Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) know that the hardest AAC task is not the evaluation – it’s the implementation of a child’s device once they’ve received it. School-based SLPs typically have very large caseloads and may only get to see their AAC students once or twice a week.
For a child to have success with AAC, they need to work with it everyday, throughout the day – in all communication environments. How can SLPs make that happen without being by the child’s side each day? Here are some tips, along with a downloadable template, to help the child’s team support them in the classroom.
Teamwork is Key
AAC implementation is a team effort. Hopefully, that effort began during the evaluation stage and it needs be carried on as the child learns to use their new device in the classroom. The insights and perspective of every member of the child’s team is vital to successful implementation in the classroom. Having everyone’s input – including the child’s – will make sure that everyone understands the goals of the implementation plan and the importance of their involvement.
Planning for implementation is important, but the good news is that the classroom staff don’t need to change what they are already doing. Classroom staff routinely multi-task and manage more than many people realize. It’s key that staff understands that the implementation plan will help them integrate a child’s AAC learning into the existing classroom schedule.
In fact, many teams find the implementation plan helps them organize and recognize AAC learning opportunities that were there but not being utilized in the past. All teams want success for their kids and working as a team to develop a plan helps them all stay on the same page to reach those goals.
When you develop the plan with teachers, and they understand that they don’t need to change what they’re already doing, they’re more likely to stick to the plan and reach the AAC goals.
Break it Down: Who Does What
Instead of looking at AAC implementation as an overwhelming, unmanageable task, break it down into manageable goals for each part of the day – assigning small responsibilities to each person so everyone works together towards the common goal.
When each team member knows exactly how and when to provide support for the AAC learner, they are more likely to provide that support consistently. It lets the AAC implementation plan naturally become a part of the classroom schedule and routine. Giving specific tasks to each person puts the responsibility on the individual, making it more likely for them to do their part. Breaking up the tasks into small chunks makes it much more manageable for everyone involved.
Specifying when each task needs to be completed throughout the day, and by whom, starts to create a routine and naturally becomes part of the day.
Using a template is a great way to stay organized, as well as keep all the data in one place. Teachers and SLPs can go back through and see each day what progress was made and what needs to be improved on. It can also help team members more quickly identify any problems that may arise. They can more easily determine what aspects of the AAC learning process may be difficult for the child and which goals need to be revised or which additional learning supports provided.
Documenting progress right in the template makes it easy to keep track of, allowing for adjustments if it becomes difficult to get some goals accomplished throughout the day.
It’s important to target small intervals of time. So much can be accomplished just by modeling one word during a 15 minute classroom activity. Posting the implementation plan so that it is near the student and visible to all team members helps it not only serve as a visual reminder to the team to support the child, but gives them the specific information about how to do that.
Remember: Any Progress is Good Progress
Remember to celebrate small victories! Just creating and posting the plan is a victory since it’s the first step toward success. If you struggled to find a word when it was your time to model, it’s a victory! The child saw that everyone can struggle and you provided an example of how to work through a problem when using the device. Did you model one word instead of the two you planned to? It’s victory because you modeled something. Consistent, small victories lead to big communication success!