Monday, November 12, 2012

We've Moved!

On October 1, 2012,  we moved to a new site. 

Come visit us at

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A PrAACtical Look at PECS

This week, we’re heading back to the Autism and Tertiary Behavior Supports Project of the Kansas Technical Assistance Network. They have two wonderful videos by Lori Chambers on Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). You can view an overview of this approach here: Part 1 and Part 2 . Also, look for the handouts that accompany these videos.

Friday, September 28, 2012

5 More Handouts from ISAAC 2012

In past posts, we shared links to some handouts from the ISAAC 2012 Biennial Conference in Pittsburgh. While it is great for those of us who attended but couldn’t get to every presenter we wanted to hear, the main idea was to help spread the awesome content to those of you who couldn’t be there.

Here are some others that may be of interest.

  1. Creating a Core Vocabulary for a Common Core Curriculum by Karen Erickson, Penelope Hatch, Allison Dennis, & Marlene Cummings
  2. Baby Talk/Kid Talk PWUAAC Talk to Little Ones! by Krista Howard, Kaitlyn Graham, & Caroline Musselwhite
  3. Evaluating Preferred Augmentative and Alternative Communication Strategies for Patients in Long Term Health Care Hospitals by Susan Fager, Jenna LeDoux, & David Beukelman
  4. Prompting:  A Cautionary Tale of Use, Misuse & Abuse by Jane Korsten & Terry Foss
  5. Supporting Linguistic Skills Through iDevices: Cool Tricks with New Applications  by Caroline Musselwhite, Deanna Wagner, Laurel Buell, & Marilyn Willcoxon

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Get Ready. Get Set...

Get ready, AAC lovers, AAC Awareness Month is coming!
One of the most wonderful things about the AAC community is the pervasive sense of sharing and giving. When we told some of the people we know that PrAACtical AAC was planning a giveaway for AAC Awareness Month, they responded with an overwhelming level of generosity.

So far, we have books, switches, software, apps, a low tech SGD, subscriptions, and more to give away from some of the companies whose logos are appear in his collage and more.

We’ll be sharing more information about how to enter to win some fabulous AAC-related goodies, but we’ll give you one big hint. Get ready to take some pictures. If you’re the competitive type, you’ll want to snap some shots of your AAC Awareness work and get comfortable uploading them because this will give you a big boost. 

If photography is not your thing, don’t worry. There will be plenty of other ways to get a piece of the action. Stay tuned. 

In the meantime, get ready to spread the word about what AAC is, who can benefit, and how to better implement it. We’ve started you off with some suggestions here: 50 PrAACtical Things to Do In Celebration of AAC Awareness Month.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Really Matters

We love this video that reminds us that technology is a beautiful thing, but the real power is in communication. 

Kudos to the AAC team at Thames Valley Children's Centre for this wonderful reminder of three important things. 

  1. Language learning happens through good teaching, not the mere provision of equipment.
  2. Verbal expression without technology is not only powerful but awesome.
  3. Literacy is something we should prioritize for all learners.
As we prepare for AAC awareness month, enjoy this lovely conversation.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Speak Up

by Robin Parker

Speaking Up is our way of thinking and writing  about things that come up in clinical practice that make us think, celebrate, or vent.  This time it's about multimodal communication and the appropriateness of using  multiple technology tools. 

This is a relatively new issue. Not to state the obvious, but  technology options have expanded almost exponentially.  Between the two of us, we have at least 9 devices we may use daily for communication.  So it should not surprise anyone that some AAC users also have multiple technology tools to use to communicate.  Sometimes though the new technology reality will surprise educators and they will get stuck in old paradigms. 

We know an amazing young girl, Holly.  She has communication challenges secondary to autism.   She uses multimodal communication that includes natural speech, no-tech, low tech, and high tech supports, as well as behavior and gestures.  Her high technology tools are not unlike ours, she has an iPod Touch, an iPad, and a laptop.  She uses Proloquo2go for expressive communication and a variety of other apps for receptive and behavioral support.  She also uses the Vantage Litea high tech dedicated communication device.  Sounds great, right? So what is the issue?  

The family was being criticized for not using the Vantage Lite enough and relying on the iPod Touch too much.  The family was instructed to use the dedicated device more often.  Mom was feeling guilty.  Putting that into perspective, the school felt that they family was using the iPod Touch TOO much for communication.  Everyone was stuck. 

How to resolve the question of when to use which AAC technology? Here are some PrAACtical thoughts on the issue...  

1. We considered Holly's LIFESTYLE.  

  • She is very active.  (We are envious, continually wishing that we could do all that she does.) She  gardens (vegetables to eat), hikes (up and down mountains), shops (food, kitchen appliances, & clothes),  rides horses (sometimes), surfs, and swims (daily).    

2. We considered Holly's SCHOOL.  

  • They were initially resistant to AAC. It took many years for them to integrate her dedicated device into her school curriculum and  programming. So the fact they wanted her to USE her AAC device more was a good thing. 

3. We considered FUNDING. 

  • The school was not being asked to fund any of her devices (employer benefits allowed for a spending limit on therapeutic materials). This made us think though of traditional funding where one device is funded for 3-5 years. This would be so restrictive for anyone who is active in their community.

So after 'venting' about the absurdity of it all we were able to do something productive.  We had a family-school meeting to discuss the 'problem' and facilitated reframing the issue as a good thing. 

Then we were able to help the team do a mini feature match process for different contexts based on both time and activity.  As the information was laid out visually, everyone was able to see the benefit for the use of multiple technology tools and became comfortable with the new technology paradigm for Holly (and hopefully others).  

Helping the school reframe their technology paradigm turned out to be the easy part. Now we have to Speak Out about the idea of one single communication device over years so that other people aren't stuck in this same situation.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How It Is: Images for Sensitive Subjects

There are things no one likes to talk about. Serious things. Sensitive things. Nonetheless, everyone deserves the tools to be able to talk about whatever they want to share. 

The How It Is Project, by the UK-based Triangle organization, offers a set of free pictures developed so that everyone has access to images they can use to talk about their feelings, their rights, personal safety, personal care, and sexuality. We love how they developed the vocabulary list and symbols on the site with the help of children and youth with and without disabilities.

You can browse the images by topic here.