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Posted on September 11, 2023

Several Smartboxers have experience working in both mainstream and SEN schools, as well as other educational settings. We’re sharing insights from their daily experiences using AAC in the classroom to enhance inclusion, promote achievement, and support speech and language development for non-verbal and pre-verbal students.

Five adaptions to help make your classroom an environment where everyone can be empowered to learn and thrive:

       1. Adding vocabulary in preparation for the lesson

       2. Promoting bodily autonomy

       3. AAC everywhere, for everyone

       4. Storytelling

       5. Establishing communication routines

1. Adding vocabulary in preparation for the lesson

(Son – Support Team)

Son previously worked in schools as a Speech and Language Therapy Assistant and an SEN Teaching Assistant.

My tip would be to speak to the teacher about vocabulary in lessons. Not every child will have all the vocabulary on their device, or the ability to word find at the same pace as some lessons go. If you are aware you are learning a new topic this term, take the time to go through potential words and ensure that the user has them on their device before the lesson begins so that they can become familiar with them and learn where they are. Find how you can add vocabulary to a grid set here.

a Grid Pad with Super Core loaded up

2. Promoting bodily autonomy

(Kim – Global Partners Team)

Kim has worked in schools and colleges as an Assistive Technology Lead.

Promoting autonomy involves empowering AAC users to make independent choices and decisions in their communication. Communication partners can support this by:

  • Respecting AAC users’ communication preferences and system choices.
  • Encouraging AAC users to participate in decision-making in conversation.
  • Providing opportunities for users to express thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
  • Supporting self-advocacy skills and how to communicate specific needs.
  • Recognising and reinforcing the independence demonstrated by AAC users.

3. AAC everywhere for everyone

(Jess – AT Team)

Jess has experience working as a Speech Therapy Assistant and Early Years Assistant in an SEN school.

AAC being used in a classroom with AT Specialists

One of the things I work with schools to achieve is essentially having AAC available for everyone throughout the curriculum. This idea revolves around shared access, which means providing staff, teachers, and teaching assistants with the tools to use AAC effectively. The goal is to ensure that all individuals within the educational setting have access to some form of AAC e.g. symbolised menus in the lunch hall. This is not only crucial for modelling and supporting those who already use AAC but also for benefiting others who use AAC to enhance their understanding.

4. Storytelling

(Jess – AT Team)

Communication plays a vital role in every curriculum, particularly in the context of Special Educational Needs (SEN). If we think about reading, specifically storytelling as a communication function that we all use all of the time, whether it’s recounting our experiences with phrases like “Yesterday I went to…” or sharing intriguing events with “Can you believe what happened,” we all engage in storytelling, be it about ourselves or others.

storytelling with AAC in a classroom

In an SEN classroom, storytelling takes on various forms. It might involve a shared reading activity that we enjoy as a group, a teacher reading to the group, or students joining in with telling the story and discussing it using AAC.

5. Establishing communication routines

(Becky – AT Team)

Establishing routines with AAC is very important for staff supporting lots of students. If routines take place day in, and day out, they become habits which can be completed without much thought.

Choice making as part of a routine

Firstly, it allows us to monitor a student’s progress. If a routine is consistently followed but doesn’t result in expected learning development, we can review it and introduce additional elements to help the student adopt a more suitable routine and learning approach. Secondly, implementing a communication routine can enhance predictability and reduce anxiety levels. If things are predictable we feel safe and secure. This then opens up an individual’s mind to learn and experience new things.

Learn more about AAC in the Classroom on Smartbox Academy

Uncover more tips to adapt your teaching methods and transform your classroom into a truly inclusive space with a new online learning course, AAC in the Classroom.

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