Volume 26I 2021
Monthly Focus!
Magnifying glass
This month's focus is on Augmentative and Alternative Communication as we celebrate AAC Awareness Month!
AAC App Specials
App list
Special Thanks to Lauren Enders for putting this amazing list together of all of the app specials being offered for AAC Awareness month!
Insurance Coverage for AAC Services
Adult and child with iPad
Did you know that you can get individualized speech therapy/AAC services at TechACCESS? Our SLPs (who specialize in AAC) provide services to adults and children through their private insurance. These services can be obtained even if your child already receives speech services in school! Please contact Jennifer Martinous for additional information.
Visual Schedules as AAC Supports
Examples of visual schedules
The use of a visual schedule can be a powerful tool to increase independence, support comprehension, and assist in decreasing anxiety. Incorporating visual schedules into an AAC users’ day should not be considered a solo activity, but an opportunity for a shared conversation between the AAC user and their communication partner.

One example of how it can be used would be to discuss what activities are coming up and what order they will occur in. This rehearsal of the day and an open discussion about what will occur can help alleviate questions/concerns that may arise about any uncertainties of what is going on at any point in the day.

Visual schedules can also be used to help with increasing sentence length and building on language complexity. For example, for someone who generally communicates in one-word utterances, this could present an opportunity in which the communication partner can model a short sentence or phrase in response to the one word. i.e., lunch --- eat lunch, go to lunch, lunch is good, for lunch I want a sandwich, etc. 
AAC & Literacy
Literacy skills for individuals with disabilities can be challenging especially with those with communication difficulties. Pairing AAC systems and tools with literacy skills can foster successful and independent skills with literacy and communication.

When teaching literacy skills to an individual using an AAC device/tool it is helpful to remember key factors and the development of literacy learning. These include oral language, phonological awareness and phonics, reading and writing. In addition, it is crucial that these individuals have AAC support across multiple contexts and purposes.

In addition to using the student’s designated AAC device when modeling and teaching literacy skills, utilizing additional apps and AT supports can help foster and reinforce skills in communication, reading and writing. 

Check out a few of these tools to use with your students:

Word Builder-The Phonics Teaching Tool. An iOS app for teaching phonics. Created by a speech-language pathologist, Word Builder is a scientifically based and fun way to learn how to use letter-sound patterns.

Reading Doctor is an online program or iOS for teaching reading and spelling.

Expressive Builder app is designed to help children improve sentence ideation, sentence formation, and receptive and expressive language. The use of audio clips promotes improved auditory processing, and the auditory playback of a child's voice offers reinforcement for language development.

i Get... My Daily Schedule, Recall My Day and Learn Calendar Concepts app. Designed for individuals who need support in understanding the steps during their day. Text can be customized for each picture allowing for a variety of purposes, like identifying words and creating a story.

Pictello app. An interactive storytelling app that lets individuals make virtual storybooks using their own phots, videos and text. A library of sample stories can help to model literacy skills.  

Please check out this resource: Comprehensive Literacy for All: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities to Read and Write by Karen A. Erickson and David A. Koppenhaver.
Alternative Access & AAC
Alternate access mmethods
Did you know that you don’t need to be able to point or use a touch screen to access a speech generating device? Some individuals with complex communication needs and significant motor limitations use a technique called “alternative access” to use their speech generating devices. 

There are several different types of alternative access used in AT/AAC today. These include switch access, head tracking, eye tracking, and many different forms of alternative pointers (laser pointer, head stick, mouth stick, adapted stylus, etc.).  If your communicator can move any body part reliably, they may be able to use a switch to access voice output. It can be any body part: foot, knee, head, thumb, chin, elbow, etc. Eye tracking requires good head stability and visual acuity. There are several different manufacturers of eye tracking equipment. Reliability and accuracy of eye tracking equipment is always improving! 

There are also alternative access devices, such as keyguards, that can be added to an existing system to improve accuracy. 

If you have a communicator who may be a candidate for alternative access, we can help you identify the method and develop an implementation plan. Contact us today!
AAC Supports for Blind/Low Vision Students
AAC CVI symbols
AAC Awareness Month is for all those who need assistive communication, including individuals with visual impairments such as Cortical Visual Impairment. CVI is now the leading cause of visual impairments in developed countries. Using AAC for those with CVI takes careful consideration when providing access to educational materials.

Individuals with CVI fall across different phases of visual skills, but using high-contrast visuals is a good place to start when creating accessible materials. AAC cells should have a black background with brightly colored symbols in only one to two colors. The symbols themselves should be simple and avoid complexity or background clutter. Both Boardmaker and Lessonpix offer symbols with high contrast. They are great resources when creating educational resources to coordinate with your curriculum.

Another option is to use actual objects to represent items. You can find out more about object and tactile systems here.
Using AAC to Access Smart Home Technology
Smart space visuals
Smart home technology offers many benefits to individuals who have a disability, especially those who are unable to utilize their voice.

Smart speakers paired with other technologies offer a wide range of environmental control that an individual may have not had previously, such as turning on smart lights or controlling their TV. Individuals who are using an AAC device to communicate can work with their therapist/caregiver to program smart home commands into their device. This will grant the individual access to a wide variety of commands that they can use to help increase their independence while navigating their home environment. Grouping commands together into "routines" allows a user to complete more than one action with a single command.

Smart home technology can also be programmed to set routines that can help an individual stay on track with their ADLs, IADL, as well as leisure activities. Smart home technology can give caregivers the ability to monitor and check in on the individual, through voice or video calling.

Smart home technology can also offer individuals the ability to feel safe and secure within their own home, using technology such as smart locks and video door bells.

All of this technology can be accessed through speech output, which means that an individual who uses an AAC device can have access to all of these amazing technologies. Working closely with a trained clinician can help individuals reach the maximum amount of independence through these technologies, through hands-on training and education. 
RIMAC Open House!
We are having an Open House on October 21st from 3:15 to 5:15. This event will be a time to drop into TechACCESS to look at the book kits, resources, and tools available from RIMAC.
You will be able to check out items (if you are a RI resident) and ask questions about our services.

Please RSVP to Becky Jones.

Click here to see the Open House flyer!
ATCNE Conference Update
ATCNE 2021-2022 will be kicking off with an in-person session, hands-on session with Therese Willkomm on October 22nd. Space is limited to allow us to follow social distancing protocols.

We have also selected an additional 16 half-day presentations that will take place between November of 2021 and May of 2022! The full session list will be released soon and available at the Conference Website!

Join our email list to be kept up to date on the latest conference happenings! You can do this by scrolling to the bottom of the home page and entering your email!
Mention of any product, service or event in this newsletter does not constitute any endorsement or recommendation by TechACCESS.

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