Updated: Jun 25, 2021
Have you ever wondered how to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices in the classroom? Here are seven quick and easy ways to use a sequential message device in an inclusive environment:
Every morning across America, children are reciting the Pledge of Allegiance! This is one of the easiest ways to include our students; you can setup the device to recite the whole thing or sequence the pledge so that your student has to hit the switch at certain points in the pledge. They can lead the class in the pledge or simply participate during morning announcements.
This one is too simple. There are probably a million reasons to count in a general education classroom during the day (i.e. lunch count, attendance, calendar days, the number of people/objects on a graph, skip counting, etc.is able to). Programming your student’s AAC device to count in sequence will be useful all day long no matter what subject or content area.
Even if you can speak, sometimes prerecording something for them to say helps the class understand them the first time (especially if intelligibility is an issue). The student can be the teacher’s helper and ask the class to turn their papers in, take out a particular textbook, or clean up before going to lunch. This idea can be modified on the fly and does not need tons of planning to accomplish.
This can work in any grade level. By recording vocabulary words to the pertinent lesson, your student will either be able to interject during classroom discussions or answer questions. The best thing to do is touch base with the general education teacher and find out what specific words will be used. This way your student will be ready to hit the switch at the appropriate time.
There are lots of opportunities to read in class. This could be a passage from a book or worksheet as well as instructions for an activity. In primary grades…the student could read an entire picture book to the class. Perhaps you can work with the classroom teacher to create a job that your student could perform related to reading something every day. The point of using AAC devices in the classroom is to give access where it would be difficult otherwise. Using a sequential device makes reading or programming longer passages much easier.
Self-determination is always a good thing and giving our students choices is part of that. But…sometimes we want a random response. For example, choosing a number between 1 and 10, or picking nouns for a “mad libs” activity. In this case…some sequential devices also have a randomizer. I have found this comes in handy whenever I need a novel response quickly. The Big Talk Triple Play switches are the absolute best when it comes to this.
This is probably the most obvious suggestion of the whole group, but sometimes it is easily overlooked. There are a couple of scenarios where programming social interactions are ideal. Try recording positive messages for outside play. I have had switches programmed with phrases like “this is fun,” and “go, team,” when I know there is a structured event with the class (like a kickball game). Another idea is to program simple conversations where your student can ask a peer a question and then comment on their answer. Something like, “what is your favorite TV show?” where the student would reply, “I like Sponge Bob Squarepants!” There are lots of ways you can go with this.
Not Just for Special Education Classrooms
The point of these suggestions is to get you thinking that AAC devices should not only be used in a sterile, self-contained environment or small group lesson. There are plenty of opportunities to use this technology within inclusive settings.
Tim Villegas is the Director of Communications for MCIE, Editor-in-Chief of Think Inclusive, and the host of the Think Inclusive Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @TheRealTimVegas.