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Posted on October 24, 2016

“Guess what I did today”

Sharing news is often highly motivating and can be a great way for AAC users to build their confidence. It can also be a great way to experience successful communication and social interaction.

We all enjoy chatting about what we did at the weekend or where we went on holiday with family, friends or colleagues – and it is essential that we provide opportunities for AAC users to do the same.

“I just want to know what he did at school, but he can’t tell me.”

As an SLT this is something that I am told regularly by parents, regardless of their child’s communication difficulty.

And it’s not just parents who want their child to share their news. When children go to school on a Monday morning, or after the holidays, they want to share their news with their classmates and teachers. Schools often give opportunities for them to do so as a motivating way to practice their speaking and listening.

For children using high tech AAC, this should be no different – regardless of their ability level.

Adding a news telling page in Grid 3

There are different ways to add a news telling page in Grid 3. One option could be to have a page of the user’s common activities in a word list, with some sentence starters such as “I went” or comments like “it was fun”.

In this example the user could make a single selection or two selections, to build their sentence and share their news.

news telling page in grid 3

Single selection sentences

For some users, the skills needed to form a sentence and choose from several options can be too difficult to start with. A grid with single messages might be better.

In my view, the goal of a ‘home news page’ for school should be about communicating a message and interacting with the people you tell that message to.

I often recommend a grid with single messages stored in each cell – one for each ‘news item’. This means that the AAC user can quickly and confidently share their news with a single selection.

Single page news telling grid set

A great example of this comes from a child I worked with a number of years ago. I had never met a six year old with such a busy social life. I can remember so clearly how motivated he was to tell me his news each time I saw him.

As physical access was difficult for him, his parents programmed each piece of news into a single cell, allowing him to make one selection for each piece of news.

This method world extremely well for him, and enabled him to communicate much more information than if he was forming the sentence himself. He was also able to use a lot of nonverbal communication whilst telling his news – such as eye contact, facial expression and vocalisation – helping to express his feelings about each part of what was said.

Programming news into a device

Another advantage of allowing someone else to programme in their news, is that the AAC user also has an opportunity to hear a model of language that might be a bit more advanced than their current level – this is great for language development.

If the goal is to work with the user on their language and access skills, then you might want to spend time with them beforehand writing their news messages. Once the message has been composed it could be saved to their news page – ready to share at any time, with any one (or perhaps everyone)!

There is a version of Symbol Talker B, optimised for touch screen users, that lets you do just this. Assistive Technology Specialist for the South East, Shaun McCormack, created this page using word list cells and the ‘Add Word’ command, similar to the Messages page in Fast Talker 3.

Symbol Talker B news telling

Symbol Talker B: news telling touch edition

To tell their story the user would form their message with the symbols in the grid set, and then save it in the ‘My News’ grid by choosing the ‘Add news’ button.

The simplest way to make a grid like this for yourself would be to insert the My News grid into your grid set – the same way you would add a grid from another grid set.

Otherwise you just need to make sure your blank grid has word list cells and a cell with the ‘Add word’ command.

news telling in symbol talker b

The type of news grid will depend on the user – but whatever you do, make sure you add one! It can be a great way to help early AAC users to build their confidence. By taking the emphasis away from forming the perfect message, it shifts towards being able to communicate and interact with success.

Once language and access skills develop, the complexity of a news grid can be increased easily, for example, by breaking one piece of news into two.

Remote editing

It used to be the case that programming anything into a device meant taking it away from the user, and leaving them without a voice. Now, with remote editing, news can be programmed into a grid without even needing the device. This means that a child’s weekend news could be added whilst they are on the bus to school, ready for when they arrive!

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