are being met! It’s like having a secret helper in the device!! This simple video sums up how to set goals and monitor progress.

A year’s subscription is only £9.95 and you can manage multiple users with one subscription – that’s some value for money I’d say! Even better is you can sign up for a FREE 30 day trial first of all (Top Tip: start data logging on your devices before you sign up to get some data to look at!) to take it for a test drive. Again the site has some simple videos to walk you through connecting your devices – so no excuses!!

Now get out there, get logging that data and enjoy seeing the awesome AAC progress your clients are making 😊

Click here to check it out now!