Monday, 1 April 2013

I can...get my toes wet!

Often when people imagine using AC, they think of really competent, literate people such as Stephen Hawking. Although he truly is an inspiration, the process to become a literate AC user can be daunting.  How can emergent communicators get their toes wet with augmentative communication?  In this issue, we’ll explore simple ways get started with communicating using AC. 

Non Verbal Communication 
When kids aren't able to make themselves understood they often use many forms of non-verbal communication to express themselves such as facial expression, gestures, sounds, and some word approximations.   It's important to recognize this communication and to reinforce it by responding in a positive way.   

For example, perhaps your child looks at toys to indicate he'd like to play. Tell him what you are seeing and what you think it means.  "I see you looking at your toys, I think you're telling me you'd like to play".  It feels great when you are able to understand your child's non-verbal communication.  Share this skill with other so that your child can communicate with others in the same way. 

You can capture all of this information in a "Communication Dictionary" where you can document what your child is doing (communication behaviour), what you think it means and how to respond.  Although this is a simple tool, it can open the doors of communication with less familiar people.   It also provides them with the opportunity to connect with your child so that together they can share a new experience or learn something new. You can download an example of a communication dictionary and a template to get you started: Communication Dictionary Template

You can also capture this information in a "Communication Passport" along with other personal information that allows your child's personality to shine through. By sharing your child's areas of interest with others, you can help your child communicate about the things that are important to him/her. For more information and to download a template: 

Why Symbols?

Kids who aren't yet reading, may use symbols as their language of communication.  Often kids start out using photographs because they are familiar and represent the exact item they want. We communicate for so many reasons including: to request things, to share feelings, to refuse, to ask questions, to comment and so much more.  In order for kids to communicate for all of these reasons, they need to learn a symbol system to represent feelings, actions, places, describing words (big/little), and concepts (in/out, on/under, more/less).

Symbol Types and Hierarchy:  This list provides the order of the easiest representations for a student to understand.
Real Objects
Color photographs
Black and white photographs
Miniature Objects
Printed words
Symbols Libraries:  
There are a variety of symbol libraries that are used in augmentative communication systems.  Together with your child’s SLP choose a symbol set. Here are some examples of some commonly used symbols:
by Mayer Johnson (Boardmaker Software)
by Widgit (Communicate in Print Software)
by N2Y (Online Symbol Library) 
by Prentke Romich Company
from the Bliss Symbolics Communication Institute Canada   

Access to Symbols:  If your child’s therapist is an Individual Authorizer with the Assistive Devices Program (A.D.P). in Ontario, talk with them about the need to produce symbols at home for your child.  You may also find access to Boardmaker software at your child’s school or community library.  If you’re a client of TVCC, there is a copy of Boardmaker at TVCC’s resource centre that you can use.

Creating Symbols and Boards: There are plenty of ready made boards that you can access online.  If you have access to Boardmaker, you can often download them and customize them for your child.   Boardmaker Share is a website where you can download or upload these types of resources. 

Here are some examples of some simple ready to use Boards that are available from Boardmaker Share.  You can find these and more created by the I Can Newsletter here:

Simple Speech Generating Devices:  There are sometimes opportunities to borrow simple speech generating devices from a school or a children’s treatment centre.  You could also request a short-term loan of a device through some distributors. 

If you get the chance to borrow a Big Mac, a Step by Step or a similar device….try out some of these ideas:

iPod, iPhone, iPad Options for Simple Speech Generating Devices

There are some apps that can be used as simple messaging devices if your child is able to access a button on an idevice.  

Examples of Single Message Apps:

  • Go Talk Now (Free version): This app can also be configured to allow 1 button on the screen. Examples of Sequential Message Apps:

If you get the chance to borrow a device that has more than one button, search online for some ready made overlays.  If you borrow a Supertalker or Go Talk, you can download some of these simple overlays to get started:

If you own an idevice or you can borrow one…here are some apps that may be beneficial to allow your child some simple communication exchanges. 

Examples of free or low cost apps for that can be used with emergent communicators:

If you have purchased or have borrowed a idevice with Proloquo2Go, it's important to customize the vocabulary for your child.  Watch this video for ideas on how you can simplify the settings within Proloquo2Go to try out with your child.

For additional videos on Proloquo2Go, be sure to check out the manufacturer's webinars at:

I a Star! 

This month, we are happy to introduce clients who are using Augmentative Communication strategies and/or equipment to participate...way to go!

Here's a way to grab people's attention...share information about your child's communication using a new tool called "Prezi".  Take a look at this amazing presentation that was created to allow Abby to share information about herself with her classmates.

Gabriel's family has also created a way to share information about his communication by personalizing a communication passport.  Way to go Gabriel!!!  Your book is fantastic!
Brittany uses many methods to communicate and has recently learned to use a speech generating device (SGD) to make requests to her family, friends and teachers.  Watch this video and see how she's asking for things she wants.  Well done Brittany!  Keep building those communication skills with your Alt Chat SGD!

Dallas is learning to use his device to clarify his communication.  Here he is using it to help read a story with his educational assistant.  He uses his device to participate in the classroom - answering his teacher's questions and contributing his ideas to the class.  He has also given a speech to his class about one of his favourite topics - baseball.  Well done Dallas!  Keep on communicating!

Upcoming Events:

TVCC ACS Education Events 2013

If you are a TVCC client, please take a moment to check out our upcoming education sessions:

  • How to choose powerful words
    • April 10th, 2013 6-8 pm
    • September 25, 9:30 – 11:30 am
    •  November 13, 9:30 – 11:30 am 
  • How to use symbols so your child will too! 
    • May 8th, 2013 6-8 pm
    • October 9th, 2013 9:30-11:30
  • Adapted books
    • December 4th, 2013 6-8 pm
For more information and registration: 

 The Forest City Road Race is fast approaching on April 28th, 2013! The net proceeds from this event support enhanced programs at Thames Valley Children's Centre, such as the Resource Centre, the Adapted Fitness Facility and the Equipment lending library. 
Sign Up:

It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights, it's time to get things started...with this year's theatre camps:

Setting the Stage and On with the Show!
These camps are for TVCC clients who use a Speech Generating Device (SGD) as primary means of communication and want to try acting. This is a joint partnership with the Original Kids Theatre Company. 
When: August 12-16th, 2013
Sign up information available in the latest "Opportunities to Participate" brochure online:
Performance day is open to everyone! 
Mark your calendar to come see the stars on August 16th, 2013 at the Spriet Family Theatre! 

Beginning With Boardmaker / Boardmaker Basics 
For TVCC parents, caregivers and TVCC staff who are interested in starting to design and develop communication displays and symbols for their children and clients.

Topics to be covered:
  • General uses for Boardmaker Symbols
  • How to customize a board
  • How to create new buttons/grid, fill with symbols and print and save
  •  How to create custom symbols and import photos into Boardmaker software 
May 1st, 2013 6-8 pm
May  14th, 2013 1-3pm & 6-8pm
Register by email:
Cost: Free