ISAAC 2012, Day 2: AAC Goes to Preschool

July 29, 2012 by - 23 Comments

ISAAC 2012, Day 2: AAC Goes to Preschool
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Day 2 at ISAAC 2012: AAC Goes Back to Preschool

It was another wonderful day here in Pittsburgh at the 15th Biennial ISAAC Conference. It was a special day for me because I had the opportunity to speak about a really fun topic, core vocabulary teaching for young children with AAC needs. It was certainly a group effort! A talented graduate student of ours, Tathiane Paiva, and I shared a framework for developing a curriculum to teach core language in preschool classrooms, and used the curriculum I developed with Lori Wise (special educator and literacy specialist with UM NSU CARD) as an example. The basic principles behind the approach we shared are listed below.

•Language and literacy learning happen all day long.
•Children learning AAC need high-quality instruction to learn and use basic vocabulary.
•Children learning AAC need frequent opportunities for learning and practice. They need dozens of carefully planned opportunities to use their new words each day.Look Who’s Talking: A Curricular Approach to Core Language Instruction for Prekindergarten Children with AAC Needs
•The focus is on core words which are infused in all learning activities.
•Literacy activities can be the basis for core language teaching. Our example uses repeated reading of trade books. We focus on each book for 2 weeks, with a 10-day sequence that repeats with each new book. “Repetition with variety.” (We ‘heard’ you, Drs. Erikson and Koppenhaver!)

Our purpose in sharing the curriculum we developed was to provide a framework that can participants can replicate with their own books and vocabulary sets. We talked about several characteristics that are important in designing this type of curriculum. First, Lori and I wanted to maintain a focus on core vocabulary with a distribution across word classes. We were particularly interested in supporting the development of pronouns, descriptors, function words, locatives, and verbs. Teachers and SLPs have no difficulty teaching activity-specific nouns, like bubbles or paint or train. Teaching words like get, here, and it is where they may need some guidance.

Another critical feature is the provision of frequent opportunities for practice in preschools. It’s important to develop activities that are appropriate for children of different ability levels. The activity needs to work no matter whether the child learns quickly or slowly, and whether he moves at lightning speed or hardly at all.

Similarly, the curriculum should accommodate a wide range of AAC tools and strategies. There should be a way to include shared classroom communication devices that have limited vocabulary, high tech SGDs, mobile devices with AAC apps ranging from simple to complex, and all sorts of no-tech AAC.

We very much wanted to include both group and individual activities, as these young children have to learn the skills to participate in both. We also suggested using literacy activities, like shared reading and predictable chart writing, as the context for language instruction.
Look Who’s Talking: A Curricular Approach to Core Language Instruction for Prekindergarten Children with AAC Needs
Finally, we talked about inviting families into the process by keeping them informed of core language targets, building their awareness of key language facilitation strategies, and encouraging home practice.

It was a pleasure to meet so many dedicated and talented professionals working with little ones who are learning AAC. I hope that sharing some of the lessons we learned was helpful to those who attended.

I believe that our handout from that presentation will be available on the ISAAC website. If not, I will share the link here. A special thanks to my friend, colleague, and co-developer of the curriculum we shared, Lori Wise.

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This post was written by Carole Zangari


  • Laura Jones says:

    Will be looking forward to the handout. I love that the curriculum seems to reflect a universal design for learning, that literacy activities have such a key focus and that the curriculum isn’t just about the nouns, yippee! And having read much of your blog, I feel certain aided language stimulation with all the varied AAC tools available in the classroom and to the individuals will be a key tool used to deliver the curriculum. Can’t wait to read more 🙂

  • Tina McAlpin says:

    Looking forward to this. Enjoy the week, thanks for all the tools we can use in the school system(and everywhere else).!

  • Deanna Wagner says:

    This is so exciting. Thanks so much for sharing. I am looking forward to the handout.

  • Wendy says:

    How can I get my hands on the Tell Me curriculum?

  • Rivka Tropper says:

    Thanks for this wonderful blog!

    I’d love to get more information on this curriculum, but none of the links seemed to be working.


  • Tammy Lewellen says:

    I am an ECSE teacher and am very interested in purchasing the TELL-ME curriculum. I would love more information it.
    Thank You

    • Avatar photo Robin Parker says:

      Hi. Thanks so much for inquiring. It is in the works, but Carole will write back with more details.

  • Kerry says:

    I’m also really interested in this curriculum. Is it something that will be available soon?

  • Tammy Lewellen says:

    I would love to get more information on this curriculum before the school year starts. I would like to consider using it this fall. How can I get more information?

    Thank you,

    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      Thanks so much for your interest. We are working on getting that published and will keep you posted on that process through our Facebook page. If you work in a school that might want to serve as a pilot site, let me know and I can tell you more about what is involved.

      • Tammy says:

        I do work in a publIc school and would be Interested in learning more about being a pilot site.

        Thank you,

        • Tammy says:

          I was wondering if the Tell Me Curriculum is available? I am really excited to see it. If it’s not yet available do you have an anticipated date?

          Thank you,

  • Sarah Veninga says:

    I would like to view this handout, but the link is no longer working. Is there anyway you could email it to me?
    Also, if you are still looking for sites to trial the Tell Me curriculum, I am the AT facilitator at an early childhood program and we would definitely be interested!

  • Carole coleman says:

    Please send information on Tell Me Curriculum. Our PPCD teacher really wants to try it in her class. Thanks

  • Corinna says:

    Hi Carole,

    Is it possible to put up another link to the ISAAC 2012 “Look who’s talking” presentation handout?


  • Mikki Harkin says:

    is the Tell-me program available yet? I have several preschools that are interested

  • Jennifer McGraw says:

    I am looking for the TELL-ME program. Are the resources available to implement this in a preschool classroom yet? thanks for your help!
    Jennifer M

  • Sally says:

    Love the new curriculum, Carole,. Just what we have been working on here at Loudoun County but so nicely organized. Brava! I hope to see you at ATIA.

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