But, what happens when my kiddos pick a game that I don't yet have a board for? Does that mean, we just try the activity without the support?? NOT ME! I prefer to use visual supports as much as possible. Visual supports help boost confidence, set clear expectations and decrease verbal prompting.
That's why I created a Core Words communication board. Find it on boardmakerachieve here.
If you are not sure what core words are, please be sure to check out Carole Zangari's and Robin Parker's PraacticalAAC blog or Bruce Baker's explanation for more information. Core words are not just "the new best thing," they are necessary components of every day communication. Core words make up about 75-80% of what we say each day. They are the powerful words that can be used across situations and ages. Kids, adults, teenagers.... we all use core words. They can be used again and again and again across situations and places. Core words are highly functional: they stand in the place of more specific nouns (e.g. "it," "that," "there,") where there is no access to specific vocabulary and they represent functional actions (e.g. "do," "make," "go," "get,").
I decided to start focusing more and more on core words when making my topical communication boards. But as I did this, I found with the combination of core and "fringe" words (fringe words being the words that can be replaced with less specific words such as "that"), my core words that were repeating across boards, started to shift locations. This made my users slightly confused and increased scanning time to find icons.
Check out these two examples:
By keeping the pronouns on the left, I shifted some available spaces and question words no longer made sense on the left hand side of the board. While I tried to keep things the same as much as possible, each board will have a different number of verbs and nouns, making it difficult to keep things consistent.
I decided to start keeping my most frequently used core words in the same place on each board. On top, I decided to put my less frequently used core fringe words that were specific to the activity. (please note: my core word selection is not all inclusive, and it might still change. I was simply limited by the 8x11 space).
Keeping icons in consistent locations, decrease visual scanning, and increase automatic motor responses (think about how you use automatic motor responses to type on a keyboard). Many AAC devices already use motor planning as part of its language system (e.g. LAMP, PRC, WordPower). This past weekend, it was great hearing Patti Solomon-Rice talk about the importance of keeping icons in the same location on AAC devices. Hearing her speak about that, validated my desire to try this new format for my topical boards.
So, when a kid asked to play angry birds the other day and I didn't have a board made, I didn't sweat it! I used my core words sheet. Then, I quickly made the angry birds topical board after the session. It took way less time to make a board using this new format.
Here is what I came up with (find it on boardmakerachieve here):
If you haven't read yet how I use these topical communication boards, it's pretty simple. I point to each word as I say them (making sure my client is looking at the board while I do this). If I ask a question, I may prompt the student by immediately pointing to an icon on the board so they do not respond with echolalia. If the person independently says something (with or without using the board), I repeat and expand by saying and pointing to each icon. Or if they are struggling to verbally find a word, I may point to the board to help them get started.
Here are some sample phrases we might work on with this angry birds board: "you do it," " my turn," "get bird," "put it there," "get triangle" "it go over" "it go down."
If the student needs help learning how to use the board to vocalize, I start teaching the student by hand under hand guidance to help the student to point to each icon (only if needed). As quickly as possible, I fade my physical prompts to gestural prompts. I always try my best to allow the student time to respond on his own as well. I usually find that with practice, my students start vocalizing without prompts and even without pointing to the board. In addition, they start using vocabulary that has never been used before in unique combinations. Prior to using the boards, my students may have simply used behaviors ( crying, grabbing etc.) to access a turn with a game or with the iPad. Using the boards, most of my clients (e.g. with autism) start learning to initiate communication attempts, either by pointing or by vocalizing, while engaging in fun activities. For my AAC users that already initiate language but are working on using novel utterances, the boards serve as a visual guide or reference to what they are searching for as they navigate the device.
Using these boards often reduce frustration, prime the student to expected language to be used, expand utterances, and help students use language in unique word combinations not otherwise used before. They serve as visual support to the oral language we provide and they validate icons as a communication form for my AAC users.
Hopefully this core words sheet helps in a pinch. It can also be modified to make new topically related boards really quickly!
Hope you find it useful!