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Modeling Language- AN AAC Course

When you work with a student who is non-verbal or minimally verbal, do you wonder what to do? During my first year out of grad school, I was completely lost. I had a class of severely impacted and medically fragile students, and I had no idea what to do with them. I felt so overwhelmed, in fact, that my husband I quit our jobs and moved cross country so that I could experience a one year (minimal paying) internship on AAC.

Although I learned many things during that internship, I still did not feel comfortable modeling language with students who were not verbal. I did not know what activities to do with cognitively delayed students. I loved these students, but I also felt anxious on their speech days. What to do today?

After many years of conferences, seminars, practice, teaching, and more practice, I now feel very comfortable with language modeling and using communication books. I would love to share what I have learned with you. 

This course was originally designed as a four-part email series. Due to technical issues, however, I have condensed it all into this blog post.

Grab some coffee. It’s time to learn!


Lesson One

In this lesson, we will explore how to use a communication book to model language with books.

I have always incorporated picture books into my speech therapy. For older students, that may be a book full of intricate pictures and vocabulary such as this one, but for my early language students, I typically use board books.

How to use books to model language:

  1. Read the book pages exactly OR change words around to best meet the needs of your students. For example, if a book contains only one word per page, add a carrier phrase to each page, “I see…”
  2. Use your communication book or board to slow down your language and emphasize keywords. The core words that I use most when reading are “I, you, see, more, turn, finished.”
  3. Use fringe vocabulary when appropriate. Find a set of fringe vocabulary and then use it when possible. I do not recommend flipping from page to page. If you do not have the exact fringe vocabulary word on that page, then skip it.
  4. Use voice output for repetitive lines or to direct the adult, such as “turn the page”

Choosing the perfect book to use with your early communicator:

  1. Big, bold pictures and illustrations are very helpful to focus the student.
  2. Repetitive lines are ideal for students using a simple one-step or multi-step voice output communication device.
  3. Board books are helpful because many of my students like to rip pages, but also because board books are made with early learners in mind. They are short and include simple language. In addition, they are usually inexpensive.
  4. Fun things to manipulate on pages help many of my students stay engaged. I like the books with pop-out pages, movement levers, or a few puzzle pieces on each page.
  5. If your early communicator has a topic of choice, this is the perfect opportunity to use their favorite things to expand their vocabulary. There are many simple books about trains, animals, and other preferred topics.

Watch this video to see me modeling language with books.

 

Here are some of my favorite books for modeling language (Amazon affiliate links):
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Good Night Moon
Moo Baa La La La
Blue Hat, Green Hat
Dear Zoo (Lift the Flap)
Mrs. Wishy Washy
Is Your Mama a Llama?
Mr. Brown Can Moo
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Thanks for completing lesson one!

For more information and materials, click on the links below:


Lesson Two

In this lesson, we will explore how to use a communication book to model language with arts and crafts activities (

which I love!). 

If you check out my lesson plans, you’ll notice that I plan some kind of art activity every month, and sometimes more than one! I love creating things with my students and giving them something tangible to take home. For verbal students, the completed projects allow the children to use practiced language with others. For non-verbal and minimally verbal students, the projects give the adults something to talk about with the children.

How to use art to model language:

  1. Use your communication book or board to slow down your language and emphasize key words. Common core words to use with art projects include “on, more, finish”.
  2. Use art fringe vocabulary consistently. In my communication book, I include the fringe vocabulary that I use the most often (art supplies, colors) and stick with those words.
  3. Use carrier phrases “I want….” or “I see….” whenever possible.
  4. Use voice output for commenting on the project. Some fun comments to use include, “This is fun!”, “Awesome!”, or “Wow!”

Choosing the perfect art project to use with your early communicator:

  1. Choose simple projects that can be child (and not adult) led.
  2. Avoid paint. It is a mess and takes forever to dry.
  3. Choose projects using multiple colors. I model color vocabulary with all of my art projects.
  4. Prepare and lay out all of the materials. You should be able to grab each material as needed when the student is ready for it.

Watch this video to see me modeling language with art.

Here is a list of some fun art activities for early communicators:
Fluffy Cloud Rainbow
Paper Plate Cars
Build a Bug
Paper Craft: Pizza
Sesame Street Cutting Craft

Thanks for completing lesson two!

For more information and materials, click on the links below:


Lesson Three

In this lesson we will explore how to use a communication book to model language with toys. 

Fun!

I enjoy using play-based therapy for a portion of each session with my early language learners. I wrote a blog post about it here in which I explained how to prepare and get organized. The fabulous part about using toys and play based therapy is that students get so engaged and excited! Instead of speech being “work”, it becomes a time to “play”. 

How to use toys to model language:

  1. Use your communication book or board to slow down your language and emphasize key words. Common core words to use with toys include “look, more, finish, turn, I, you”.
  2. Use toy fringe vocabulary consistently. My communication books include toy vocabulary, however, making your own toy specific vocabulary is very appropriate for favorite toys.
  3. Use carrier phrases such as “I want…”, “I see…”.
  4. Use repeated phrases often such as “My turn, Your turn, Put it on/in”.
  5. Use voice output for commenting. Some fun toy comments just need a voice. I love putting “choo choo!” on a single step voice output when playing with trains.

Choosing the perfect toys to use with your early communicator:

  1. Choose toys that the child enjoys.
  2. Choose toys that foster interaction. For example, bubbles foster interaction only if you are holding the bubble juice. Cars encourage interaction if you have another car and race together. Toys that have tricky on/off switches are great for interaction because the child requires help to turn them on.
  3. Choose toys that have multiple parts. Mr. Potato Head and Legos encourage students to continue to ask for more and be specific.

Watch this video to see me modeling language with toys.

Here is a list of some great toys for early communicators (Amazon affiliate links):
Mr. Potato Head
Legos
Gazillion Bubbles
Little People Wheelies Race and Chase
Wooden Train Set
Birthday Party Cake

Pro Tip: I did not buy most of my toys. I completed several Donor’s Choose projects to fill up my speech room! Also, get donations from friends, family members and student’s families. You can collect many free toys this way as well.

Thanks for completing lesson three!

For more information and materials, click on the links below:


Lesson Four

In this final lesson, we will explore how to use a communication book to model language when talking about the schedule.

Throughout the day, we have so many opportunities to model language! We do not need a special activity or project to foster communication. One example of modeling language is when talking about the schedule. Most classrooms and families discuss their daily schedule at least once per day, often multiple times. By using visuals, the adult can model simple, core vocabulary and encourage children to understand and express language.

How to use the schedule to model language:

  1. Use visual schedules as well as your communication book or board to slow down your language and emphasize key words. Common core words to use along with specific vocabulary include “I, you, finish, more, go, stop”.
  2. Use schedule vocabulary consistently. Your schedule vocabulary and visuals should look the same throughout the room.
  3. Use carrier phrases to talk about past, current, and future events such as “You will go…”, “You went…”

Watch this video to see me modeling language with the schedule.

Other times to naturally incorporate modeled language into the day:

  • Snack/Lunch
  • Circle
  • Morning greetings
  • Work groups
  • Choice time
  • Packing up for the day
  • Classroom jobs

I just want to thank you again so much for joining me in this e-course. I had such a good time putting it together and I hope that you learned some new skills as well as were inspired with some new ideas! 

Thanks for completing this course! I hope to “see” you again soon!

For more information and materials, click on the links below:



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3 Comments

  1. Eager to see what it is about.

  2. I would love to receive emails! Thanks

    1. I sent you an email.

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