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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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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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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5 Tips For Parents to Implement AAC at Home

Parents' and guardians' participation in AAC is crucial for the child who uses AAC. Communication using augmentative alternative communication cannot be taught 30-60 minutes a week in a therapy room. It can be implemented in therapy, but the best outcomes occur when the AAC device or system is implemented across settings, throughout the entire day. 

Easier said than done, let me tell ya!

Here are 5 tips to help a parent or guardian implement AAC with their child:

1. Implement the AAC system during a daily routine

There are common things every child does throughout their day. A wake up routine, a bedtime routine, and mealtime routines (or feed routines if using a feeding tube). 

These times would be a great place to implement some expressive language and AAC! Think of language a speaking or typically developing child would want to say. For example, "get up" or "wake up" for the morning routine. "Put on shirt," "choose shoes," "make breakfast."

Choose a few words or phrases...

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