How We Do It: Celebrating AAC Awareness Month at School
What better way to start the day than to see how AAC Awareness Month is being celebrated in a school system?! Today, pediatric SLP Elisa Parker tells us how they do it in the school district where she works. For the past 20 years, Elisa has served young children in the Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Missouri. Her passion for AAC and children with autism led to her becoming an Autism Coach and Assistive Technology Facilitator. She has been an Autism Coach for the Gerner Family Early Education Center for 7 years and the Assistive Technology Facilitator for 3 years. Elisa consults with and provides AAC training for teachers and support staff of young students who use AAC and has also coached teams at the K-12 level.
Celebrating October – AAC Awareness Month
There are so many hardworking staff members I work with who implement AAC in their classrooms each day. As AAC Awareness Month begins, I would like to share a few ideas we have used at the Gerner Center to recognize our hardworking staff.
Catch them in the act!
Last year we created a banner for AAC Awareness month and hung it in the entryway of our building. We used oversized AAC systems as decorations on each side of the banner.
Throughout the month pictures were taken of staff facilitating AAC with their students throughout the school day. A copy of the picture and an AAC related meme was posted on the teacher/therapist’s classroom door and added to the banner.
By the end of the month, our banner was full of various staff, students, and AAC systems in our workplace. I have noticed the teachers still have their pictures up from last year on their classroom doors. They take pride in the work they do each day.
Visual documentation of student progress!
With parent and staff permission, video and photos are collected. It is so inspiring to show families, staff, and administration the impact AAC makes for our young learners. One of my favorite videos is about a little girl who progresses from single word requests, to learning to comment about items, and using humor as she combines 4-5 buttons to create novel sentences. This little girl began AAC at the age of 3 and was using the Touch Chat app with 108 Wordpower (without symbols) by the time she transitioned to kindergarten.
Participate in a Silent Tea
A couple of years ago my fellow SLP’s were inspired by ISAAC’s Silent Morning Tea as participants were encouraged to use pen and paper, communication apps and key word sign/gesture to communicate. My fellow SLP’s selected and I selected an AAC system and headed to a local coffee shop/bookstore in our area. We used our AAC system to take our drink order and communicate to each other. As we used our devices to take our order, we handed a small piece of paper about AAC Awareness month to other patrons and employees. We were able to raise awareness in our community which was our main focus. However, we also found is that the AAC vocabulary we chose did not necessarily meet our needs to communicate socially with each other. We found ourselves using an onscreen keyboard, sign language that we knew, and other gestures to communicate with each other. It was a powerful moment for us as it reinforced just how important it is to have access to meaningful vocabulary such as core words. Nouns are not enough!
You can download a sheet of AAC Awareness Cards below.
Happy AAC Awareness Month, everyone!
This post was written by Carole Zangari