AAC Strategies for Middle and High School Students with Dr. Cheri Dodge Chin (Ep 136)

Let's talk about AAC and our OLDER students!  We talk all the time about early interventions for speech, but it's never too late to look at different ways AAC and support can be helpful for middle, high, and transition students.  Dr. Cheri Dodge Chin has the strategies you need to help your older students succeed with AAC!

Cheri Dodge Chin, ClinScD, CCC/SLP has 20 years of clinical experience as a speech-language pathologist, assistive technology consultant, business owner, mentor, and adjunct professor. She has worked in pediatric private practice, rehabilitation, clinics, public schools, and universities. Her research focuses on training adult communication partners to help children with profound speech and language difficulties.

We have students of all ages who have complex medical needs, some of which require AAC, or augmentative or alternative communication, and that can feel intensive during the school day, but we need to make sure we're looking for creative solutions and supports that we could use.  Technology supports like AAC and other assistive technology can be great tools that open up possibilities for these complex medical situations.  

At the elementary level, the changes don't often happen quickly, which can lead us to believe that it's not working.  But don't give up too quickly, because Cheri sees the long-term progress in her position now and how the growth happens over time.  Perhaps, a student's communication board needs to be put on hiatus in the early years and reintroduced later when the child is better prepared to use it to its full potential.  

So how do we know when a child needs a device?  

First, let's make it clear that AAC will not stop a child's communicative growth - we hear stories all the time about teams suspending a child's use of AAC because they fear it is not encouraging them to speak on their own.  But we know now that augmentative communication systems promote MORE verbal speech and Cheri has been witness to that! Kids will often copy what they hear on the device and want to try to mimic it on their own!  

The evaluation process for communication devices can begin in many different ways.  Oftentimes, parents will ask for the device because they see the need in their own child.  Hopefully, a special education teacher on your child's team will recognize the need for a device and start the process where necessary.  In Cheri's district, many staff members wear a communication board on their lanyard to help support students right from the first moment they walk into the school - some children really attach to this and love it, but it takes some time to get used to for others.  Not everyone needs a computer device for their augmentative communication.  For some students, paper-based is the way to go!  How can your school introduce creative communication tools to make all students feel heard in your community?  Sometimes the answer is something very simple.  

Communication tools and abilities are ever-changing and ever-evolving and we often have to switch things up depending on age, environment, and personal needs.  Be open to new (or reused!) methods as your child's needs change and grow.   


Cheri wants you to remember to be WISE.  

W - Wait 5 or 10 seconds for your child to evaluate what you've said and respond to it.  Communication takes a lot of brainpower and we need to provide uninterrupted time for our students to process the information and how they feel about it.  

I- Invite those children to communicate, but we shouldn't force them.  Questions are a great way to invite children to contribute their thoughts and feelings to a conversation.  But remember, they may choose not to talk and that's okay!

S- Show!  Model communication and their language system with your student.  Its okay if you don't get it right, but explore communication together!

E- Expand on what your student gives you.  Communicate with them by deducing what they are attempting to say.  

Dr. Cheri Dodge Chin has a summer course for SLPs who work in the schools to help get you organized and prepared for the upcoming school year!  SLPs - you should definitely check it out! I'll add a link for it below!


Here's a glance at the episode... 

[4:51] "how you can help students access their environment by using technology" 

[13:20] "Not everyone needs a computer device for their augmentative communication.  For some students, paper-based is the way to go!"

[15:00] Check out the WISE acronym Cheri gives you for easy communication strategies! 

Click here to listen!

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Get in Touch with Dr. Cheri Dodge Chin

Website: https://superpowerspeech.com/

Social Media: @superpowerspeech 

Link for Cheri's course: https://superorganizedslp.com