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Posted on January 19, 2017

Interacting with your environment

Interacting with your environment is such an important part of communicating. Being able to engage with the world around makes communication real, purposeful and fun.

As a team we are often discussing the different ways our resources could be used, and extended beyond the screen. By bringing them into the environment as well as their screen, these resources can become part of the bigger picture of learning to communicate.

Making communication real and successful

I have a 16 month old at home who has grasped the idea of pointing. He’s now incredibly pleased with his ability to portray requests, through pointing accompanied by vocalisation of some sort – sometimes resembling the word he’s requesting, and other times more of a grunt. Either way, he now understands that body language and vocalisation can get him what he wants – and he’s not afraid to use it!

Naturally, as his mum I respond to his requests, and reinforce and model the language he is trying to learn. He is extending communication beyond word only and making an impact on his environment through word and gesture. When he points or shouts, something happens in his environment – he is passed his juice; I switch on the singing penguin; I blow some bubbles.

In the same way, our users should always be given the opportunity to see the relevance and impact a resource or activity can have on their environment. Playing games on the screen is fun, but watching your mum, support assistant, teacher, and friends pull funny faces or blow bubbles on your request means you are communicating in a real and successful way. Communication is best when it’s not in isolation.

Extending activities beyond the screen

Extending activities beyond the screen is something I’ve been looking at as part of our project to develop new education resources for Grid 3. I’m keen that the resources are not used in isolation, as just screen-based activities. Instead I hope they form part of a wider teaching program that offers a multi-sensory classroom experience – to help pupils explore new ideas, new vocabulary, new experiences of the world, and form their own opinions.

Working with Carol Allen, Advisory Teacher & Consultant, we are writing topic based education packs that include a Teacher Companion that will go with the gridsets.

The Teacher Companion will provide educators not only with explanations and guidance around activities, but also ideas on incorporating grid sets as part of wider topic teaching. We’re also including classroom ideas, homework ideas, and links to other onscreen activities that support the teaching.

Seasons grids

Example resources

The finished education packs are a little way off yet, but in the mean time I thought it would be good to share a preview of the first resource alongside this blog post.

The first topic will focus on Seasons and you can download a preview for free from Community grids (just search for ‘Seasons’ when you go to add a new grid set).  It is designed to be a resource that supports the teaching of the topic Seasons. The grid set should be used alongside a range of multi-sensory and different activities related to the topic.

Seasons grid set

Download Seasons – sample

I’d love to hear feedback from anyone who has downloaded this grid set and used it in the classroom. Until the Teacher Companion is ready, I’d ask you to think about the sorts of resources that could be used alongside the Seasons grid set when teaching the topic of seasons. Real life objects are always good of course – Autumn leaves, seasonal clothing, experiencing hot or cold and so on.

There’s so much more that can be done to extend this grid set beyond the screen and into the pupil’s environment. Could they have an impact by making it snow in the classroom? Could they make you splash in puddles, do an umbrella dance – the possibilities are endless!

Further resources

I’ve had a look at other grid sets that are available, to see what’s currently out there. Here are a few of my favourites that encourage users to interact with their environment and beyond the screen of their AAC device.

Early AAC Activities

Early AAC Activities was created by our resident SLT Daisy. I love this grid set! It provides individuals with the opportunity to play, communicate and affect their environment – whilst using their communication system in a purposeful way.

Users can activate a cell on the screen and something will happen in their environment. It includes musical instruments, play dough, Mr Potato head and much more. Hours of fun!

Early AAC activities grid set

Download Early AAC Activities

First Words

First Words was developed with Speech and Language Therapist, Andrea McGuiness. It’s one of our newer grid sets, designed to support the development of the most commonly learnt first words.

In this grid set Amigo the robot models the words selected in a short animation on the screen. Why not extend this beyond the screen and have parents, grandparents, teachers, TAs, SLTs and anyone else modelling the chosen word. The sillier the better!

First Words grid set

Download First Words

Games Collection

Another one from Daisy! A lovely collection of games that allow the user to make something happen in their environment, by selecting something onscreen. Simon Says is a personal favourite – another one that’s a case of the sillier the better!

Games collection grid set

Download Games Collection

Read Kerry’s previous blog

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