At Sunny View, we firmly believe that communication is not a luxury. It is a basic human right, the basis for social interaction and learning, and essential for our students’ quality of life. While some of our students use natural speech as their primary means of communication, their language skills may be delayed or their speech might be unintelligible or difficult for others to understand, and many of our students are completely non-speaking related to physical and / or developmental challenges. Our students with complex communication needs often require augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) strategies, techniques, and / or devices to communicate more effectively, efficiently, and/or independently. Being able to communicate effectively is also critical for helping students express and regulate their emotions and behavior.
Speech-Language Pathologists work with our staff on a consultation basis to help ensure that language, literacy, and communication programming occur throughout the school day, and to facilitate consistency in students’ communication programming across their school and home environments. Our goal is to provide students with multi-modal forms of communication and evidence-based strategies, systems, resources, techniques, and devices to promote functional face-to-face and written communication (see lists below for some examples). Some options are developed to support our student’s communication with many different people, both at school and in the community.
Non-tech AAC options include:
- Facial expression, eye gaze, hand gestures, body movements
- American Sign Language (ASL)
- Classroom-based communication displays such as visual schedules, First-Then displays, and choice boards containing tangible objects, photos, pictures, or picture symbols
- Customized communication displays or books (accessed directly by pointing, via picture exchange, or indirectly via partner-assisted scanning)
- Communication passports or All About Me conversation books
- Communication partner instructions
Low tech speech-generating devices include:
- A single recorded message (e.g., a BIGmack)
- Sequential messaging devices (e.g., Step-by-Step)
- Several recordable buttons (e.g., GoTalks)
Mid-tech speech-generating devices include:
- Tablets with apps like SoundingBoard, LetMeTalk, TouchChat with Word Power, Snap+Core First, GoTalkNow, ProLoQuo2Go,
High-tech AAC systems can include:
- Eye gaze technology
- Dedicated speech-generating devices with switch access and customized mounting systems
- Interactive White Boards with assistive software, such as Activeinspire, Boardmaker Studio, Clicker 6, Look to Learn, HelpKidzLearnAAC systems or solutions are typically individualized and highly customized to meet student’s individual strengths, needs, and interests, and require frequent updating as communication skills change or evolve.
When developing or refining communication systems, speech-language pathologists typically collaborate with classroom teams, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, itinerant hearing teachers, and/or itinerant vision teachers to ensure that each student’s unique constellation of speech, language, literacy, physical, sensory, hearing, and/or vision needs are best addressed. This multi-disciplinary, school team approach, when combined with collaboration with families and community-based agencies, helps maximize our students’ communicative competence, and thus help them reach their academic and social potential.