doghouseI work with 5-6 year old moderate-severe students who are on the Autism Spectrum and many of them are working on simple cause/effect, joint attention, using 1-2 word phrases, and expressing their needs with pictures.I have found a material that many of the students enjoy, so I wanted to share in case you were needing some therapy ideas!  This population stumps me all the time because finding what interests them is like a giant puzzle.  Once you find the puzzle piece that fits, therapy is a blast!

You can find this toy on amazon (affiliate link included) or over at Learning Resources.  My school district let me buy this toy last year and it has been very useful!  Most of my 5-6 year old students are either emergent or entry level AAC users.  The little ones that do use words are still needing a multimodal communication approach (words, visual pictures, sentences strips, etc) to help facilitate language in social situations and the classroom.  So, I have been trying to find ways to use a set therapy material and tailor it for all levels of communication.

ruff's house

I made a Doghouse Activity Communication Board for my students that I want to build 2-3 word phrases without some any verbal prompts that you can grab on boardmaker share.  I also made a Doghouse Activity using Go Talk 20 template because I am trying out the Go-Talks with a couple of my students.  Trying to build MLU and the use of attributes, so I put the colors and how the bones feel on my boards.  Tried to get some comments in there as well!

expressive app 2I also made a static communication board using Expressive from Smarty Ears Apps.  It is $29.99 and contains 10,000 picture icons you can use to set up for your student’s communication needs.  This app has helped me figure out if a student can put together 2-3 icons independently and understand how to erase and add a message.  I did not really use this app as an advanced communication tool where the student had to navigate through several folders to create a message because I work with lower level students.

Expressive app 1One of the cool features is that I can use REAL photos, so this is helpful for students who may need visuals of their teachers or a photo to understand the vocabulary words.

expressive app 3It is very helpful to be able to add a color to certain buttons to help with teaching verbs, nouns, and descriptors.  You can add more than 24 icons in a folder, but the student would have to be able to scroll up and down to create messages.  Check out the video tutorial on Smarty Ears Apps which is very user friendly and a quick overview of how you can navigate the app.

What I love:

1.  Great price for the amount of picture icons you receive with this app and what you are able to customize.

2.  I love most of the picture icons and feel they are easy to understand.  The option to use photos helps when there is not a good picture for the word a person is wanting.  I also like that the option for real photos can open the door for using this app with emergent and entry level students.

3.  I like how I can create folders for set activities and organizing lessons is very user friendly.

4.  This has been a tool for me to determine if a student is able to navigate a static board and could potentially move to a more advanced communication device or if they need to stick in the entry level devices.

Improvements:

1.  Sometimes the voice output is difficult to hear and understand.

2.  When I played around with this app by myself, it took a long time to formulate a message because I had to go to different folders to find words.  It would be nice to have easier access to core vocabulary and phrases, but I think you could customize this by making a folder with common phrases for the particular user.  In terms of advanced users, they may get frustrated with creating a message quickly.  I don’t believe there is a keyboard either, which is also a limitation.

3.  It did take me some time to program one activity (what AAC device doesn’t take a long time)!  This is more of a question:  Can I upload an activity folder I created onto another IPAD or would I have to re-program that device with the icons all over again?

Overall, I like this app a lot and I think for the price it is a useful investment for trying out a communication app with a student.  It has been helpful for my students who need visual supports for communicating.  This app appears to be best for intermediate communication users, but can be use with entry level if customized with the different folders.  What do you think of this app?  I would love to hear your feedback about my communication boards I made with boardmaker.  I am still learning how to create AWESOME AAC boards!!

Graphics by JW Ilustrations and I’m Lovin’ Lit

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