I currently serve as an AAC consultant to several classrooms where staff are attempting to 'come up the learning curve' for providing interactive Aided Language Stimulation(ALgS).
At one site, in particular, we have been concentrating on performing ALgS during large group activities such as Mealtime, Arts & Crafts and Food Prep time and small group activities using Melissa and Doug Play Kits. Across all activities, large and small, we have been using a Core + Fringe Framework. The Core symbols are symbols built on the DLM Core 40 words that appear with high frequency in both written and spoken language. Fringe vocabulary are typically activity-specific and vary greatly depending upon the activity.
We use a large Core-48 Facilitator/Modeling Board designed as a Staples Banner for our large group activities. This board can be constructed with or without detachable 3" symbols. Here's the link for the Dual-Representation Core Symbols - PCS that can be used in conjunction with the Banner display.
We're working to make all staff proficient in using ALgS. For example, the Breakfast routine might sometimes be led by the teacher and sometimes by the classroom assistant. The Play Kits are sometimes used by a classroom assistant during free play time or by a SLP guiding a small group at a classroom center. We are, however, still a 'work in progress'
One of our basic challenges is to help staff model a rich variety of language during their interactions. Regardless of the activity or the Facilitator leading that activity, we have been using a data sheet to help staff document their progress in expanding the number of core words used.
I usually strive to use at least 80% of the core symbols in any routine that I am conducting. Here is a completed data sheet from a recent Breakfast routine with six preschoolers. I earned 79% …. so obviously, I need to 'step up my game'.
Staff are given a singular mission …. over time, gradually increase the number of core words that you are using during a session. Although this may seem simplistic, it does work! It places the focus on modeling language and helps shift the focus away from excessive questioning/obligated speech/'testing' of children to 'setting the stage' for their self-initiated use of spoken or symbolic communication. This strategy of tracking the core symbols used, often provides students with a broader and richer language experience.
Note: we are NOT tracking how often a core symbol is used, but rather keeping it simple by tracking what core words have been 'touched on' during the session. If during a Baby Care Play Kit routine, a Facilitator uses 20 of the 48 core symbol, she is using 42% of the core words available. Now the goal is to improve that score. Staff are encouraged to set their own goals. "Last time you used 42%, what's your goal for this session?" Staff often keep a data sheet on hand to prepare for their activity. An educational supervisor can also use the completed data sheet to help staff brainstorm ways to incorporate untapped vocabulary items for that particular activity. With our preschool students we are addressing this mandate, while striving to limit symbol length to three or four symbols.
In addition to the full core data sheet, you can also use a reduced core data sheet (i.e.,when using 30 of the original 48 core symbols).
Several options exist for managing completed data sheets:
Gray Scale Option
You can use a gray scale paper version. Just write in the fringe symbols, then check off the core symbols used as the session progresses. Later, you can place this hard copy on file, or you can make a digital image of that data sheet using your smart phone camera. You may wish to make an Excel spread sheet for each staff member.
You may opt to use a color version instead, as it is easier to score performance when using a version identical to the Facilitator's core board. Consider printing out a color version on heavy weight paper … laminate it … cut it out leaving a 1/8" border of laminate. You can then use Vis-à-Vis washable markers to mark up the data sheet and use your smart phone camera to secure a digital image that can be placed on file on your hard drive. Use a damp paper towel to wipe clean the data sheet (Gosh I'm glad I left that 1/8" border of laminate when I cut out the data sheet!)
Another option is to insert a smaller version of the data sheet (letter size) into a page protector sheet. Seal the open end with tape and use a Vis-à-vis pen to document the data.
Of course there is more to Aided Language Stimulation than just the frequency of using core words. Is the activity interactive? … fun? … reciprocal? … have you created numerous communicative opportunities? This data sheet may not be the complete answer but it is certainly a good start.
Some folks are able to make their ALgS look effortlessly interactive.
The more you do it … the better you get at doing it.
…’til the next post …
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©2019 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant