As a speech-language pathologist, I know it can be difficult to get school staff “on board” with AAC. One of the biggest hurdles I face is encouraging AAC use throughout the day for my students. Getting staff support is the best way to improve AAC consistency and modeling. I have gathered a few tips for encouraging AAC use throughout the day and could not keep it to myself any longer!
When I have a non-speaking or limitedly verbal student, I prioritize educating all staff who work with the student. Augmentative and alternative communication can be intimidating for teachers and paraprofessionals. If they do not understand it, they are less likely to use it and have it readily available for students. Sharing what AAC is and why it is important is a necessary part of the process. Stephanie shares some great information about what AAC is here!
It is helpful dedicate time to meet with the necessary staff to model how easy it can be. Using this free monthly training topics template helps me to organize the information I share with staff. I have used it to track what I have talked to staff about or what I have shared via email.
Using speech session time to push into the classroom to model how to use the device in real time can be a great way to get staff buy-in! Using adapted books is a quick way to show staff members how easy using augmentative and alternative communication is. Read about utilized adapted books for AAC here. When I am modeling alternative communication that my students use, I narrate what I am doing and why. This ensures I have a productive session and educates staff along the way. Seeing my students in the hallway during interventions or transitioning through the building are little moments I take advantage of. When I see my students during these times, I make sure to greet them and ask them a question or two. This gives me an opportunity to model how to support them navigating the device in a quick, easy way.
YOUR WORDS MATTER
I refer to all of my AAC as “talkers” or the student’s “voice” to indicate how vital the device is. Using these terms instead of “device” or “AAC” can make the communication device seem less intimidating as well. By switching my language to “talker” and “voice,” I have seen staff gain a better understanding of how important these devices are and prioritize having it accessible at all times. The more accessibility, the more a student can learn how to use their voice!
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