Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I can...get started!

It may not be January, but September is a time for new beginnings too. It’s time to start back to school with all the new challenges and excitement that brings. Our newsletter this month will focus on starting points: where to begin with augmentative strategies to support communication, reading and writing. Here’s to a great school year!

Setting Communication Goals: September is a natural time to think about communication goals. This can tie in nicely with an IEP review or general team meeting at school. Think about the many ways that your child communicates successfully. What is working well? What are your or your child’s hopes for communication development? What would it take to make those hopes a reality? Make goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) and share them with everyone who interacts with your child. Set a time to review the goals in the weeks to come, to see progress and to keep on track. If you need help developing AAC goals, talk to your ACS clinician.

Starting to Read:  Make books available to your child everywhere. Books come in all shapes, sizes and formats, including electronic books.  Typical children will read a book over and over.  Children who use AAC need to have the same opportunity. Books with repetitive lines are a good start as they allow anticipation and participation (record the repeated line onto a device). Electronic books can offer greater independence with book-reading for some children. 

Starting to Communicate:
Introduce augmentative strategies in fun, motivating activities, to encourage your child to participate. Children need lots of opportunities to see how symbols or recorded messages can affect their world. Think about games that you have in your classroom and words that can be used for participation (“I go”, “you go”, “I want to see”, “Stop!”). Using core words across activities allows kids to develop an understanding of how these words can be used for many reasons. Use symbols and devices when it is your turn, so your child can see how to use them.

Starting to Write: Early writing is an important part of literacy development. Children start learning to write by colouring, scribbling and ‘pretending’ to write.  Children who use AAC need multiple, meaningful opportunities to write (e.g. writing captions for pictures in scrap books, signing their name, making a list, making notes or cards).  For your child, these opportunities may require a less traditional format (e.g. using eye pointing, partner assisted scanning or computer based scanning to select letters with a partner writing the selected letters down). 

No Tech Ideas:
  • Your child can share information with others using a small photo album and Post It Notes. Put photos of events that your child wants to share with others into the album along with supporting remnant information, including ticket stubs, brochures and labels. Write specific information on the Post It Notes (“ Mom, Dad and I went to Marine Land. The penguins were my favourite.”) Add a question to encourage interaction (“What did you do this summer?”).
Light Tech Ideas:
  • Record a sequence of messages on a Step-by-Step so your child can chat on the first day of school (“Hello again. How was your summer?  What was your favourite part?  Wanna know what I did?  I went to the cottage with my family.  We went swimming and hiking.  It was awesome!”).
High Tech Ideas:
  • Use a Smart Board to create a story about the summer as a group activity within the class. Customize palettes with choices in Intellitools software for words/phrases that can be selected by students one after the other to create a silly summer story. Then, read the story aloud.  If you don’t have a Smart Board, create a story the ‘no-tech’ way using Post It notes for word/phrase choices.
I Can…be a Star!
Over the summer a group of youngsters who all use AAC came together at TVCC to become Word Warriors! Our goal: to seek out new words and to use them to take over the world! Watch out for our Warriors!

Talking with our mouths full!
October is AAC Awareness Month. Join us for lunch to celebrate AAC on Tues. Oct.19, 11:30 am at Shelley’s restaurant in London. If you don’t use AAC, be prepared to check your voice at the door and explore new ways to communicate! See Calendar of Events at www.tvcc.on.ca.


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