Sk’aadgaa Naay – An AAC Journey

  • 26/06/2024

At Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary in Haida Gwaii (SD50), classroom teacher Marcie and Educational Assistant (EA) Willow have embarked on a journey beginning in kindergarten and continuing in grade 1, to implement Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) technology in the classroom, specifically utilizing iPads with TouchChat. Their experience serves as a beacon of guidance for fellow educators and EAs, demonstrating that AAC integration in the classroom need not be daunting. Through trial, adaptation, and a commitment to inclusivity, they have navigated challenges and harnessed the potential of AAC to support communication and literacy development among their young learners. Their insights and strategies offer valuable encouragement for others embarking on similar ventures, showcasing the transformative impact AAC can have within educational settings.

In the beginning, the utilization of AAC technology in the classroom posed a challenge. The hope was for students to express themselves akin to their peers using multi-modal communication. However, through training and ongoing support from SET-BC, their understanding and effective integration of AAC evolved. Initially focusing on core words, the classroom gradually shifted towards employing AAC more prominently for literacy support. For instance, a student with apraxia found the phonics board within TouchChat beneficial for literacy activities, aiding in learning letter names, sounds, and connecting them to reading and writing.

The school team’s integration strategies for AAC technology have been diverse, ranging from structured literacy exercises to social interactions during unstructured times like lunch. These strategies not only facilitate learning but also foster inclusivity and engagement among students. They approached challenges in integrating AAC technology similarly to other diverse learning needs in the classroom, with personalized small group sessions and the implementation of tools like guided access to manage distractions.
Some advice for teachers embarking on the journey of using assistive technology includes exploring its full potential through engaging activities like games and incorporating AAC devices seamlessly into the classroom environment. Encouraging student ownership and understanding that AAC is their “voice” is paramount, emphasizing its continuous availability and support.

We can measure Marcie and Willow’s success in AAC implementation by its normalization within the classroom, alongside observable improvements in language development and comprehension over time. Positive impacts extend beyond individual progress, fostering a culture of inclusivity and acceptance among peers. Anecdotes like a student independently using AAC symbols to communicate preferences for activities further underscore the effectiveness of AAC in facilitating communication and participation.

Their experience with AAC technology has not only enhanced literacy support but also reshaped teaching practices towards a more inclusive and adaptable approach. Continuous exploration of AAC’s capabilities and its seamless integration into various learning contexts ensure its ongoing effectiveness as a tool for communication and learning support in the classroom.

In the vibrant halls of Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary, the journey of AAC integration has not only transformed classroom dynamics but also illuminated a path of inclusivity and empowerment. The dedication of Marcie and Willow has shown that, with perseverance and a commitment to student voice, AAC technology can become a seamless part of the learning environment. Their experiences and shared wisdom serve as a guiding light for educators everywhere, illustrating the transformative power of AAC in nurturing communication, literacy, and a sense of belonging among young learners. As we reflect on their journey, let us carry forward their legacy of inclusivity and embrace the endless possibilities that AAC technology offers in shaping the future of education.