One of my favorite is training the typically developing classmates of my students with Complex Communication Needs (CCN), otherwise known as peer AAC training. Peers are a vital part of the team!
So what does AAC peer training look like?
1. The Introduction: Training gets kicked off with a quick overview of my role as a speech-language pathologist (SLP). Some peers have a head start on this as they have received SLP services themselves at one point, while others have been mystified when passing the “Speech Room,” wondering what exactly happens in there. And now is their chance to find out! Cue intriguing music...
2. A Fun Game: The next order of business is to begin introducing students to AAC through a game of charades. I hand out a low tech AAC symbol to each student. Today we used icons from the LAMP Words for Life AAC app.
I instruct them to look at the symbol and then hide it from view. I ask them to, “Tell me what’s on your card but don’t use your mouth” and let them act it out. The more drama, the better!
3. The Interactive Examples: Then we chat a bit about AAC and I point out that they just used a type of AAC - gestures - to communicate. I further introduce AAC to the peers by practicing some signs, using an e-tran board, having them take a peek at a low tech communication board, and lastly we explore an AAC app on an iPad.
4. Making the Connection: Just when their attention is starting to dip, we run a quick tour of some famous people who use AAC such as the incredible Stephen Hawking https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Hawking and winner of Britain's Got Talent, Lee Ridley https://lostvoiceguy.com.
5. Establishing the Guidelines: Then a few cursory do’s and don’ts.
6. Hands-On Practice: Finally, the best part - hands on practice! We use the PASS/Nuvoice software which you can download here and project the vocabulary onto an interactive whiteboard. This is a crowd favorite. The peers develop empathy for our students with Complex Communication Needs when they see how long it can take to find a word. During today’s training, my students quickly found the words pee, poop, fart and came up with this great phrase. I was beaming with pride.
This is just the beginning of involving peers, but it's an important place to start. So grab your bag, monogram it with a core word and go for it!