Saturday, 1 December 2012

I can...Sing!

Happy Holidays! You can't help notice that music is surrounding us at this time of year. Kids who use AC, may want to talk about music, make song requests or sing along! In this issue, we will explore ways for kids to actively participate in music and enjoy this special time of year.

Song Boards
A song board is a visual representation of the content of the song. It provides children who use AC with an opportunity to make choices, direct the activity or talk about songs. It's a fun way to help kids experience the power of communication.

Boardmaker Share (  is a free activity exchange website where you can download activities made by others and /or upload ones that you've created.  You need  to own Boardmaker software to use or create activities.  

The song boards created at Thames Valley Children's Centre are listed below can be downloaded for FREE by typing "Song Board" into the search box on the Boardmaker Share website. 

Errorless Song Boards:
Old MacDonald
Wheels on the Bus
Shapes Hokey Pokey
If You’re Happy and You Know it (Emotions) 
  • Kids can pick any one of the choices presented without the fear of making a mistake.
  • Reinforces choice making by following through with the choice selected.
  • Provides an opportunity to model symbols to enhance understanding.
  • Provides an opportunity to use symbols expressively e.g. "You said 'babies'. You told me to sing about babies."

Sequencing Song Boards:
5 Green and Speckled Frogs
5 Little Ducks
5 Little Monkeys
Farmer and the Dell
Itsy Bitsy Spider
There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly
  • Kids need to listen and attend in order to pick the next part of the song sequence.
  • Provides an opportunity to make a mistake when sequencing numbers or verses. Making mistakes is a great way to learn!
  • Provides an opportunity to model symbols to enhance understanding.
  • Provides an opportunity to use symbols expressively, including both fringe vocabulary and core words.
  • Concepts may include: numbers, body parts, concepts such as up/down, over, away.
If you'd like to share this information about Song Boards, you can print a handout here:  Song Boards

Talking about Music using Core Vocabulary
Talking about a favourite song or artists can be very motivating for many kids. Provide opportunities for your students to use their core vocabulary to talk about music.  See how many phrases/sentence you can create using a core vocabulary board.  For more information on core vocabulary see our February 2009 issue.

I like it!
Turn it up/down
It's good
It's bad
Make it different/change it
Play more/again
My turn/ your turn (to pick a new song/instrument)
I don't like that
                                Good, good, good
                         I love it!
Who is it? (ask which artist)

Playing music on an SGD: Did you know that many Speech Generating Devices can play songs? Although, the primary purpose of the device is to communicate, many people also use it as a way to physically access their music. Here is some information from some SGD manufacturers:

Dynavox V or VMax:
Springboard Lite:

Singing with an SGD: Some people have even composed songs using their SGD! Here is some information on how you can use a Dynavox Speech Generating Device to sing.  Download the "Comprehensive Series 5 Manual" and search for Song Editor (Chapter 14, Pages 25-43).

Snoopi Botten performed at the ISAAC (International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication) conference in July 2012. You can check out his fabulous performances here: 


Another amazing performer singing with her Speech Generating Device:



Thursday, 1 November 2012

I can...access the curriculum!

In school, our children learn specific information as outlined in an agreed-upon provincial curriculum. For those students who use, or who are learning to use, alternative and augmentative communication (AAC), additional support or resources may be required to enable them to meet curriculum goals. This month we explore some information around what curriculum looks like, how we know what goals our students are working towards and how to best support them to learn in school. 

What does the Ontario Curriculum look like?

You can explore the Ontario Curriculum by Grade or by subject on the following website:

Who can help me understand how my child will access the curriculum?
Your child is supported in school by a team of people who can work with you, to help develop the goals he or she is working towards. Your child's teacher or the school's Learning Support Teacher can help guide you in developing goals with an individual educational plan (IEP).

What can I do to help my child reach their goals?
  • Be familiar with your student's vocabulary and the location of their words/symbols so that you can quickly and easily model the use of their language with them.
    • With the student's permission, post a larger sized version of their communication display on a classroom wall or on a wall at home.
    • Have a duplicate communication display that you can use when you are talking with your child.
    • Encourage other classmates, teachers or family members to gain familiarity with your child's communication system so that they can model too.  If you'd like to host an AC awareness event with the students in your class, please speak with your TVCC ACS clinician.
    • Download your student's SGD software onto a computer, so that you can explore it without having to take the SGD away from them.
  • Look for opportunites for communication. 
    • Respond to ALL your student's communication attempts to ensure that they don't become passive, always waiting for a prompt to communicate.  For example: "I hear that you'd like to go outside, but right now it's snack time. Tell me what you want next for snack."
  • Rephrase questions to allow students to use their core vocabulary
    • Instead of asking the child to name the main characater in a book, ask them to use 3 words to describe the main character.  Describing words have meaning across different topics and will be used more frequently than specific vocabulary.
    • Consider which core words to focus on, based on the subjects being studied in class. Get information from your child's teacher about current topics in the classroom. Think about the words that you want to focus on with your child during that topic - select those words which your child can use time and time again. For example, "refraction" and "reflection" are very specific, but we can talk about "light", "dark", "move", "bounce", "on" and "off", across many activities.
Communication and Educational Goals
  • Educational goals often involve measuring a student's knowledge. Communication goals focus on improving an exchange between two or more people. Regardless of whether the child answers correctly, a communication exchange may occur. When writing goals, consider if the goal is educational or communication based. 
  • Here is a great example from Burkhart and Porter (ISAAC 2012) Assessing During Instruction: Measuring REAL Success for Communication: Goal: During math activities "Student" will respond to the question: How many? when presented with a group of 1-10 items. If the student answers with an incorrect number, then the student has met the communication component of the goal (respond to the question) but has not met the criteria for the content of this goal (understanding quantities).

Augmentative Communication and Language Goals
The student who is non-verbal and learning to use an AAC system needs goals related to communication and language development.  We need to teach children how to use vocabulary to participate throughout their day.   There are many different aspects to this overall goal including receptive understanding of symbols or words, expressive use of the symbols, familiarity with vocabulary organization and categorization, active participation, use of core words, message construction (letter by letter, symbol combination etc.). 

Receptive and Expressive Use of Symbols: Have you ever looked a symbol and wondered - if the written label wasn't there, would I know what this meant?  Modelling the use of symbols with a child's existing system helps teach what the word means and how it could be used to express a message.
  • Possible Goal: "Student" will visually attend to the symbols modeled 70% of the time.  
Vocabulary Organization and Categorization: Kids need to be able to find the vocabulary in their communication systems, especially as the volume of words increases.  Understanding categorization can greatly improve a student's ability to get to the words he/she needs in a timely manner.  
  • Possible Goal:  "Student" will locate 3 reading words on his/her communication system during reading time, without prompting.
  • Possible Goal: "Student" will be able to locate the food category during snack to request which snack he/she wants.
Active Participation: Having your student increase the number of time he/she communicates in activities throughout the day provides them with the opportunity to engage with others. 
  • Possible Goal:  "Student" will communicate during circle time, snack time, language and book reading on a daily basis. 
Bank of IEP Goals for Augmentative Communication:
Check out this link of a bank of IEP goals:

AAC Curriculum:  This curriculum outlines specific goals for high school students who use AAC to gain credit for achieving competency in the use of their SGD.  Check out some of the goals outlined in the program under Curriculum Rubric.

AC Literacy Tools and Resources
Being able to spell opens the world to people who use AC.  It allows them to say what they want to say in the way they want to say it.  Children who use AC and who need adapted access will need different resources to achieve this goal.  Here are some examples:

Alternative Pencil: This is a method to allow kids to explore writing by choosing letters and having a caregiver scribe them.  The focus is then on the exploration of letters, sounds and combination of letters into "words".  Check out this great initiative about the use of alternative pencils:

Adapted Literacy Programs:  There are a variety of literacy programs designed for students who use AC.  Check out some of these valuable resources:

Remember Duncan?  We featured him in the June 2011 issue, I can...keep on talking!  He's now successfully achieved 3 high school credits in the AAC Curriculum including:
Unit 1 - Initiating and Responding
Unit 2 - Communicating with Familiar Partners and in Familiar Environments
Unit 3 - Communicating with Unfamiliar Partners and in Unfamiliar Environments
To learn more about how to earn credits: 
Way to go Duncan!!!!
Please Note: The link from the AAC Institute regarding IEP meetings has been removed.  It represented a parent's viewpoint from an American setting. The views expressed  were solely those of the author and do not in any way represent everyone's experience or the views of Thames Valley Children's Centre.
We regret any misunderstandings the information may have caused.

Monday, 1 October 2012

I can...take 5!

September has gone by in the blink of an eye.  We are all so busy that it's difficult get through everything on our "to do" lists. In our September haze, we forgot to send out the notice that the blog was posted! Eeek! In this issue, we will look at quick and easy ways to "take 5" to make a difference in your students' lives.  Think about what you could achieve by introducing 5 new strategies, 5 core words or by spending 5 minutes brainstorming new vocabulary.  Every journey begins with a first step.

We asked the TVCC ACS clinicians to share some of their "Top 5" AAC tips with all of you.  Here's a selection of their comments:

Top AAC Strategies:
  • model symbol use, especially core words
  • look for opportunities for your child to communicate
  • share how your child communicates with others
  • tell your child what you think they are communicating and why
  • brag about your child's ability to communicate (within earshot)
  • Make sure the communication system is always available, " See child, see book/device" Linda Burkhart and Gayle Porter (Partner assisted communication strategies for children who face multiple challenges)
  • Believe in your child
  • Create a communication dictionary listing all of your child's communication behaviours and how to respond.
  • Include your child in conversations that are about him/her.
  • Encourage people to communicate with the child using AC rather than the adult or person with them.

If you have 5 minutes:
  • set up your child's communication system
  • plan opportunities in the day for your child to communicate
  • provide an opportunity for your child to make choices
  • ask a question or learn something new by looking online or in a book
  • read to your child
  • use no tech strategies to make choices 
  • co-construct a message to put on a single message device
  • model core words
  • play a game to encourage fun use of vocab or literacy
    • I'm thinking of a word that rhymes with door; Guess "more", four", "store"
    • I Spy things that start with the "b" sound....
  • help your child practice a conversational routine to use with the next person who comes into the room.
  • have your child share some news to/from home/school by programming a message in their SGD

  • model real-life writing with child e.g. "Look Suzie, we need some ice cream so mommy is going to put that on her shopping list" 
Top are some of the first words that our AC clinicians introduce

                             more                       all done
                             want                        like
                             not                          stop
                             eat                          drink
                             go                           help

Top FAQ questions about AAC

  • Will using AAC stop my child from talking or writing? 
    • In fact, numerous studies have found that the introduction of AAC frequently has a positive affect on speech; children who are given AAC often develop speech faster than they would have otherwise (Bodine & Beukelman, 1991; Van Tatenhove, 1987).
  • How can I get an iPad? Can we do this on an iPad?
    • We love iPads!!!  However, they may not work well for everyone.  Check out our past issue all about iPads for more information: I can...get connected!
  • What is the best way to use the device? 
    • Every child is unique and has different things he or she may want to communicate. Gather information about your child's interests and consider his/her motivators. 
  • Why do we need to use AAC at home if we know what they want to say/do?
    • Each time you shape your child's communication, you are paving the road to successful communication with their teachers, friends, and others.
  • How do I find out what my child understands?
    Connect with your child's teacher and therapists.  You may want to consider having a psycho-educational testing if you are having difficulty figuring out your child's learning strengths.
  • I"m not comfortable with computers/technology, do I have to program it? 
    • If your child is an ACS TVCC client, contact your clinicians if you need additional support.  There is also a variety on online resources to help you become more comfortable.   
  • What if child doesn't have strong preferences - how will we motive child to communicate? Shouldn't we start with requesting to go to the bathroom?
    • Make a list of your child's favourite toys, foods and activities.  Your child may not be motivated to communicate his/her bathroom needs.  Check out this great resource about motivation and AAC: Motivation Formula 

 Top AAC related websites:
TVCC Holiday Home Tour!
Time to get into the holiday spirit and get your tickets for TVCC's Holiday Home Tour!!!!  They are $25 for daytime tickets and $50 for twilight tickets.  Check out their website for more information on the event and ticket options.
If you've never been to this fantastic event, check out this video from the 2011 tour:

Educational Opportunities

Ablenet's FREE Online Professional Development Courses

October 3, 2012 1:00pm CDT - 30 minutes
Choice making...there's an app for that (and more!
Learn More or Register Now

October 3, 2012 2:00pm CDT - 30 minutes
VHS - Visually Helping Social Skills
Learn More or Register Now

October 9, 2012 11:00am CDT - 1 hour
Course 3 - Positioning for Optimal Access to Assistive Technology
Learn More or Register Now

AAC Awareness Month 
Check out these great ideas to celebrate AAC Awareness Month on this blogspot: 

Save the Date: 
TVCC's We're All Stars 20th Anniversary event will take place on February 11th, 2013. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I can...learn online!

What a great summer it has been...the Olympics, fantastic weather, ISAAC conference and so much more!  We hope you have made some great memories and that your child is looking forward to seeing classmates and learning something new this year. With that in mind, if you feel like you'd like a refresher on supporting your child's use of an augmentative communication system here are some online resources that may help.

 Speech Generating Device (SGD) Training Resources: 
Many device manufacturers provide some online training that is often FREE!  If you're child's device is connected via may be able to search for the answers right on the device.  Bookmark your child's SGD manufacturer's website for quick and easy access. Here are some examples of SGD online resources. 

Dynavox - Webinars related to Boardmaker and Dynavox products such as V, Maestro, VMax.

PRC - Webinars related to PRC products such as the Springboard Lite, Echo, Vantage Lite.

 Proloquo2Go - Webinars for current and previous versions of this iDevice app.

If your child or student is a TVCC ACS client and you'd like specific training related to a device or communication system, speak with your clinician(s) to arrange a date and time.

Assistive Technology Training Resources: 
Do you want to learn more about assistive technology in general or have a particular area you'd like to learn more about.  Be sure to check out these online webinars and fantastic resources.

ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) hosts a variety of live and on demand AAC webinars. Click here for more information on pricing. ATIA Pricing

ATIA On Demand Webinar Topics: 
  1. Teaching Core Vocabulary to Students with Severe Intellectual Disabilities 
  2. Core Vocabulary: Why Use It?
  3. Implementing Activity-Based Learning Using Core Vocabulary with Students using AAC Systems
  4. Apps for the iPad, iTouch, & iPhone on Alternative and Augmentative Communication

Examples of Upcoming ATIA Live Topics:

1. Using Core Vocabulary in General Education Classrooms: Dealing with the Academic Vocabulary
PRESENTER(S):  Gail M. Van Tatenhove, Speech-Language Pathologist, Gail M. VanTatenhove, PA
DATE:  Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012
TIME:   3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Link to Online Registration Form

2.  30 Ways to Adapt Your iPad for Accessibility
PRESENTER(S):  Therese Willkomm, Director of ATinNH, University of New Hampshire
DATE:  Tuesday, September 18, 2012
TIME:   3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Link to Online Registration Form

AbleNet University - FREE online webinars related Ablenet products. Check out some upcoming events:

September 18, 2012 11:00am CDT - 1 hour
Switch Mounting: I've Found a Location, Now How Do I Keep It There?
Presenter: Michelle L. Lange, OTR, ABDA, ATP/SMS
Learn More or Register Now

September 25, 2012 11:00am CDT - 1 hour
All About Computer Access: Adaptations and Alternatives to the Standard Keyboard and Mouse Presenter: Kelly Fonner, MS
Learn More or Register Now

October 9, 2012 11:00am CDT - 1 hour
Positioning for Optimal Access to Assistive Technology
Presenter: Michelle L. Lange, OTR, ABDA, ATP/SMS
Learn More or Register Now

Keyboarding: Learning to type can be fun!  If your child is interested in learning about keyboarding, here are some programs that are available online:

Dance Mat Typing 
Fun, animated program suited to children 7-11 years.

Good Typing
In this program you can increase the size of the copy text.

Power Typing
Great for kids who can handle several lines of text presented at once.

If you are thinking of purchasing a keyboarding instruction program, check out this review online:

Set-BC Learning Centre- Search your favourite topic (Access, Autism, Communication, Curriculum and Vision) for great FREE resources and videos.

Here is a fairly new one about Creating Pictello Accessible Books on for the iPad: 

General AAC Information: 

Pinterest - Check out the latest "pins" by searching augmentative communication, speech generating device, aac, communication symbols.
Twitter - keep your finger on the pulse with the latest tweets about AAC by following your favourite AC manufacturers and those interested in AC...including us!  If you'd like to follow us, click the link below.

YouTube - Search particular devices or augmentative communication in general.  You'll be sure to find a wide variety of interesting videos.  Supervision is a must on this site.


Terrell shows his ability to use his low tech communication display to spell words and use core words to communicate with others.  Way to go Terrell!

Here's a great example of taking AAC strategies and using them no matter where you are.  If you need a smile and some inspiration about the everyday use of AAC, check out this fantastic blog: Neider Family Blog

Upcoming Events:

30th anniversary of the annual assistive technology conference.
October 17-19th, 2012
Minneapolis, MN
Check topics and speakers this year at:

October is AAC Awareness Month!
Find more information at
If you would like information on how to host your own AAC awareness event, please contact

Friday, 1 June 2012

I can...go on a road trip!

We can hardly believe it's June already!  Summer is a great time to take a road trip and enjoy all that Ontario has to offer.  When you are planning your trip, be sure to take along your child's speech generating device and/or low tech display to allow them to communicate.  It's a great opportunity to reinforce both core and topic specific vocabulary, also known as fringe. 

Here are some ideas that you can incorporate on your upcoming trips:

Off to the Beach....
Print out the pages of your child's SGD if they don't already have a low tech display.  This also provides an opportunity to include some fringe vocabulary such as "sandcastle", "seagull" and "shovel".  Laminated paper displays hold up much better to sand and water!

Here are some activities to introduce beach vocabulary:

Boardmaker Share is a great place to find ready-made topic specific boards.  Type in your topic in the search window and browse through all of the amazing resources.  If you own Boardmaker, then you can print them off for your use.

A trip to the Zoo...
This is a fantastic place to model both fringe and core vocabulary.  There is nothing like seeing a lion in person, to reinforce concepts such as big, hungry and eat!

Check out this amazing video of a lion and toddler at the zoo and think of all the words you would use to describe this event!

Away at Summer Camp... 
Your child will be meeting many new people at camp.  This is a great opportunity to create a Communication Passport detailing your child's communication skills and needs. Include a page at the end of your child's communication passport for autographs and / or pictures,  so your child can tell others about their adventures at camp!

For more information:
Sign up to be notified of their Communication Passport App...coming soon!

Check out some ready made resources on SET-BC's website by typing "camp" in the search box. Camp Resources

In the car...
Print out an "I spy" communication board for your child to play with a sibling.  Check out this ready made one: I spy board 

Encourage siblings to be communication "buddies".  Provide a low tech display with vocabulary such as: "Are we there yet?" "I need to go the bathroom", " "Let's listen to music".  Encourage siblings to speak the messages as they are chosen.
Take along communication displays for restaurants you're likely to frequent.  Check out some of these ready made ones:

No Tech Ideas  - Take along a small photo album and collect brochures, menus, tickets as mementos of your vacation. This is a quick and easy way for your child to share information about their vacation with others.

Low Tech Ideas - Send your child's simple speech generating device along with them to camp so that they can actively participate in camp songs.

Make a list of songs with repeated lines that your child could use a one message device to participate. For example, you could record "And the green grass grew all around, and the green grass grew all around!" to have your child participate in the Green Grass song. Check out this website for a list of common camp songs: Ultimate Camp Resource 

High Tech Ideas -  If your child has an idevice, take photos of your family vacation so that they can share their experiences with their friends at school.  Download a talking photo album app such as Talking Album by Sumoto to record message with your photos.

I a Star!

We invite parents to send us a great photo/video and a story about how their child is using augmentative communication this summer to get out there and have some fun.  We'll highlight a few kids in our September issue.  What a great way to celebrate your child's success!

Upcoming Events:
International Society of Augmentative and Alternative 
Communication (ISAAC) Conference
July 28-Aug 4th ,2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Save the Date! 
August 13 - 17, 2012 
Calling all TVCC clients who want a chance to shine on the stage with Original Kids Theatre Company! Setting the Stage and On With the Show are theatre camps where all of outstanding actors use a speech generating device to deliver their lines in 6 short plays.

  • Setting the Stage is a half-day morning camp (Monday through Friday, 9.00 a.m – 12.00) for younger children who are learning to use devices and who need more support.
  • On With the Show (afternoons, 1.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m.) is for those who are more independent with device use.
Contact your TVCC clinician if your child uses a speech-generating device and would enjoy the opportunity to act on stage with the Original Kids. For more information, please contact Sandra Ryall, Administrative Assistant in the Augmentative Communication Service at 519 685 8700 ext. 53478, or e-mail

Educational Assistive Technology Conference
October 17-19th, 2012
Minneapolis, MN
Carly's Voice - An inspiring new book about a young teen named Carly who has Autism and learned to type on a computer to express her "inner voice".