On November 18th, 2009, speech language pathologists and educators alike were treated to a SET-BC sponsored presentation by Gail Van Tatenhove entitled “Extreme Make-over: The AAC Edition”. Over 75 enthusiastic participants met in Burnaby at the Schou Education Centre for a workshop designed to help teams “make-over” their students’ AAC systems. During the presentation, Gail reminded everyone of the value of nontechnical communication boards and books in a student’s AAC system. They can provide not only a back-up system for technical communication devices, but they can be an essential tool for students who are developing language systems.
Gail stressed the need to concentrate on core vocabulary (permanently available appropriate high frequency words) instead of on specific curriculum-based vocabulary. With this strategy, new vocabulary does not need to be added to the devices constantly so the time and effort to maintain a student’s AAC system is greatly reduced. When building communication systems on core, she has found that sentence length increases since individuals need to describe rather than label in single word responses. She helped everyone realize that the focus on core vocabulary will not only empower language and literacy development while in school settings but will ultimately serve our students better as they move into the community. Her suggestions on the use of core vocabulary for academic subjects helped session participants re-think how best to support students in regular education as well as special education classrooms.
During her presentation, Gail also shared a template for a descriptive teaching lesson plan based on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. Her template demonstrated, in a very practical way, how to more effectively integrate AAC using students into classroom learning activities. Gail’s wealth of knowledge and experience, accompanied by her inspirational video clips and personal anecdotes, illustrated the concepts presented in a powerful and memorable way.
Following her visit to Burnaby, Gail generously recorded her presentation for our Learning Centre – you can view these webcasts by clicking these links.
- Extreme Make-Over: The AAC Edition – Introduction (17 min 24 sec)
- Extreme Make-Over: The AAC Edition – Part 1: Material Factors (24 min 24 sec)
- Extreme Make-Over: The AAC Edition – Part 2: Human Factors (18 min 5 sec)