Time for an update!
In a previous blog post, I shared how I was working my way through the fantastic chart shared by Angela Moorad, MS CCC-SLP, from Omazing Kids AAC, LLC – Free AAC apps chart. Now, I’m back to update you on my progress, apps that I’ve added to my iPad through the steps in this chart, and the next steps, now that I have access to these apps.
Here are the apps that I have added to my iPad so far:
- TD Snap
- Grid 3
- Touch Chat
- LAMP Words For Life
- Speak For Yourself
First and foremost, I want to acknowledge how easy this process has been and I 100% attribute that to the chart referenced above. Download this chart, follow the steps listed for each app and you too can add a variety of AAC apps to your iPad.
Before we move on, I want to be sure that I remind you that, just because you CAN get access to all of these apps, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD, or HAVE to! Let me explain…
While the companies are generous and provide free codes for downloads for their apps, these free download codes are not unlimited. Therefore, if you primarily use one app, want to learn more about a specific app, etc then that would be the app to start with, look at first and then wait on the others. However, if you are an SLP or other professional that provides AAC evaluations, it might make sense for you to have a variety of AAC apps available to you in order to trial them with learners, clients, etc. to determine which app works best for each individual. With that being said, I have downloaded these apps because I am actively providing AAC evaluations for a variety of learners and/or clients.
After being provided access to these AAC apps, my next steps, and what I would encourage you to do as well, is to continue your professional learning about each of these apps. Because, while all the apps provide a way to assist communication for those that need it, each app has its own, individual language system, organization, features, etc. Increasing your knowledge of the different features within systems will assist you when you are completing an AAC evaluation and determining which feature(s) will be best for each individual user.
With the ever-increasing variety of AAC apps available, this task can seem overwhelming, but remember, as I shared in a previous post – it’s ok to take your time. Start with one app, learn the features of that app, practice using that app, etc and then, when you feel confident, move on to a new app, then rinse and repeat.
Have you downloaded the chart yet? Are you working through learning more about AAC apps? Comment below and let us know how it’s going!
There are so many AAC apps out there – trying to learn all of them so that you can help provide access to those most beneficial for those you work with can be overwhelming, to say the least!
However, let me reassure you that:
- You don’t have to learn ALL the AAC apps/devices simultaneously!
- You don’t have to know ALL the AAC apps/devices before you can start providing AAC therapy.
- You can take your time and learn the apps/devices – building up your knowledge and AAC app repertoire one step at a time!
To illustrate this point, let me share a little bit about my journey as an AAC-loving SLP. Hopefully, this will reassure you that you are doing wonderfully, right where you are.
When I started as an SLP, 20 years ago, my first job was in a small elementary school that had one classroom for each grade K-6, two Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Pre-K classes, and four additional self-contained ESE classrooms and I was the only SLP. My caseload was huge and I was constantly on the run. There were lots of things that were difficult about being the only SLP (I’m sure some of you can relate) but I also learned so many invaluable things that have helped me become the SLP I am today.
You may be thinking, “That’s great, but how does this all relate to AAC?” – I’m getting there I promise – just stick with me. 😉
The majority of the students in the four self-contained ESE classrooms, and some of the students in the ESE Pre-K classrooms were non or minimally speaking and needed access to AAC. Thankfully, I knew in grad school I wanted to work with AAC users, however, as a clinical fellow, I still had a lot to learn. But, I did it scared and jumped in with two feet!
As I was learning, on (and off) the job, Dynavox (before they were Tobii Dynavox) was the company that produced the first high-tech devices that I introduced and used with the students I was working with. There were other devices and companies out there and I knew a little bit about them but not everything or much – and that was ok. I started out learning about ONE system. I started on an even smaller scale, learning one feature, option, use, etc, and then moving on to the next.
See how I’m bringing this all back around?
No matter where you are on your AAC SLP journey, there will always be learning opportunities. Take your time, focus in on what you want to and/or need to learn, and start there.
- Have a learner that is using LAMP? Start there…
- Like the layout of Touchchat? Start there…
- Have a learner that needs bilingual support offered by Coughdrop? Start there…
- You get the idea…😀
Don’t forget that you can learn alongside your AAC users as well! That is definitely what I did during that first year as an AAC SLP – and beyond. I think that it is great to learn alongside your learners. It shows the learners that it is ok that they don’t know how to use the device perfectly immediately. You are demonstrating a growth mindset, problem-solving and so much more!
We don’t have the luxury, or the time, to wait to start providing AAC therapy until we know all the different systems, devices, etc – our learners need us now, just as we are, learning alongside them. So, what AAC system/device are you going to learn next?
Let me tell you about one of my favorite AAC tools. It’s wonderful to have in your back pocket for assessments, goal writing, progress monitoring, and more – and best of all, it’s FREE!
I could go on and on about my love for this tool, but for now, let me introduce you to the Dynamic AAC Goals Grid – 2 (DAGG-2). Here’s a quick overview of what the DAGG-2 gives us:
- Provides a way to systematically assess/reassess current AAC skills
- Assists with the development of a comprehensive plan for increasing communicative independence for the AAC user.
- Ensures that all communicative competencies are considered in an evaluation.
- Shows patterns of strengths and weaknesses to help determine the next steps for intervention.
- Acknowledges progress toward independence.
- Presents a “big picture” view of every learner and helps develop communication goals for now and the future.
That’s a lot of goodness right there! Let’s break it down step by step and section by section. (It will be helpful if you are able to download the from the link above or at least have it open in another tab while reading through this information to get the clearest picture of each section and its use.)
Let’s start with how to use the DAGG-2 for initial AAC assessments. We start with the “Ability Level Continuum” guide. This guide is broken into five different levels: emergent, emergent transitional, context-dependent, transitional dependent, and independent. Each of these levels are further segmented into specific areas: understanding, expression, social interaction, literacy skills, and other.
This guide is completed based on the learner’s current AAC use, keeping in mind that a learner may be at different levels for each of the different areas. Information gathered from completing this guide gives insight into the learner’s current skills and strengths in each area. After completing the guide, you can summarize the findings and see an overview of how independent they are within each area. There is also a section where you can make notes of various communication characteristics you observed, other communication modalities they use, strengths, barriers, etc. Once this guide is completed, you move on to the next step – choosing goals to address in one or more areas.
Referencing the information gathered & summarized in the “Ability Level Continuum” guide, we use that information to choose potential goals for the learner, within each of the different communicative competencies. Sample goal ideas are provided both for each communicative competency (linguistic, operational, social, & strategic) and for different levels outlined in the “Ability Level Continuum” guide. A chain of cues prompting hierarchy is also provided for each goal and level so that you can indicate which level of cueing the learner currently needs.
Using the ability levels and chain of cues provides an opportunity to not only see where your learner is currently with their AAC use and their independence, but it also allows you to see the next steps to continue progression and independence within each competency.
Now that we know where our learner is in their AAC use journey in reference to each of the communicative competencies, how independent they are within each of these skills, and have looked at some possible goal ideas, it’s finally time to draft the goals and objectives!
Once again the DAGG-2 is here to help with worksheets that walk us through the goal writing process step by step. AAC Goal Worksheets are here to help us choose a skill from each of the communicative competencies that we selected within the AAC Goals Grid, adding in the communication partner(s), activity, prompting type, and criteria to complete the goal.
Talk about an all-in-one tool! Just using this one tool you have completed the AAC assessment, determined strengths and areas that need additional support, and written goals and objectives that will drive your treatment sessions! But, the goodness of the DAGG-2 doesn’t stop there! You can also use this tool for reassessments and progress monitoring – read on to find out how.
There are three different ways to look at reassessment & progress monitoring using the DAGG-2:
- Look back at the Dynamic AAC Goals listed by competency and mark any progress in the level of cueing. (Use a different color pen and/or mark the date of reassessment to denote progress monitoring.)
- Use the AAC Goals Periodic Progress Report to record progress in each competency area. Keeping track of the percentage of goals mastered within each competency area will help you track and see when a learner is ready to move towards a different independence level within each competency level.
- Using this information, review the goals you wrote using the AAC Goals Worksheet and revise as needed.
By now I am sure that you are in love with the DAGG-2, just as much as I am but I have a surprise for you – there’s still more goodness to share!
Not only is the DAGG-2 available in paper form, but it is also available digitally, still FREE, through the Pathways for Core First app. Within the digital version of the DAGG-2, you can create “users” for multiple learners, as well as print, save, email, and update individual information as needed. This digital version is a great way to reduce paperwork AND each goal within the goals grid has lesson plans and activity ideas that you can download to help you work with your learners towards achieving their goals! You can access the digital version of the DAGG-2 in the Pathways for Core First app here.
All the steps involved in AAC assessments, selecting goals, progress monitoring, etc can be very daunting and time-consuming. Hopefully, this information and the DAGG-2, either paper or digital versions, will help you feel more confident in your ability to complete these tasks effectively and efficiently!
I’ve always been an avid reader and love becoming lost in the pages of a book. In 2020, I decided that it would be fun to keep track of the books that I read, and as it always seems to happen, the minute I decided to do that, I happened upon something that would help me So, armed with a love of reading and a fun way to track it, I got to it! Here are the books I read in 2020, a short little blurb about each one and a link if you want to pick up the book for yourself :
Book #1: Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley
I still stand by my thoughts of not making resolutions but – I love this tracker and am going to use it to motivate me to be more intentional in making time for reading in 2020!
Book #2: Fall Down 7 Times Get up 8 by Naoki Higashida
Real talk: I had high hopes and was really excited to read this book, however, after starting to read it I was informed that the author (a young man with ASD) is suspected to have used Facilitated Communication (FC) or the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) to write the book.
Since there is no evidence and/or research to back up the use of FC and RPM, I was obviously disappointed in learning this information. I lost my faith in that the content of the book was directly from the author, however the information shared within the book is good information for all of us working with individuals with ASD.
Regardless of who wrote the book and whose ideas are shared, the main idea, treating everyone with respect, grace and acceptance no matter our differences, is something that we should ALL keep in the forefront of our minds!
Book #3: Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
This book is chock full of such great information, I’m already planning to re-read it to make sure I can absorb it all!
If you are a dreamer, an over-thinker, a procrastinator, a go-getter, etc this book is a must read – basically, it’s for everyone!
Marie shares too many amazing quotes for self-talk and mantras for me to list, but the one that encompasses them all, and the one that I am continually telling myself is “Everything is Figureoutable” – really everything!
Book #4: Atomic Habits by James Clear
I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to make changes in their lives for the better – changes that will turn into habits that will stay with you for life and help make you a better version of you.
The tips provided within the book are easy to implement gradually and functionally incorporate into your life as you work to create new habits. My favorite parts of the book are the emphasis that is placed upon the ability to use these strategies in all aspects of your life as well as the importance of self-reflection and re-evaluation as you progress to continue your self-improvement.
Book #5: Becoming by Michelle Obama
I don’t read a lot of biographies but, I really enjoyed this one! Loved learning about her past, who she was before she was the First Lady of the United States, how she approached her ever changing roles as a woman, mom, advocate and so much more, as well as what she is looking forward to in her new stage in life, outside of politics.
I’m not one that pays much attention to politics at all and this book was less about politics and more about how Michelle Obama changed and evolved throughout her life. Demonstrating to the readers that change is ok and often needed to become the person that you are meant to be and that can make the most difference in this world.
While reading, and after as well, this book has me thinking and reflecting about who I was, who I am, and who I want to become.
Book #6: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
When I saw the title of this book I knew I needed to read it! Thanks to Spring Break and the incredible content within, I was able to read this book in one day!
My word for 2020 is “intention” and I am actively trying to increase the intentionality in all actions and aspects of my life. This book gave me so much to reflect upon and help me grow in the areas that I often struggle with – overthinking, worrying and perfectionism. Filling my head and heart with positivity, love for others and self-love is something that I can never have too much of!
Book #7: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Sometimes you just need to read a fiction book from 8 years ago.
I have been on a roll with reading books for professional and self growth but felt the need to change it up a little. This book was a good reminder to live your life to the fullest everyday.
Book #8: Practically Speaking by Gloria Soto & Carole Zangari
Started reading this book in January with the peeps in the AAC and ASD SLP Book club – here on Facebook.
Finished it up today and will be posting key points from it in the group throughout this week. We will also start voting on what book we should read next.
Want to see what we’ve been shafting about throughout this book and help choose what we read next? Hop over to the group through this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443174499698800/?ref=share
See you there!
Book #10 & #11 in 2020: Books 1 & 2 of The Last 13 Series by James Phelan
Picked up a new series of books to keep my boys occupied with something other than screens and thought I’d read along with them.
There are 13 books in the series and they count down from 13 to 1. Two books in and I’m hooked – they are really good!
Books 12-22 in 2020: Books 3-13 in The Last 13 Series by James Phelan
These books are the reason I’ve not been posting as regularly the last week or so. I’ve been obsessed with finishing this series.
I bought the series for my boys and decided to read along with them. Haven’t been this into a young adult series since Harry Potter and Hunger Games!
Book #23 in 2020: Let Me Hear Your Voice by Catherine Maurice
This is an older book – published in 1993 – but the title drew me in when I saw it at my favorite local used bookstore.
A lot of new developments have happened in the world of autism since this book was published, however I LOVE the common themes that were reiterated throughout the book.
All kids with autism are individuals and therefore therapy, life, interactions, etc should be adjusted to best meet their individual needs. The author and mom of the kids in the book, was very adamant that all kids need a variety of therapy – and I loved that they showcased how SLPs and ABA therapists can work together toward a common goal – helping the kiddo be the best they can be!
Another recurring theme that I was so happy was included was that parents know their kiddo(s) best and they should believe in themselves and surround themselves with people that empower them and build them and their families up!
I hope that I am one of those empowering voices for the families that I work with!
Book #24 in 2020: Fierce, Free and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker
At the beginning of 2020 I chose a word for my year – Intention.
My thought process was that I needed (and wanted) to increase my focus and attention to the important things in my life. I was thinking about things outside of myself – my family, my work, my business, etc. – not really thinking about me – on the inside.
Then March came and I started to do a lot more self reflection and thinking about how I could be more intentional with myself. I was thinking about applying my word for 2020 differently.
Although authors like Jen Hatmaker may have been concerned with releasing a book during this time – I can tell you that this was the PERFECT time for me to read this book!
As a person who has (and still continues to) difficulty with accepting myself as I am and letting the world see the true me – this book set me free! I feel empowered & strong enough to let the world see me as I am and to be truthfully, honestly and wholly me!
If you are looking for a book to inspire & encourage you to be you – this is it! We are all meant to be just who we are. Each of us are Fierce, Free & Full of Fire in our own individual ways and when we realize the importance of that, nothing can stop us!
Book #25 in 2020: Get Out Of Your Head by Jennie Allen
Do you ever gets lost in your head? Thinking about everything and anything until you can’t figure out what is what?
I’ve definitely been there more often than not and so the title of this book definitely caught my attention. Throughout the book Jennie Allen guides readers through different ways to break out of this pattern and to start to change your mindset.
I had to read in bursts, taking time to process and reflect all the thoughts & ideas shared – thinking about how I can apply them to my life.
Two of my favorite takeaways are:
- We can observe our suffering (or thinking) without being overtaken by it.
- We don’t have to like our circumstances, but we can choose to look for the unexpected gifts they may bring.
Looking for a book to challenge your thoughts on mindset and how you are in charge and can take all your thoughts captive – I highly encourage you to pick this one up!
Book #26 of 2020: I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown
This title sucked me in and when I saw it was by Brené Brown I knew it was a must read.
Another read that encourages us to live authentically as we are, vulnerability and all. If you’ve ever thought you were the “only one”’or that “it’s just me” I highly recommend this book. You are not alone, you are enough and wonderful just the way you are!
This final sentence sums it all up – “Change doesn’t require heroics. Change begins when we practice ordinary courage.”
Book #27 in 2020: Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
This book challenged me in all the right ways. I will openly say that I typically avoid confrontation at all costs. Anything that makes me uncomfortable, stressed, seems like it might cause tension of any kind, I typically stay away from and don’t try to engage.
No longer – I will not be silent, I am actively anti-racist and I will stand with BIPOC.
We all should, can and need to do better. This is only the beginning for me – I will no longer avoid the hard conversations, the things that need to be said. I will speak up and out to denounce what I know is wrong and pronounce what is right!
Here, listening, learning and doing the internal work to continue on this anti-racist journey.
Books #28-30 in 2020: Polly and Buster Series by Sally Rippin
As a Harry Potter book lover the fact that the main character of these books is a witch caught my attention. However, as I began reading I realized that there was so much more within these books!
Buster and Polly have a unique friendship and connection. They are so close, in fact, that Buster’s appearance (color, size, etc) changes as his emotions change. Talk about a way to open up a discussion about feelings with young readers!
Although this series is geared towards readers ages 7-10, the topics covered throughout the trilogy are important for readers of all ages to learn and remember.
Throughout the series, readers learn and see in action:
- a main character with dyslexia
- increased social emotional awareness for self and others
- true friendship
- importance of standing up for yourself and friends
- believing in yourself
- fighting for what you believe in
- seeing the good in others and yourself
- that everyone is different and that’s fantastic
- everyone should be treated equally
- believing that you can do hard things
- what division over differences looks like and how to bring unity
- promoting justice, quality and understanding
Book #31 in 2020: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Disney Plus made me do it! When I saw that they were making a movie off of the books, I knew I wanted to read the book first. To be honest, I wasn’t a raving fan but will read the remaining books in the series to see how the story line evolves and changes. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a big fan by the end of the series?
Now I just have to decide if I watch the movie now or wait until I have read the other novels in the series…
Book #32 in 2020: Comprehensive Literacy for All by Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver
When this book was released I knew I HAD to have it and read it! I ordered it immediately and it did not disappoint!!
If you are passionate about literacy for ALL, work with individuals with complex communication needs, and/or want to develop your ability to effectively teach literacy – you MUST pick up a copy of this book!
I savored every word, highlighted paragraphs and pages at a time, and know that it is a book that will easily become dog-eared and warn as I continue to re-read it over and over again!
Book #33 in 2020: Own Your Everyday by Jordan Lee Dooley
If I hadn’t already heard great things about this book I know that the title itself would have attracted me to it.
Who doesn’t want to live into their PURPOSE and few free enough to do so? I know I do and this book definitely help ensure that I am in the right mindset to do just that.
Best thing of all, Jordan writes like she’s your BFF and you are sitting on a couch in comfy clothes, no makeup, drinking coffee, wine, cider, tea, etc. Reading her tips and advice felt like a conversation and motivational chat which made it easy to read and know that I can apply to my everyday life.
Book #34 in 2020: How To Be An Antiracist by Imbram X. Kendi
A MUST read! So much to think about, reflect on and act on.
What I learned from this book will stick with me forever.
Book #35 in 2020: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Autsin Channing Brown
Add this book to your list ASAP! So captivating, haunting and beautifully written, I couldn’t put it down & read it in one day.
The stories shared within broke my heart, opened my mind and are stories I will not forget.
Book #36 in 2020: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
It took me a little longer to read this one because of its length but it’s definitely worth the time to read it.
A story full of resilience, persistence and overcoming obstacles, as well as the importance of keeping a positive mindset no matter what life throws at you. It’s clear why it’s a classic and still rings true 77 years after its original publication!
Book #37 of 2020: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
I’m always a little leery of “prequel” books that are released after the “original” series. I’m not sure why, but I think that it’s because, especially if I loved the series, I’m afraid the “prequel” won’t hold up.
Thankfully, soon after I started reading – this prequel to the Hunger Games series did not disappoint! I was hooked from the beginning – learning about the past of Coriolanus Snow and how he became the ruler that he was in the Hunger Games series.
Although it was lengthy, I was engaged throughout and the twists and turns of the storyline kept me guessing and surprised until the very end!
Book #38 in 2020: The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille
My husband says I’m a marketer’s dream – so the subtitle of this book caught my eye! “An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The Works Live And Buy As They Do”
Plus, I’ve always been interested in learning more about people, why we do what we do, how that varies from country to country and within cultures. This book opened my eyes – the observations and thoughts make total sense and definitely have me thinking!
It was written 14 years ago but the messaging still rings true today!
Book #39 in 2020: Internment by Samira Ahmed
My high school freshmen (twin boys) read this in their history class this year. They loved it and urged me to read it – both as they were reading it as well as when they were finished reading.
I was hooked from the moment I started reading. It’s a fiction book but – unfortunately, with how crazy the world has been lately, it could be non-fiction.
A riveting novel sharing the fight and determination of a young girl fighting against religious persecution and the nation joining together with her. Easily one of my top reads for 2020!
Books #40-42 in 2020: The Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka
You know I can’t resist looking through bookshelves no matter where I see them right?
That’s how I found these books. While we were setting up for the winter book walk, I started browsing through the bookshelves in the teacher work room and found these books.
The titles drew me in as I’m also a fan of funny and punny titles for books. The books themselves are a fun way for young readers to learn a little about history while keeping them engaged and learning to love reading.
Whew – that was a lot of reading and I’m keeping it up in 2021 with the help of a new book tracker!
Want to join me in keeping track of the books you read in 2021? You can download my reading tracker here: 2021 Book Tracker