Tag Archives: Easter Seals

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Fact Sheet & Myth Buster

by Ani Soghomonian & Bridget M. Coady, MA CCC-SLP

As a speech-language pathologist in the preschool setting, I often use pictures, devices, and language boards to help children communicate and learn language. These are known as “augmentative and alternative communication” (AAC) methods. AAC can teach language vocabulary and structure, and enhance the communication of children with special needs. Sometimes, parents express concern that these visual supports and communication devices will hinder or replace their child’s natural verbal speech. This is not true. “Are we giving up on their verbal speech?” parents ask. “But I want my child to talk,” they say. In order to address these concerns, I recently created a handout in collaboration with a speech-language pathology graduate student who worked with me at Easter Seals. The graduate student researched articles on AAC and its impact on speech and language development. Together, we translated the research into easily understandable terms. The end result was a parent-friendly, research-based fact sheet about AAC.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Fact Sheet & Myth Buster
“Communication is the essence of human life” -Janice Light (1997)

 1)What is AAC?

  • A way to enhance the communication of people who have significant speech and language impairments (Light, Binger, Agate, & Ramsay, 1999)
  • AAC can have positive benefits for natural speech production—using AAC intervention will NOT inhibit the production of speech
  • A way to help language skills develop (Romski & Sevcik, 1996)
  • Includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas (ASHA)

picture icons, speech-generating devices, gestures/signs, language boards

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2) I’m worried my child’s speech production will be inhibited if he/she continues to use AAC as a way to communicate. What if AAC negatively impacts my child’s ability to learn speech?

  • AAC will actually facilitate the development of speech for many children with developmental disabilities (Romski & Sevcik, 1996)
  • This is no research that suggests AAC will hinder the development of natural speech
  • AAC is highly beneficial because it may:
    • Reduce the pressure on the child to speak verbally
      • This can reduce stress and facilitate the production of speech naturally (Lloyd & Kangas, 1994)
    • Reduce the motor and cognitive demands of speaking, and focus on the goal of getting the message across instead

3) What is communicative competence?

  • It is a child effectively communicating his/her message to the listener
  • It is the central goal of AAC intervention (Light, 1997)
  • AAC can help create effective communicators
  • It is about the people:
    • AAC is just the tool; it is the people and the interaction between them that is the main focus!
  • It is learned:
    • Children must be taught how to use their AAC system to be effective communicators
    • It is a step-by-step process that takes hard work, commitment, and instruction—that’s where SLPs and parents come in!

4) How do we build communicative competence? (5 steps)

  • Identify meaningful and appropriate opportunities for communication
  • Prepare for these opportunities by teaching the child who uses AAC
  • Ensure conversational partners provide support, such modeling use of AAC system
  • Have the child participate in these opportunities at home and in the classroom
  • Reflect on experiences and learn through them
  • It focuses on the 4 purposes of communication:
    • To express our needs and wants
    • To build relationships or friendships with others (Light, 1988)
    • To share information (Light, 1988)
    • To use social etiquette; For example, “Thank you, have a good day” (Light, 1988)

5) My child has been using AAC in speech therapy for a while now, but I am not seeing any increase in the amount of speech he/she is producing. Should I be concerned?

  • Each child’s speech and language development is highly individualized, so there is not a straightforward answer. However, research shows that some individuals who are using AAC intervention may take somewhere between 6-25 sessions to show speech gains (Millar, Light, & Schlosser, 2006)
  • Your child’s SLP will monitor the effectiveness of the AAC system on communicative competence, social interaction, language skills, and speech production.
  • Your child’s intervention will be changed as deemed necessary, and in the best interest of your child and your family.

Main Points:

  • SLPs and parents should not hesitate to use AAC with children whose speech is inadequate to meet their communication needs.
  • AAC has significant benefits for developing the language skills and communicative competence of many children.
  • AAC can have positive benefits for natural speech production—using AAC will NOT inhibit the production of speech!

Additional Information:

References

Light, J. (1988). Interaction involving individuals using augmentative and alternative communication: State of the art and future research directions. Augmentative and               Alternative Communication, 4, 66–82

Light, J. (1997). “Communication is the essence of human life”: Reflections on communicative competence. Augmentative and Alternative Communication13(2), 61-70.

Light, J. C., Binger, C., Agate, T. L., & Ramsay, K. N. (1999). Teaching partner-focused questions to individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication to enhancetheir communicative competence. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research42(1), 241-255.

Lloyd, L. L., & Kangas, K. (1994). Augmentative and alternative communication. In G. H. Shames, E. H. Wiig, &

  1. A.Secord(Eds.),Humancommunicationdisorders (4th ed., pp. 606–657). New York: Merrill/Macmillan

Lloyd, L. L. & Kangas, K. (1944). Augmentative and alternative communication. In G.H. Shames, E. H., Wiig, & W.A. Secord (Eds.), Human communication disorders (4th ed., pp 606-657). New York: Merrill/Macmillan.

Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with          developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research49(2), 248-264.

Romski, M. A., & Sevcik, R. A. (1996). Breaking the speech barrier: Language development through augmented means. Brookes Publishing Company, Maple Press Distribution Center, I-83 Industrial Park, PO Box 15100, York, PA 17405.

 

Seasonal Sensory Success

by Alyssa Brief, MS, OTR/L

Making PlayDoh from scratch with common household items is a tried and trusted OT activity that can provide opportunities to develop hand skills while providing sensory input. With the holiday season now upon us, my OT group at the Philadelphia division’s Approved Private School recently enjoyed a seasonal twist to the traditional recipe- Gingerbread PlayDoh! This is an excellent (and wonderfully scented) therapeutic activity that is safe to eat since it is made exclusively with baking items. Making homemade Gingerbread PlayDoh can literally add some spice into families’ lives during vacation time off from school or on a Snow Day. Fun and safe for all ages and abilities, Gingerbread PlayDoh offers a fun play experience for children who are sensory seekers. This holiday season, I’m feeling incredibly thankful and lucky that facilitating creative sensory play opportunities is part of my job as an Occupational Therapist at Easter Seals.

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Gingerbread PlayDoh Recipe:
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Salt
1/2 Tbsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Water
Mix ingredients together and knead until the ingredients reach consistency of PlayDoh. For longer lasting use, keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Enjoy!

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Science Leadership Academy

by Sandy Masayko

Nine Senior Engineering students from the Science Leadership Academy, a Philadelphia public magnet high school, and their teacher, John Kamal, visited Easter Seals at the end of October.  Prior to their visit the students interviewed Sandy Masayko using FaceTime to learn about projects that required engineering solutions.  Learning that the students at Easter Seals need to have toys adapted to meet their special needs, the students selected Easter Seals as a site for their engineering and design project.  After an introduction to concepts of Assistive Technology, the student engineers toured the school and observed children and teachers in action. The students have now begun their project by taking apart and repairing switch operated and adapted toys back at their lab at the Science Leadership Academy.

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Laurie McGowan, Assistive Technology Specialist, demonstrates to students how eye gaze technology works.

Project Vive

by Sandy Masayko

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Project Vive has partnered with us at Easter Seals to repair and adapt toys for children with disabilities.  Recently Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, an engineer and the founder of Project Vive, visited Easter Seals at Bucks County to see our AT Department and to get a feel for the kinds of toy adaptations we need.  She took back several large boxes filled with broken toys for her team to take apart, repair and adapt. We are very grateful for Project Vive’s assistance.  We are discussing whether Project Vive may be able to help us with adapting children’s ride-on cars to adapt mobility for children with disabilities.

To find out more about Project Vive, visit http://www.projectvive.com/

 

Young Philanthropist Group

by Tommy Berger

Easter Seals has been a rewarding part of my life for several years. I have volunteered for various clean-up days, school visits, and Walk with Me Philly events. Now I am a part of the Young Philanthropist Group.

The group was created to engage a diverse group of women and men between the ages of 21-40 committed to supporting Easter Seals programs through advocacy, philanthropy, and volunteerism. The members come from different backgrounds yet come together for the same cause. We are working to grow the Easter Seals brand by driving awareness among Gen X, Millenials, and Gen Z.

The Young Philanthropist Group is important to me because I can share my passion for Easter Seals with other individuals who care so much to spread the great work that Easter Seals has done over the many years of service.

Check out the Young Philanthropist Facebook page and see Tommy’s profile, and learn more about other members

My Crazy Fulfilling Year at Easter Seals

by Shannon Mahoney

After graduation, all Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) must complete a Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY). The “year” is approximately nine months of working at their first job under the supervision of a licensed SLP. After this time, and with all the approved documentation, a Clinical Fellow (CF) receives a Certificate of Clinical Competence showing they are now a certified SLP; no longer in need of supervision. I recently completed my CFY at Easter Seals of SEPA. In the beginning I called my CFY a Complete Failure, but with the help of my fellow SLPs, an amazing classroom staff, and supportive supervisors, I now consider it the most Crazy Fulfilling Year of my life.

The transition from years as a student to a working adult was a jarring experience and I felt overwhelmed when I started treating students at our Early Intervention Center. There are so many people that can be involved within one single case, such as service coordinators, special instructors, speech/occupational/physical therapists, regular education teachers, parents, behavior specialists, and various support staff. As part of the team, I was initially unaware of the amount of communication and correspondence necessary to help my students succeed. I can only imagine what a parent must feel like going through the “system” as well.

As an early intervention provider, we are sometimes the first contact families have had with special education services. Being part of their satisfaction with the program and ultimately, the progress of their child’s abilities was a daunting task at first. However, with the passion of each of my coworkers and the respect and appreciation from each of my families, I slowly began to become comfortable and confident in my clinical decisions. They helped me turn what I thought of as a complete failure, into one crazy fulfilling job. Working at Easter Seals has been the proudest moment for me because every single staff in this organization has the best interest of our students as their number one priority.

Our classroom teachers are constantly working to create engaging lesson plans using their skills to adapt tasks that our children can interact with and increase the students’ academic skills. My classroom teacher fought for the rights of each of her students if she felt they needed a different education setting or more supportive services put into place. She instilled in me a sense of passion for this job and the unyielding dedication to her students that all of our staff possess. My supervisor and director provided the most hospitable working environment that showed me how important it is to welcome families and make them feel comfortable during uncertain times. The other therapists in the building taught me the essentials of being a good clinician and that learning does not end; even if we are no longer considered students ourselves.

In the end, I learned more during my first 9 months at this institution than a person could have gained from years of schooling. The knowledge that I have been imparted from by my coworkers is invaluable because every day I saw people doing what they love. Even with a rough start, I can now say that I love what I do. I believe it is because of the values instilled in each employee at Easter Seals that makes this place so special. It is my hope that our families also see the passion and devotion that I see every day when I come to work. They are the reason we are here, and their children are why we all love what we do.

Sharing Assistive Technology Ideas in Australia

by Sandy Masayko, Director of Assistive Technology at Easter Seals of SE PA

During my recent trip to Australia, I was delighted to meet with therapists who are providing Assistive Technology (AT) and Augmentative /Alternative Communication (AAC) services in Melbourne.  On September 1, Anne Williams, of the Occupational Therapy Department at Swinburne University of Technology, arranged for me to meet with occupational therapists and speech/language pathologists from ComTEC. ComTEC is a division of Yooralla, a provider of services for people with disabilities in Melbourne.  As we talked, we discovered that share many similar concerns in providing AT and AAC services and devices, including funding, planning instruction and problem solving with families and caregivers.  Anne also invited faculty members from Swinburne in the areas of Occupational Therapy, Robotics and Biomedical Engineering to learn about the work we are doing in eye gaze technology with young children.

The following day, September 2, I made a short presentation to occupational therapists at the Vic-Tas (Victoria and Tasmania) Regional Conference of Occupational Therapy in Melbourne.  The paper, focusing on factors related to use of eye gaze technology with young children, was well received.  Attendees asked many questions.  I was very interested to learn about issues being addressed by occupational therapists in Australia.  The emphasis in many presentations was on self-reflective practice, engaging consumers and promoting participation for people with disabilities.

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Pictured in the photo, Anne Williams on the left and  Sandy Masayko on the right at the Vic-Tas Regional Conference of Occupational Therapy in Melbourne.

Six Super Rules

by Michael Murphy

At Friendship Academy in Bucks County, following the rules is not as hard as you’d think. While the children all learn differently, we have really had the benefit on controlling behaviors following six simple rules. The rules are not a list of ‘Don’t’ and ‘No’, which can intimidate and often do not help students behave any better, nor are they loosely described by any means. Our six rules are very closely tied to our classroom expectations as labeled through our PBIS initiative (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). Our six rules are:

Hands Help

Hearts Care

Ears Listen

Feet Wait

Eyes Watch

Be a Friend

The nice thing about these rules, best utilized during times of instruction (circle, story, activity\craft instruction, etc.), is that they describe aspects of the individual child that can be controlled with self-regulation and practice. Instead of telling students what not to do, and providing examples of how they can (poorly) behave to receive some additional attention, the rules simply act as reminders of what their bodies are capable of and how they can best use their bodies to their advantage.

What has made our rules all the better is tying them, in part, to a superhero theme. Thinking of the different aspects that make superheroes special, yet still require them to work in teams to solve problems, helps to create some additional hints towards working together with our peers, finding individual strengths and using new ideas for the greater good. Many preschool and early learning programs use a similar “Be A Superfriend” strategy that helps to recognize the everyday superstars that our children can be, through simple, kind and intentional acts in daily interaction.

Recently Edwin Gonzalez, Friendship Academy’s artistic Teaching Assistant, has created an exciting set of pictures and classroom reminders that help students focus on their expectations. The pictures show diversity, from Wonder Woman’s watching eyes to The Incredible Hulk’s waiting feet to Iron Man’s mechanical caring heart. They are bright and colorful, much like the students we teach. The pictures speak to all types of children, whether they like the hero or just the picture itself. The pictures grab their attention just enough for the teacher to direct it to the lesson. The pictures are unique and even the process of putting them together drew attention from the students as they watched Edwin plan, draw, color, laminate and post. You could tell that they already felt a little super about each addition to the series.

In addition to our Superfriends, there is much to be said about the everyday unsung heroes, the Teacher’s Assistants, the Bus Aides, the therapists, nursing staff, individual support staff, those that cook, clean, file or place calls. We are all part of a team of heroes. When we focus on what we are able to control, our body and our attitude, we can think more positively about the effects our actions have on our team, and more so, how we can contribute to make a team stronger. A team is only as strong as the weakest link, and if your weakest link is the Incredible Hulk, you are in pretty good shape.

 

A Simple Solution

by Kathryn Wallace

I am a Physical Therapist in Bucks County and I wanted to share a quick tip when working with children in their walkers in their home environment. Some of the children with whom I work require maximal assistance when walking. Recently I was working with Paige,  a graduate of Easter Seals in her home environment.

In this session, I was cueing Paige to take steps and mom was holding toys to keep her head up. The toys motivate her to walk forward. Mom mentioned that when there isn’t a second person she is not sure how to motivate Paige to walk. Together we came up with the idea pictured below. We mounted the iPad on the IV pole and used a broom to move the pole as Paige walks forward.

Music Makes it Work

by Michael Murphy

Dan walks in right on time, but circle has run long at Friendship Academy. Dan doesn’t mind, he readies himself for his session. The children watch him as he does, waiting to get to say hello, waiting for their turn to find their spot on the carpet for music. As we wrap up our circle routine, a couple songs to go, the children look back at me and continue. With each song, Dan starts to play along, strumming in the background. We tend to make up songs, but that doesn’t slow him down. Dan goes along and adds another experience to our circle. He is in no rush, but increases the pace along with my song. Each child hears their name, jumps up from their chair and hurries to their carpet square for music. Dan praises their walking feet, greets them and listens to their quick stories about their day or comments on a new Paw Patrol shirt.

Music therapy adds something special to our classrooms. We all sing songs to our students, it serves an educational purpose and provides functional language, but there is something different about Music Therapy. The students are always excited to see Dan, they’re ready to sing the moment he walks in. Our quietest kids jump into “Hail Hail the Gang’s all here,” One of Dan’s welcome songs. Students call out their requests, and Dan finds a way to redirect or work in a new song or two. A towering teacher, Dan spends time on his feet, at eye level with the kids or works to control the gaze of students, willing to do what it takes to maintain that attention and push children to another level of focus. One thing at a time, Dan has all the time in the world to spend with each student until they give him something special for that day; a smile, a word, a sentence… Dan asks for a lot, but gets exactly what he needs before he continues.

We’ve seen shy kids open up, quiet kids yell, “busy” kids slow down and reluctant kids jump in. They throw curveballs at Dan and he throws them right back. “Z,Y,X,W…” Dan starts “his” ABCs. The children shout “NO!”, stopping his song. “That’s not how it goes” says a student who months before spoke in only grunts and groans. Commanding the attention and participation of a big concert of adults is cool, but there cannot be anything more difficult than getting a group of children to listen to your every word, chord or cue. Dan does it.

The exciting part about Music Therapy is that the same song is never really “the same song”. Either Dan plays it different, the children sing it differently, maybe the support staff adds a little something extra. It depends on the day, the weather, what the kids had for breakfast. Each session is exciting and each session ends too soon.

“Music time is over,” begins. Heads hang low, students sing along. Snack comes next, but they wont find solace in their Goldfish and fruit snacks. Dan’s time has ended, they have to wait a whole half hour to hear Dan’s songs blare in another classroom. Different again, effective again. They shout goodbye to Dan, they thank him. If only they knew how to ask for an encore, they would never let him leave. Music Therapy works and it is awesome to watch.