How We Do It: Increasing AAC Acceptance and Making Better Communication Partners In Our School
We are pleased to welcome Beth Waite-Lafever, an SLP with over 30 years of AAC experience, back to these pages. She has worked in outpatient rehab, private practice, and public school and has the RESNA ATP credential and LAMP certification from The Center for AAC and Autism. Beth has given many presentations at the state, national and international levels on AAC and related topics. In her private practice, she has provides evaluations, therapy, and training. Beth is the proud co-creator of The Indiana AAC Summit. Currently, she provides monthly online training for PRC as a contracted employee and is an SLP and AT Coach for MSD Martinsville, a public school system in Martinsville, Indiana.
How We Do It:
Increasing AAC Acceptance and Making Better Communication Partners In Our School
Each May when I see the Better Hearing and Speech campaign gear up, I wonder what more I can do to increase awareness of communication in my little corner of the world. The reality is…these type of activities should be done all year and not just in May. Having an annual time designated for Better Hearing and Speech helps remind us that sharing what we do to increase communication skills among our students /clients is very important. It is also vital for the success of our friends who use augmentative communication to interact, learn, play and grow.
South Elementary School of Communications, one of 7 elementary schools in MSD of Martinsville, is located 30 miles south of Indianapolis in Martinsville, Indiana. Our school-wide initiative is to “Empower Students Through Communications”. Embedded communication skills and projects are targeted for all students – Kindergarten through 4th grade. As a School of Communications, our three focus areas for all students are:
- Oral Communication
- Visual Literacy
- Media Literacy
Various communications projects, from journalism, drama, photography, and producing a daily video announcement broadcast, are built into the general education curriculum. During the 2018-19 school year, we added the study of AAC, core vocabulary, LAMP and LAMP Words For Life into the general education curriculum for third grade. In order to provide regular opportunities for the staff and students of our elementary to learn more about augmentative communication and LAMP Words For Life (the vocabulary system used by many of our students) we also decided to add a regular segment to student-produced video announcements. This serves to not only educate our staff and students but also helps them become better communication partners. In this short video segment, third-grade students introduce the core word of the day, use it in a sentence, and then show on a communication device how to say the word. As a district, we are using PrAACtical AAC Core Words of the Month across all buildings. Each month, a third-grade class is provided with the list and asked to write a sentence with their assigned core word production for the broadcast. The third-grade students write the script and provide the on-air talent for this segment. Students who use speech generating devices are included when possible. These video segments are watched by the entire staff and students of South Elementary.
After nearly an entire school year of watching these segments on the video announcements, what has the response been? Staff at South Elementary wanted to find out. The teachers asked their students two questions: What is LAMP Words For Life and why do some people use it? The answers are astonishing and truly support the idea that daily exposure to the words and idea of speech generating devices increases the awareness and understanding of even our young students.
When Mrs. Leah Ferrund, a first-grade teacher, asked her students these questions, here is what some of them said:
- “Lamp is like a little IPAD that helps people say things because they can’t say it.”
- “Kids will push a button again and again to speak, and the program will make the word for them.”
- “LAMP helps people talk”
- “LAMP means that the people who can’t talk use LAMP Words For Life to talk” (he pointed to the pictures of the LAMP Words For Life poster hanging in the room.)
Mrs. Tricia Anderson, the teacher of a third-grade class involved in the video production of the core word segments, asked her students the same questions. Here are some of their responses:
Third graders learning about core vocabulary and LAMP Words For Life in class
Production of Core Word of the Day for Broadcast
I was overwhelmed with the insight these young students developed about speech generating devices. By simply providing opportunities to see the devices and icons as well as hear the words on a regular basis during video announcements, AAC became visible and meaningful. For the students using these speech generating devices, seeing their words on the big screen made them feel important and special. For staff, it helped remove some of the uncertainty of using the devices by having a target word displayed for them that coincided with the focus words of the month.
Now when I walk down the hall with a student carrying a speech generating device, other students recognize what it is and feel comfortable trying to talk to him. When students use speech generating devices in class, the novelty of the device as a tablet has worn off and it is now seen as a way for classmates to talk. The symbols, which once seemed so foreign to most people in the building, have become accepted and understood through frequent exposure. We are shaping current and future communication partners into friends. One of the third graders said, “I think LAMP means life and more personality.”
I can’t think of a more fitting comment to celebrate the art of communication during Better Hearing and Speech Month.
This post was written by Carole Zangari