My Kid is Nonverbal- What are My Options?

People often ask me what I do, and who I am!

 

Let me do a quick intro of myself. I’m Kacy Barron, a speech-language pathologist (SLP), which is our title but we are often referred to as speech therapists! We have that longer title because we actually do WAY more than just speech therapy.

 

Some things we do that are not just speech: expressive and receptive language, swallowing, feeding, cognitive communication, social skills, augmentative and alternative communication, voice, oral motor disorders, and more!

 

You can see that we have a pretty broad field! Which is why many of us SLPs specialize in an area or two. 

 

My specialty is in augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC.

 

Let me break that down for you! 

 

Augmentative = Supports verbal speech

 

Alternative = In place of verbal speech

 

Communication = Any form of expressing yourself

 

This article is written to help you understand how AAC can relate to...

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Top Tips for SLPs New to AAC: Advice from 18 AAC SLPs

I have a special treat for everyone today! I asked AAC SLP’s and AAC SLP’s-to-be their top tips for other SLP’s starting to use AAC. I can’t wait to share with you their #1 tips so you can start implementing their advice TODAY. I was so thrilled with the responses I received, and I really think these top tips can take your therapy to the next level. So, get ready to be inspired and for your AAC to-do list to grow as you read through these top tips from speech-language pathologists as they learned how to do AAC!

Get comfortable with the system outside the therapy room

Karen Fahey of @speechievibes responded with the following advice:

Take the time outside of therapy to play around and get to know whatever system you will be using. Try making a system that would work for your communicative needs! It’s fun, helps you become more comfortable navigating the program, and increases your empathy for and understanding of the experience of the user.

I love...

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LAMP Words For Life vs. Speak For Yourself

 

Many people want to know more about the differences of the LAMP Words For Life app and the Speak For Yourself (SfY) app. Both are AAC applications for iOS that are compatible with iPads. Speak For Yourself (SfY) is also compatible with the iPod/iPhone, which LAMP is not. LAMP is compatible with the Accent products from Prentke Romich Company as well as other dedicated devices (e.g., Talk to Me Technologies) and can be downloaded on their software. These apps essentially turn your iPad into a speech generating device (SGD). It does not alter the software of the iPad- but when downloading these applications you should know that this device is now used for speaking. Many of issues arise when you try to mix entertainment with speaking/communication, but more about that later.

LAMP and SfY are both based on the principals of motor planning. This makes for a strong case when introducing this app to children or adults. I often compare motor planning to how we learn how to...

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I Want an SGD but How Do I Get It?: Funding an AAC Device

Funding devices can be the most intimidating piece of the AAC process. Well, maybe not for everyone, but for me it was a huge obstacle! I see posts on Facebook all the time asking how to get a device, where to get one, how to fund one… And the truth is, it is dependent on your insurance, your location, your available resources, and maybe even your school (if the individual needing AAC is currently attending school).

Here is what I have learned from funding devices this year:

  1. Devices are expensive. If you don’t know this already, the “dedicated” devices can be upward of 5k. Yes, $5,000. Some people can pay out of pocket for these. Some cannot. I don’t know many people that can say they have $5,000 lying around that they won’t miss. So, paying out of pocket for a device is usually out of the question.
  2. Medicaid can be a Godsend. Medicaid will fund SGDs with the proper paperwork in many cases. What medicaid decides to fund and decides to deny is...
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Step-By-Step: How to Start and Finish Funding for a High-Tech SGD

 

This is a process many SLPs need to know if they work with non-speaking clients. Here, I will walk you through funding a high-tech AAC device. This is tried and true (by me!). Going outside of the sequence will create more work for you (believe me, I have been there!). This is the most efficient way I have been able to go through the funding process.

1) AAC questionnaire to parent/client

This step is so important. Find out the insurance the client has and if it covers speech generating devices (you may need to call the insurance company). I also recommend finding out the co-pay (if there is one). You need to know what previous devices the client or student has had, how long they had it, when they received it, and how it was purchased (e.g., private pay or insurance funded). You also need to know the current interest and knowledge the parent or client has of AAC devices.

2) AAC evaluation

Perform an AAC evaluation with a loaned device from a lending library (I use the AT...

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4 Reasons I Love High-Tech AAC

 

High-tech AAC is MY JAM. I just love it. I get 99% of my clients a high-tech device ASAP! Why, you ask? Why do I jump to high-tech when there are low-tech options I could use? Well… since you asked….

  1. High-tech is powerful. It creates a VOICE for that person (that is not mine). It has speech output!! Communication partners can listen to the client for the first time! The reaction of the clients can be downright tear-jerking and/or hilarious to hearing their voice.
  2. High-tech devices are the future. Everything is moving toward  advanced technology these days, and communication is no exception. We are ditching paper and we are moving on to iPads, tablets, computers, and phones. We should consider this when choosing a communication system.
  3. Less stigma. No lie, using a high-tech device like an iPad is “cooler” and less stigmatized than other low-tech mediums. I don’t like that using all types of AAC is stigmatized, but it’s the...
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Using AAC with a Person with Autism Spectrum Disorder

I'm a huge nerd when it comes to working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. 

You see, I wrote a graduate thesis and another paper on children with ASD and children with developmental language disorder, or DLD. 

I can't tell you how many research articles I have read on ASD. 

I also can't keep count of the number of people I have worked with who have ASD. 

It was never my intention to seek out working with individuals with autism, it just kind of happened!

And I'm so very glad it did.

I would like to mention that many people with ASD prefer the label-first name, for example, autistics or autistic person. In the academic realm, person-first language is preferred. I often use person-first language (e.g., person with ___), however I completely respect and will sometimes use label-first language out of respect for the autistic community. It is never my intention to offend or hurt a person who identifies either way, and please know that I...

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They Can Request With AAC, Now What?!

So, your student, client, or child can request using augmentative alternative communication (AAC). Now What?! 

Let me give you some examples of requesting:

"I want a drink."

"Want."

"Me please."

"My turn."

"Get it."

There is SO much more than requesting that all humans should have access to. But, even if we know we want to add more communicative intent to our student/client/child's inventory, how do we facilitate that?

It's all in the modeling

It really is. We need to model (when we demonstrate and help a person use their AAC system) more types of sentences and communicative functions.

Here are the eight communicative functions listed in the Communication Intention Inventory (CII). They were considered to be representative of early intentional communication. These categories can be used to determine intervention goals (Austin, 2013):

1. Comment on action

2. Comment on object

3. Request for action

4. Request for object

5. Request for information

6. Answering a request for...

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5 Ways to Implement Core Vocabulary in the Classroom

Core vocabulary. You've probably heard about it. You may know the benefits it can provide to people who use AAC (augmentative alternative communication). But using it?! It can be difficult to wrap your head around using core vocabulary in the academic setting. Let me help you with that!

Here is a definition of core vocabulary: Core vocabulary refers to the small number of words that make up > 70-90% of what we say on a daily basis. These words are relevant across contexts and can have many meanings (Core Vocabulary Studies and Core Word Activities, www.prentrom.com). 

An example of core vocabulary include: help, stop, go, I, you, me, want, drink, eat, like, feel..... the words go on and on!

What core words are (generally) not: nouns, names, proper nouns, some adjectives (that we don't use frequently). 

Why do we AAC SLPs often like and recommend core vocabulary? Because it's giving people who use AAC access to words that people with typical speech use the most....

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How To Do AAC For Free

 

One of the things I pride myself in is my ability to do AAC with no cost to myself. I mean... AAC is worth spending money on if you need to. But, sometimes it's just not possible. If you're a speech-language pathologist (SLP) like me, or a teacher, spending money on devices, apps, or materials isn't always an option. Here are the ways I've done AAC with $0.00.

Get a Free iPad

You heard me right. Get yo'self a free iPad, people! It's totally possible. Here are the four ways I have gotten a free iPad in the past:

1. Donor's Choose: If you work in a school as a teacher or SLP, go to Donor's Choose and register with them. Choose an iPad and a case. Share the link on your social media pages, and you can fund yourself an iPad! The first time I funded one in less than 24 hours. It's not difficult and totally worth it! 

2. Apply for a grant: While working in the schools, I applied for a grant for a free iPad through a local organization. I used HEAL (available to you...

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