Programming AAC Devices for Real Talk and Social Interactions

Many moons ago, I facilitated social groups for users of AAC.  We would watch snipets of music videos, pop culture relevant to their actual grade level.  One of my favorite activities was “Like it or Diss it”.  The students in the group would be coached to have real discussion.  Those that were persuasive, fun disagreements, talking about if they liked the person’s outfit, and much more.  Real communication just like their peers so that they would have real practice for those social opportunities in school.  Their devices were programmed not specifically for the Gwen Stefani video, but according to what the high frequency verbs were along with adjectives, nouns, etc.  As the facilitator, I held a red pen light to help them formulate their sentences and I would model using my computer which contained an AAC platform.  I have to admit, each group gave me chills and I absolutely felt that my influence as an SLP was making a difference beyond functionality, but living life.  A kind therapist told me that when we get to the nitty gritty we are summed by our Leisure, Work, and Relationships.  This is really the categories in which we as human beings participate.

The research by Dr. Karen Erickson and her team at UNC Chapel Hill is absolutely phenomenal.  They have done the work in detailing what words are high frequency and what are essentials to have true communication exchanges.  Dr. Erickson’s team spoke at ASHA 2014 about the latest findings.

Link to Core Vocabulary Research http://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds/resources/core-vocabulary

The research surrounding core vocabulary amongst professionals excites and confuses me.  Core vocabulary is just that, the core words we need and frequently use to impart our opinions.  Adding to any device or program should be the specific vocabulary according to the culture, grade level, social opportunities, and social expectations for the child.  Social expectations are defined as the statements the person would make if they were in fact programmed or the learner had the motor praxis to formulate themselves.  They are defined by getting to know the family and programming statements that refuse, refute, and tell people off.  Real communication is just that.  My challenge is when language and therapy is described in making a functional program.  Clients don’t need to attend therapy for functional programming.  Parents bring their children to therapy because they want to experience the magic, the gains, and the miracle.  Function…can be done just by figuring out how to navigate.

This research can be served not only in AAC programming, but also in ABA language programming and treatment as well.

Be Empowered and THRIVE!

Landria Seals Green, MA., CCC-SLP

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