AAC support training for peers, parents, school staff

We’re going to discuss three different research articles in this post, because they share a common focus of training and supporting the people who support children who use AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication).

The first article, by Therrien & Light, discusses a way to get preschoolers engaged in  AAC communication. This is a study of two four-year-olds acquiring AAC and six typically-developing peers, so it’s preliminary, but important because it gives clinicians a technique worth considering.
The authors first discuss barriers to peer-to-peer communication, including peers not knowing how to adapt, lack of motivation in the AAC user due to previous communicative failures, differences in mobility making it hard to occupy the same spaces, and the awkward presence of hovering adults (my words, not theirs). The authors also highlight the importance of fostering a balanced relationship between the children, rather than setting up one child as the “helper” from the outset. They suggest that this helps establish a natural and motivating communication context.
So for the intervention, the authors identified appropriate storybooks, then programmed visual scene displays (VSD) on an iPad app for the children to use to communicate about the book, with one VSD for each page or page spread. Multiple hot spots were programmed on each VSD to allow for plenty of commenting. The authors trained the children (peers and AAC users) on how to use the iPad to take turns communicating about the story. Results showed some gains in communicative turn taking, some of which generalized post-treatment.
In the second AAC training article, Senner & Baud discuss how school staff can and should be trained to effectively implement AAC. This is a great article for providing the SLP with a framework for AAC advocacy within his/her school system. I'm sure many of us are famiilar with the standard in-service model, where someone (like the SLP) stands up and tells others (like the teachers and paras) strategies to use and what is best practice. But we all know that these passive learning activities just don’t cut it. Thankfully, this article goes beyond that, providing strategies to ensure the AAC team gets many active opportunities to learn how to effectively support the child.
Then in the third articleChung & Stoner perform a meta-synthesis of AAC team member perspectives (including the student, family, and professionals working with them). For the SLP, this article is nice because it provides an opportunity for evaluating your ownpractices as an AAC team leader. It's also a good article to have to share with school administrators, who often don’t recognize what all needs to happen in order to adequately support an AAC user in the school setting.