Megan Zeman shares:
One of my professional goals this year has been to expand my knowledge and implementation of AAC. I work in a middle school and a significant portion of my caseload uses AAC in some form and with a broad variety of ability. I find that I often get into a rut with using the same materials and targeting the same core words. It can be difficult to motivate my students to branch out and become engaged in new tasks. However, with the iPads the speech department received through a grant from the WHAS Crusade for Children, I’ve been able to find a variety of apps that are both highly engaging for my students (especially my students with a diagnosis of Autism who can be difficult to motivate to communicate) and that also allow me to target multiple core words.
1. Toca Boca and Peekaboo
Admittedly, these apps are a little juvenile for the middle school population. However, they’re still a big hit with some of my students in the MSD classrooms that I serve. Both Toca Boca and Peekaboo have multiple apps with different themes making them great to switch up according to seasons or holidays. These specific apps, Toca Boo and Peekaboo Barn were my favorite price, free! Other apps from these companies are fairly cost effective and range anywhere from $1.99 – $2.99 for individual apps. Both companies offer bundles of their apps for $4.99 and up.
Both of these apps are highly engaging for students and offer lots of repetition for multiple opportunities to use core words. In the picture below I was able to target core words using the following phrases: “What’s in the barn?”, “Can you get the animal out?”, “Open the doors.”, “Close the doors.”, “We’re all done with this animal.”, “Is the animal up in the loft or down in the barn.”, etc.
- GoTalk Now LiteThis is another free to download app. I have several students that are working on using real photographs to communicate. They’re just not ready for line drawings like the ones that you would find on Boardmaker. This app allows you to create communication boards by taking pictures directly on your iPad and adding them into buttons. You can create displays from 4 buttons up to 36. This app also features a picture library from GoTalk. The pictures aren’t the greatest but would do in a pinch. Examples of communication boards featuring the stock GoTalk images and photographs are below. As I don’t have ready access to a color printer at my school this has been an excellent solution for those times when I need just a few fringe words for choice boards or when working on language expansion. Note that on the bottom right hand side of the screen there is an icon with an exclamation mark that when pushed displays a set of core words. These are the same across all pages just like at the top of the GoTalk devices. However, they’re easy to change if you need a different one or a different set for a specific session.
This app has been so handy to use with my students that are working on higher-level language skills such as inferencing, vocabulary, ‘wh’-questions, main idea, and detail. When you create an account through Epic! using your school e-mail address you have access to 25,000 ebooks, audiobooks, educational videos, and quizzes. I have been finding that my students are much more engaged in reading the material when they get to read and ‘turn pages’ on the iPad. If they come across a word that they’re struggling with they can hold the word down and a definition will pop up. I love using this app for defining words using the context from the stories. The students enjoy using the definition feature to check their answers in real time. The best part of the app is the ability to create quizzes for every story that you read or video that you watch. I’ve made quizzes targeting one skill such as vocabulary (see below) and other quizzes targeting multiple skills for my mixed groups. High interest and “weird” non-fiction articles such as Bigfoot by Jamie Kallio have been great in keeping my older boys that aren’t always thrilled with coming to speech engaged. I haven’t used fiction stories with this app as much but I’ve noticed that the selection seems to be decent. For example, there are a ton of books from the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine featured in the app.