Lesson Planning with AAC
Blog on March 07 2023
Through teaching students with speech and language differences, we experience the unique ways they communicate, but how can we incorporate that into our lessons? In my classroom, I have students who range from verbal, to semi-verbal, to completely non-verbal; but by incorporating the use of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) throughout our lessons in three different ways, we have formed a unified communication family for our students.
Today, I’ll share with you the three different types of AAC I use in my classroom and how my training in the techniques of the No Limits Method have helped me properly utilize AAC. I will give you examples on how to incorporate these forms of communication into your lessons to help your students really connect with what they are learning!
Low-tech communication is a system of symbols that does not require an electronic device. For example, we use answer cards or icons that we print off from our AAC devices to use in sensory bins or communication boards. Examples include:
- Sensory bins with lesson-associated icons, such as laminated nouns in a slime bucket.
- Foam and laminated letters to create words or sentences.
- Sensory trays with animals and corresponding laminated names of the animals to verbalize, match, and repeat.
Mid-tech communication is when you have a device that puts out a single message and requires batteries, such as a communication button/switch. I like to use communication buttons during our sorting activities on the SMART Board.
For example, if I’m teaching a lesson about nouns and how to use them, I would have three switches: one for “person,” one for “thing,” and one for “place.” I would place these switches on my students’ tray or table. As I go through the different icons on my board, I would have the students press the button for whichever category was appropriate for that noun.
High-tech communication is when a student uses an electronic computer-based voice output system. In my classroom, my students use tablets and eye-gaze devices to communicate with Tobii Dynavox’s software, TD Snap. To use this system in my lessons, I first program my own device for the lesson I am teaching (my school provides all classrooms with three tablets with TD Snap for our students to communicate with). Next, I download the programmed lesson to my students’ personal device if they have one. By doing this, I ensure all of our devices are updated and ready for the day’s lesson. In the same way that I would teach any typically developing child, I ask them questions and have them respond using their devices, either on the programmed page I created for the lesson, or pre-made topic pages already on my students’ devices.
For example, in my noun lesson, I had a board activity and a worksheet activity where my students used their AAC devices to answer questions. For the board activity, I had the answers programmed and as I went through, I would pause and ask them to choose the icon on the board and find it on their device. Then, we would label if it was a person, place, or thing, using their device. When it comes to using these devices along with worksheets, I like to program the answer to their worksheet using the same pictures, so the students can better identify their choices. I have them first use low-tech by making a choice out of two or three paper icons, then I have them use their device to identify that icon. Lastly, I have them classify it as a person, place, or thing using their device before pasting it down onto their worksheet.
Using these three kinds of AAC methods has made all the difference for my students with speech and language differences in terms of their connection to their peers and lessons. We have created such a fun communication system within my classroom, as students are not only engaging in conversations based on academics, but they are starting to initiate conversations with their peers throughout the day. Using this system, I can model communication for my students on my device while teaching and incorporating the three different levels of communication. By communicating with them in the way they communicate best, I can better reach my students.
I learned these different communication adaptations from our school’s Director of Communication and Language Development, who is a speech-language pathologist, and then applied it with our methodology of teaching, which is the No Limits Method. By combining the two, the progress of my students has been tremendous! If you are ready to see how your students can genuinely connect with their education, I strongly encourage you to look into the No Limits Method and the resources it provides. Their techniques and strategies can help you learn more tips and tricks for your teacher toolbox. Check out this video preview of one of our micro-credentialing courses, focused on communication and student engagement.
Thanks for reading!
Savannah Moffett, Exceptional Education Teacher & Content Creator
The goal of the No Limits Method is to truly individualize the education of students with disabilities. Many students with disabilities experience a variety of speech and language differences, compared to many other students.
To accommodate these differences, we must understand the variety of ways in which our students might communicate through forms of alternative communication.
A recent review of the literature on Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) strongly suggests that these forms of communication support (and do not detract from) the development and learning of the students that use them.
See: Jensen, E., Douglas, S. N., & Gerde, H. K. (2023). Dispelling Myths Surrounding AAC Use for Children: Recommendations for Professionals. Inclusive Practices, 0(0).
In this blog, Savannah explains some common types of AAC, and how she incorporates her students’ communication needs into her lesson plans.
By: Cheyne Joslin
Director of Research & Efficacy
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