As so often happens, a post on PrAACticalAAC.com on December 29 really caught my eye. “PrAACtically January: Resources for a Year of Core Words” provides links to two years of core words, downloadable lists from 2013 and 2014 in Minspeak/Unity, PCS, Speak for Yourself, SymbolStix, and LessonPix symbol. At the end of the post are a list of children’s books that can be used to practice the words for January. One of my kindergarten students is a new user of Word Power on an Accent 1000. The monthly lists of core words struck me as the perfect way to acquaint him, his parents, and teacher with his device, to build his expressive language skills, and to incorporate literacy development.
Looking over the 2013 list of January words, I was inspired to write a story that uses the core words in sentences that the student could read aloud on his device, and that he can use in real-life contexts. Here’s the process I used to write “The Hungry Dog:”
- First, I sketched out a simple story containing the core words and typed it into PowerPoint, my favorite platform for creating print books.
- Next, I went to Google Images to search for photographs and clip art to illustrate the story, and added them to the PowerPoint.
- Then, I tested out the story by using the Accent to read it. This proved to be a critical step in the process, as I discovered that some words were not on the device. Others were inconveniently placed or coded, necessitating too many hits to locate the words or return to other screens. As a result, I needed to do some programming to streamline his access to the words. I also found that some sentences in my story needed rewording to facilitate smoother expression.
- Because the device is also new to his parents and teacher, I added at the bottom of each page the “path” to finding any words that weren’t on the present screen. All words to be spoken on the device are underlined; navigation hits are not.
- Finally, I printed the book as 2 unframed slides per page, cut the pages apart and stapled the book together. Copies were made for home, classroom, and s/l therapy use.
“The Hungry Dog” January story of core words was met with great enthusiasm by the student, his teacher, and his parents. In fact, it was so successful that I made a “Play Date” book using February core words! Both of these books are posted on the new Core Words section of the Materials Exchange under AAC on Speaking of Speech.com. (Note: I’ve left these as PowerPoints so you can edit for your AAC users. The path on my stories is specific to the modified Word Power 60 cell user on an Accent 1000). I’ve also used this strategy of including the navigation path to personalized social stories. Adults all agree that this makes modeling much easier and more fluent.
Keys to success: simple sentences, repetitive vocabulary, careful story editing and device programming to refine message construction, and the inclusion of the path for navigating to vocabulary. As vocabulary and competence grow, this path will not be needed, but at this stage, it is a great support to the adults who are learning right along with the student.
Speaking of Core Words….there was such a request for discussion about Core Words on the ASHA Sig 12/AAC board that I created a forum specifically for that purpose. Sign up (free), then post your questions, add your suggestions, and share your materials! Here’s the link: http://corelanguage.boardhost.com/index.php. This is brand new, just waiting for you to add some content. With your participation, this new Core Words forum will grow in content and value, just like the other message boards in the SLP Message Center on Speaking of Speech.com!