Last year, I worked with mod-severe elementary students on the autism spectrum. Talk about needing AAC tools for communication! I had a WIDE range of skills going on in my K/1st grade and 2nd/3rd grade classes and needed some support with how to serve them all. I was making communication boards as I could, but was still struggling to have visuals for everything! My district sent me to a year long course (6 full day sessions) on AAC assessment and the training introduced me to CORE BOARDS.
I made a visual schedule for a parent that was reporting that her son was struggling with transitions. Above are my CORE boards with fringe vocabulary that I used for bubbles. I printed a CORE board and glued to a file folder. Then I laminated it and added velcro, so I could interchange the fringe vocabulary for whatever toy or activity I was using. I used the CORE boards with my non-verbal kids AND with my kids who were talking, but NOT generalizing their speech in different contexts or were not using different functions such as yes/no questions, greetings, opinions, sharing information, commenting and asking questions. I personally had great success using low tech communication tools with these students. Many of them started to greet me by name (melted my heart) and I had a little guy say “speech time” any time I showed up to their class.
My visual necklace was a great resource to have because I always knew that wherever I was on campus, I always had visuals commands that I could use with students. No joke, the teacher told a student “go wash your hands” and the kid just sat there. I walked over and said the EXACT SAME THING and showed him the wash hands symbol, the kid got up and washed his hands. Of course, there are those little ones that heard the teacher just fine and are choosing to say put. In those cases, a behavioral incentive may be the ticket to getting those hands washed!
I had a couple of students who were 5 years old and had minimal verbal speech. One of the students did a lot of singing and echolalia, but not a lot of functional speech. As I was soon discovering about my therapy, all we were really working on was requesting. This of course is not a bad place to start, but as I was taking the AAC class, I forgot about ALL the other functions of communication. It is very functional and typical for toddlers ages 12-24 months to begin to understand greetings and use gestures/ single words “hi” and “bye” with familiar people. My 5-6 year olds were not greeting me or responding to my greetings with words or a wave. They usually came physically over to me or familiar staff to communicate that they saw me. I tried to create some visuals to help them to work on responding and initiating greetings.
I made this for one of my who had multiple disabilities including being deaf. She had cochlear implants, but would not keep them on consistently. She could put 2-3 icons together and go to different pages on Proloquo 2 go, but she would often just use the communication app to do her own thing even if we locked her in to the one app. The teacher also struggled to use the communication app with her because the other students would get mad if they saw her using an IPAD and they didn’t get one. So, I came up with a low-tech communication board that would allow us to have visuals at all times to communicate with her. I included a CORE board for frequently used commands the teacher used with the students such as “clean up”, “wash hands”, “great job”.
I have been storing all of these AAC materials in file folders in a filing cabinet and shoving the little pieces in plastic bags and feeling a bit disorganized with all the visuals. I went in search of an organization solution on amazon. I took a chance with this Poly Zip Files (amazon affiliate links included for your convenience) and am SUPER satisfied with this purchase!!
It has 15 letter sized zipper pouches and 5 check sized pouches that fit in the plastic container. I like having things all in one place and this allows me to store most of my AAC tools in this container.
The AAC training really emphasized that using visuals with my autism students whether they were verbal or not would help with generalization of communication beyond just requesting. I grabbed those CORE boards and ran with it because I had NO time for prepping visuals (I had 80 kids on my caseload). The CORE boards contain the most frequently used words that toddlers use. You can elicit TONS of communication functions with just 20 words. In therapy, I model my language using the CORE board as a way to show them how to communicate with the board.
If you want to see my starter kit in action, go check out my AAC Starter Kit tour on youtube! I am hoping to get some small videos using the CORE boards with my 2 year old to help with demonstrating.
I have been learning A LOT about AAC and do not consider myself an expert by any means, but the visuals in this kit are aligned with evidence based practices for teaching functional communication. If you think this is something that would be helpful for your caseload, you can grab the kit HERE! Enter below for your chance to win this starter kit. It is a great time saver and helpful tool.