Quick and Easy Independent Practice for Low-Tech AAC

After last week's look at the importance of giving AAC users time to explore a device with NO pressure, are you convinced? What about kids who use manual (paper) boards or a PODD system, or those who need more time with their device’s home page?
Repeated exposure to these boards can benefit kids too. Here’s an idea for boosting time with low-tech paper boards. It takes just a little initial time on your part, after which kids can practice independently. It doesn’t allow for expressive output, but it DOES bump up exposure time and increase familiarity with the layout.
Flash cards can be a great help for some kinds of memory work, but what if a child doesn’t have the fine motor control to use them? And will a whole board fit on a little card and still be visible?
Enter “ceiling posters!” This was a strategy I used in college to memorize vast quantities of information. I wrote or drew out the facts I needed to memorize (like the infamous Kreb’s cycle…bleh) and posted them above the head of my bed. This information would be the first thing I’d see in the morning when I opened my eyes (and put on my glasses) and the last thing at night. It was like having a giant flashcard hovering over me…and it really helped boost my memory for these otherwise obscure bits of information. 
Kids can benefit from this strategy for gaining extra time to rehearse information as well.
We’ve used posters of all sizes to provide my daughter with independent rehearsal time. We’ve hung letter-sized sheets of spelling words on the back of the front passenger seat of the van for her to study while we drive (60 point Arial font works well). We posted classroom material on the bathroom wall across from the toilet for her to rehearse while otherwise, er, indisposed. Right now, there are posters over her bed to help her memorize a QWERTY page and a modified Sono Lexis home page for the Tobii.*
Eye gazing to a QWERTY board
She has a smaller poster of the Unity 60 Core page for the ECOPoint* and Unity QWERTY page on the bathroom wall…she’s learned Unity 45 and this core page is a bit different, requiring that she rehearse it.
Smaller wall posters of Unity 60 for the ECOPoint
and the QWERTY layout used on the ECOPoint.
*(Note: We are still working out which eye gaze device is a better fit for her. It may be confusing to practice both language access systems, but if we think of her as “bilingual,” I can justify it. Two different QWERTY setups is arguably conflicting, though)
Ceiling posters need to be large enough to read from the bed but not so huge that they involve large head movements to scan. These posters were made in BoardMaker with a board size of 41 x 16”. They print on eight horizontal letter-size sheets taped together. Each is just narrow enough to cover with a single width of clear Contact paper.
41 x 16" board size in Boardmaker
Posters of AAC boards hung on the ceiling or wall can offer additional practice time, even when kids are by themselves. If your children spend time at the changing table (not unattended please!) or on the toilet, lying in bed, entertaining themselves in the kitchen as you cook, or wherever else they may spend undistracted time, look for places you might post a sample board.
A poster won’t provide feedback to them. It’s nearly impossible to interpret eye gaze unless the pictures are spaced VERY far apart. Is it functional, then? In a sense, no.
But in another sense, offering a child more opportunities to practice on their own can have function. It may speed their memory of symbols and their locations. It can provide you with a way to incorporate the board into your expression, giving a powerful model. You can talk about categories on core pages for devices or PODD displays, demonstrating how you would navigate this main page to gain access to the vocabulary in question. It certainly can’t hurt…
What posters might you make today to support your AAC user?

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