PrAACtical Collaboration: Teaming Up to Build Communication with a Treat Cart (Part 1)

December 7, 2017 by - 1 Comment

PrAACtical Collaboration: Teaming Up to Build Communication with a Treat Cart (Part 1)
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  • Looking for ways to give your AAC learners the opportunity to communicate with a broader range of communication partners?PrAACtical Collaboration: Teaming Up to Build Communication with a Treat Cart (Part 1)
  • Interested in practicing AAC skills outside of the classroom?

When I saw this fun learning experience that SLP Kimberly Walker and her colleagues developed, I knew it would spark the imaginations of some of our prAACtical friends. I am continually amazed by the creativity of teachers, SLPs, OTs, and others who are passionate about helping students become more proficient with their AAC and language. Based in Colorado, Kimberly works with students in kindergarten through grade 5 at Tarver Elementary. In this post, she explains how they set up a Treat Cart in order to spice up the opportunities for AAC, language, and literacy learning.


Finding ways for our AAC users to see the power of communication by using their AAC device is hard at times.  My Occupational Therapist and I do a lot of co-treating and we decided that we wanted our AAC users out and about in the school community embracing this power of communication.  That is why we decided to develop a Treat Cart.

This is our second year of doing a Treat Cart at our school.  We are targeting life, social, fine/gross motor, and communication skills all in one activity that lasts the entire month.PrAACtical Collaboration: Teaming Up to Build Communication with a Treat Cart (Part 1)

Last year we started with our older AAC users selling snacks to our teachers and staff and it has blossomed into a life skills training which we have now our younger students in the group as well.  The students participating in the Treat Cart have low tech devices such as a switch, mid tech device such as a Go Talk, all the way to using TouchChat.

The Treat Cart has created multiple lessons throughout the month which has made planning very easy for us.  On the days we are not selling we take inventory, make lists of what we need, work on selling skills, money matching/identification, and identifying environmental print. We created a Rubric to track our student’s progress.  This has been a huge success at Tarver Elementary. The students and staff love the last Thursday of each month. Here is how we did it.

Steps to Starting a Treat Cart

Treat Cart Set-up

  1. Sent survey out to staff
  2. Set up an account with the school office. We started with $100.  Work with your office manager that is in charge of money to do this.  In our district, the account number type is 19089.
  3. Had students decide what to buy by outcome of survey
  4. Bought supplies, programmed devices/switches
  5. Made cart sign/found cart to use-check with your librarianPrAACtical Collaboration: Teaming Up to Build Communication with a Treat Cart (Part 1)
  6. Role played selling items
  7. Worked with students to identify environmental print of items sold (See slides with those images here.)
  8. Made envelopes for staff
  9. Presented to staff at the staff meeting on directions and also sent out the following email on directions

Example email:


Classroom teachers received an envelope in your mailboxes for the Snack Cart today.  Here is the plan.PrAACtical Collaboration: Teaming Up to Build Communication with a Treat Cart (Part 1)

  1.  We hope to have our first delivery be on next Thursday depending on establishing an account through the district.
  2.  On the Wednesday before, I will send out an email of what will be on the cart and the price of each item.
  3.  The cart will be coming around from 10:50-11:15 on the last Thursday of each month.  If you are at lunch at that time we will stop by the lounge doors to see if you would like to purchase something.  If you are in the office we will also stop by there for purchases.

The envelopes are for the teachers that would be teaching during this time and would still like to purchase so we don’t interrupt classroom instruction. Here are instructions for the envelope.  1.  Look on Wednesday’s email to see what will be on the cart/prices. 2.  Put your order on a sticky note/piece of paper along with your money in the envelope. 3.  Put the envelope with a magnet on your door jam on Thursday.  We will then be by to get your order, and we will leave you purchase on your desk along with any change you would need in the envelope.  If you would need change the smaller amount of change we would need to make would be greatly appreciated especially during the first couple of months.  🙂

Let me know if you have any questions.  I will be sending an email out next week to let everyone know if we will start next Thursday.

Thanks for your support!

  1. The night before I send out an email with the prices and snacks we will be selling the next day.

Example email:

The Treat Cart will be around tomorrow!   We have restocked it with new items.

We will be selling tomorrow from 10:40-11:15


Kim & Denise

Items for SalePrAACtical Collaboration: Teaming Up to Build Communication with a Treat Cart (Part 1)

  • Bottled Water $ .50

    • Can of Sparkling Ice Water Raspberry or Cherry Limeade  $1.00

    • Bottled Green Tea $.75

    • Starbucks Frappuccino Vanilla Coffee Iced $2

    • Chips (Sour Cream Lays, BBQ Lays, Cheetos, Spicy Doritos, Cool Ranch Doritos, Chili Cheese Fritos) $.50

    • Smartfood Popcorn White Cheddar $.50

    • Snack Factory Pretzels Crisps Original Flavor  $.50

    • Package of Trident Gum (Spearmint, Blue Mint, Bubble Gum, Watermelon, Tropical Fruit) $1.00

    • Candy bars (Full Size: Reese’s, Kit Kat, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Hershey with Almonds, M&M’s, Peanut M&M’s, ) $1.00

    • Starburst (Full Size:  Regular, Tropical) $1.00

    • Skittles Bag (Full Size: Regular, Wild Berry, Tropical)  $1.00

    • Pop (Bottles: Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Diet Coke, Coke) $1.00

    • Almonds Pack (Natural, no salt)  $1.00

  1. Follow-up activities: Inventory-graph, work on greater than/less than, create shopping list, make thank yous, match money, identify money, make change, continue to work on environmental print identification, practice ordering/selling
  1.  Each month this is our plan:
  • 1st Thursday of Month – Inventory, graph
  • 2nd Thursday of Month – Make a list of supplies needed, role play, match money, work on identification of environmental print, teachers buy supplies
  • 3rd Thursday of Month – Make thank yous, stock cart
  • 4th Thursday of Month – Sell
  1.  The last Thursday of the school year we will give each student that sold items $2 as their payment for working.  They then can use that $2 to buy a treat for themselves.

Treat Cart Rubric: You can download the rubric we use to track student learning here.PrAACtical Collaboration: Teaming Up to Build Communication with a Treat Cart (Part 1)

Stay tuned for Part 2 where Kim explains more about using this to address student goals.


About the Guest Blogger: Kimberly Walker, MS ED, CCC-SLP has worked Adams 12 Five Star School District for 15 years at Tarver Elementary.  She services K-5 students along with providing Speech and Language services to her school’s Significant Support Needs Program in which 6-9 students a year use AAC devices.  Kimberly also owns Speech Therapy Now which is a private speech therapy company dedicated to providing first-rate speech/language resources for children, parents, and therapists. You can follow her to get therapy ideas on Facebook and on Twitter (@SpeechTxNow).


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This post was written by Carole Zangari

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