Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Toca Hair Salon: make it work with core words!

I'm pretty sure by now it's well known fact how much I love TocaBoca apps. They not only engage the students I work with but they fully engage me as well. Because there is very little written language or spoken language within them, the apps lend themselves to a plenty of opportunities and motivation for communication exchanges. 

FYI, TocaBoca is offering a bundle (Toca Toy Box) and Toca Hair Salon can be purchased along with other great TocaBoca apps for a reduced price. 

Toca Hair salon is not a new release, but it sure is a favorite that never gets old. After you select a character, you can cut, grow, curl, straighten, wash, dry or color the person's hair. Although this app can lend itself to helping learn some specific salon style vocabulary, I chose to use a core words board with limited fringe (more specific vocabulary words) on the top. Before taking a turn using the app, I expect my clients to use a phrase using some of the vocabulary below to convey what he/she would like to do. 

This board can be found on Boarmakeronline. Often, my clients point to icons as they speak or use their AAC devices.  Some of the phrases might be:
  • I/you do it
  • Help me do
  • I cut hair
  • Let's grow it
  • I like it
  • Stop, no like
  • Want different hair
  • Cut different
  • Grow more hair
  • Comb there
  • Cut that
  • Look! (she.. point to character) like it
  • Dry hair
Although there are plenty more vocabulary words I could focus on using (e.g. curly, straight, long, short, frizzy, towel dry, hair dryer, clip, bow, colors etc.), I chose to focus on the use of core words (shown as the bigger icons) with basic, more frequently used fringe words (shown as smaller icons on top) that could be used multiple times while playing with the app. Focusing on the core words allows for more practice with the vocabulary within one speech therapy sessions. In addition, because core words are practical, functional words that can be used across multiple settings, practicing them within a fun game will increase the likelihood they will be used outside the game (and in the real world!) as well.

I like to think of core words as "make it work" words. For example, I as the speech therapist become a "Tim Gunn" and I encourage my students to say what they want to say with the words that they have in front of them. Of course, if I am to expect this of my students, I myself have to change what I say and "make it work" with what words I have. 

So the boards not only serve as support for my students, but also for me as a reminder of the most useful words that I should be modeling for my students throughout our speech therapy activities. 

For more information on core words and AAC, PrAACtical AAC is a great resource! 

Now, go "make it work!" 

The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2011 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.
Boardmaker® is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Classic board games: Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders

Recently, a student of mine has been extremely excited about board games. This new interest came out of no where, so I had no supports made. I quickly grabbed my generic core words board and we had such a blast playing together and taking turns playing Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. For more information on how to use these boards, click here.

Right away, we were able to put together some core word based phrases such as "my turn," "your turn," "stop it," and "I do it," "want different," "I get that," Where I go?" "help me go," rather than the usual "I want red," or the old pattern of reaching for or moving pieces without social engagement.  The boards help facilitate an opportunity for joint attention, conversation and shared experience.  Obviously, right at the top of this board, there was room for more. So, I went home later that night and created this Chutes and Ladders board and this Candy Land board. Using these boards, we used even more relevant board game phrases!

Here are some Candy Land examples: 

  • I go 2 red
  • you go 1 blue

Here are some examples of phrases from chutes and ladders:

  • I go up ladder
  • You go down slide
  • I want girl
  • Go down big slide
  • Go up small ladder

These topical communication boards really added a nice low tech support to a new found joy in a classic turn taking activity. Hope it helps you too!

The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2011 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.
Boardmaker® is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.

Build a Train

In a few weeks, I will be presenting at ASHA 2014 in Orlando, FL.  I’m very excited because, let's be honest, I love sharing and I will be talking about a lot of the information I write about on this blog.   Even though this particular app is not a new app to my collection, I thought I might post about it since I will be talking about it and showing videos of students using this app during my upcoming presentation.

 Build a train is a great free app that allows for kids to construct virtual trains and then set them out onto a choice of tracks.  As soon as you start the app, the building begins.  Even the very get go, there’s tons of opportunity to use descriptive language while building the train: "Blue train with yellow", the "red caboose," "the green engine."  Students tap on each train, or swipe through trains to see more choices.   You can select a location (winter, volcano, island… NOTE: some are for purchase) and off you go!

Once the train in on the track, we have to “make it go.”  There is a dial on the side that can be used to make it “go fast,” or “go slow.” But! A key step in this process is that I require a communication exchange before allowing the student to have access to the iPad to control the train.  I use this topical board to help facilitate language use for my students that have difficulty initiating the use of novel sentence structures. 

If you are interested in more information about how I use board like these, you can find it here. This one in particular was one of my earlier boards.  In a nutshell, here is how I use it. I have the app on the iPad in one hand. On the table in front of the student and myself  I leave this topical communication board.  I might ask a general question to the student such as “what should we do now?”  If the student does not answer, I might prompt the answer by pointing to some reasonable words such as “I + choose+ train” or "train + go."  I will model the phrase verbally as well.  I expect the student to attempt a similar phrase (with or without my pointing).  Once they do, I praise and allow them to play with the train in the manner they described. Sometimes I have kids that say one thing and reach for a different area on the iPad. In this case, I pull the iPad back and redirect them to the board and model the phrase they are attempting to do (e.g. "Oh, it looks like you meant to say 'horn go,'" (with pointing to each word as it is said).  "Let's do the horn," (while point to horn icon).  

Eventually, I fade my gestural prompts with the boards and the student can use the visuals (with or without pointing) to help him/her respond more independently. I find boards like these particularly helpful when working with kids with autism when trying to use novel language outside of "I want train please."  They provide visual support, limit the vocabulary so that it is on topic (and less overwhelming) and help guide the student to use new sentence structures.

Some of the other key phrases I target while using this app include both core and fringe words. Examples are:
  • Make horn go
  •  Do bell
  • Make train go fast/slow
  • Different track
  • Do different track
  • I choose track
  • I play more
  • I choose more train
  • I/you change train/track
My favorite core word to use with this board is “turn” because it can be used with two distinct meanings:
  • My/your turn
  • Turn on/off light
My friend developed her own board based on her student's motivations. Although the concept was the same, her board contained different vocabulary. Her particular student was motivated by pick up boxes.  She also preferred to focus on the vocabulary for "night" and "day" rather than referring to the "lights."

For free, I highly recommend you give it a try. Then you can tell me all about how it works for you at ASHA! Hope to see you at there!

The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2011 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.
Boardmaker® is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.