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Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

That's Good / That's Bad

 A funny video to get your attention!!

Archie Campbell is known for his 'That's Good / That's Bad' comedy routine.  You might want
to show this video to kick off a practice session on positive and negative comments!  

What.  If you've seen my presentations about social scripts – or read the book Linda Burkhart & I did, Can We Chat:  Co-Planned Sequenced Social Scripts – you know about 'good news / bad news.'  The object is to get students to practice both:

Positive Comments: Using core words GOOD, LIKE and using 'chat' or 'social' words, such as COOL, AWESOME, WOW.  Ideally, these are student-specific, such as EPIC, HILARIOUS, or WICKED.

Negative Comments: Using core words BAD, NOT LIKE, and using 'chat' or 'social' words, such as YUCK, GROSS, BUMMER, and student-specific words, such as NASTY, DISGUSTING.

Neutral Comments: Using core words OKAY, WELL, OH, and using 'chat' or 'social' words, such as REALLY, and student-specific words, such as WHATEVER.

Why.  Comments are so powerful because they let students share their own opinions, and show their personality.  Comments can demonstrate that students are listening, show what they understand, and fulfill social agendas, such as showing social closeness (aspects of personality and changing perceptions).

How.  We can use many opportunities to practice positive, negative, or neutral comments.  This can include:  

Playing Games.  Games offer many opportunities to celebrate and snarl.  This is a great opportunity to call out YES!  COOL!  or RATS!  DARN!  It's especially helpful when peers model these comments.

Watching Wordless Videos.  Wordless videos are wonderful for so many language learning
purposes – including practicing modeling skills.  See www.aacintervention.com, Tip # 3 for 2018, for strategies and examples. 

Reading Books
.  Many books showcase good and bad news situations.  One book that is particularly great for this purpose is the book 'That's Good / That's Bad, by Margery Cuyler.  You can also see a Read Aloud of that book by clicking on this link

Monday, November 29, 2021

Word Wall Activity Website!!!

WHAT.  The website, https://wordwall.net/ is a great find for teachers and therapists. It has the title 'Word Wall' (and I have developed many activities to support word walls, as described in Wonderful Word Walls:  Tips, Tools, and Templates), it can be used for so much more!

WHY.  Save time!  Build engaging activities!  Look at all of the templates that are available!  I have only used about 6 of them, but with wonderful results.

Another great reason to use this site is that you can get data.  

Plus, the customer support is fantastic.  They had a feature that allowed you to change fonts.  Needless to say, that is HUGE for students who are struggling learners!  Then it disappeared.  I contacted them and heard back immediately that they are working on restoring that feature!

And the final reason is engagement!  Students are so motivated by these activities!

HOW.  You can use their templates to make a wide range of materials.  Then you can duplicate your activities, saving the features you have included.  I find that many of the activities can be quickly created.  

Sample:  Games for Fun.  Colleagues shared this site with me when we were planning fun activities for the ISAAC virtual conference.  One of our social events was a 'beer night.'  Yes, you heard right – a beer night.  My colleague had found some fun facts, and I was able to quickly enter them into game format, complete with timing, and with images from this website.  I used the Open the Box template with questions.  Voila – a fun game.  The game is shown on the right, and I made it public, so you can access it using this link -  Beer Drinking Game.

Sample:  Find This.  I play many variations of 'Find This' – finding the core words of the month, finding the five new Word Wall Words, finding an example from a category on an AAC system.  The image on the
left shows the words for the December Core Words from the first year of core words from PrAACtically December - AAC Resources.  It offers another fun way to introduce words.  (Many more fun tools and strategies will be included in the upcoming TPT book, AAC Generalization:  Rehearse and Practice).  Here is a link to the Find This December words.  You can change the theme - the one shown is the TV Game Show.  

More to Come!  Future blog posts will show many additional ways to use the Word Wall website.  Enjoy!

Dance with the Girl You Brought!

 What?  I know that many of you have heard me say this . . . 

And maybe you've seen my meme . . . 

It's one of my Pinterest AAC & Literacy Quotes

Why?  Dance with the one you brought means flexibility to me.  It means thinking carefully about how you can be as effective, efficient, and engaging every day!

How?  Here are a few examples.  

* Figure out what works with the students you have, making accommodations to fit their needs.

• Use the light tech tools you already have (e.g., dry erase cubes, velcro cubes, paddle boards).  

• Use high tech tools you are familiar:  For example, a sorting activity for word walls, math, or making words, etc.  may work equally well on Google Jamboard, Smartboard, Microsoft PowerPoint, or the iPad   Sticky app.  

•  Pick a task to suit the time.  For example, at the beginning of the day, many students are more primed to focus and work on harder tasks, such as guided reading.  Many phonics tasks feel quite game-like (e.g., What Makes Sense, Speed Bingo) and can be fun afternoon activities.

Where?  The book Wonderful Word Wall Fun:  Tips, Tools, and Templates (Musselwhite, 2021, Teachers Pay Teachers) provides many examples of using the 'Dance with the one you brought' concept!!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Attribute Meaning!

 What This Means.  I often talk about attributing meaning, and how essential this is, especially for emergent communicators.  We do this without thinking about it for infants who are learning to speak.  When the infant says 'ba-ba' we rush to figure it out.  And we follow up!!

"Bottle? Here's your bottle sweetie!""

Blankie?  Here's your blankie."

"Banana?  You love bananas.  Let's go get one!"

Book?  Let's get your books.  Want to read 'peek-a-boo?'"  

"Boppy?  Boppy's not here now.  Should we call him?"

Attributing Meaning for People Who are Learning Their AAC Systems.  So, what happens when an individual who is learning their AAC system presses a button or makes a selection that doesn't really make sense to us.  Do we rush to 'figure it out'??  Or, because it is typically an older child, do we assume that it was a mis-hit or a mistake, or perseveration?  Often, students are exploring their devices to 'see what happens.'  Our response matters!!  We must attribute meaning!

I made a meme to remind us to attribute meaning. Why?  Because attributing meaning is:

Safe.  We should assume that the person is trying to communicate, and may be very intentional.  Or at least that they want to know what this message means, and what will happen if they select it.                                                                                                                     Simple.  It may feel awkward at first, but once you've tried it, attributing meaning gets easier and easier.  And it takes very little time.  And it's more fun than saying 'I don't understand' or – worse – ignoring or re-directing the communication attempt.                                                                                                  Successful.  I have seen wonderful success from this simple strategy, both with young children and with teens and adults.  Try it!

Where Can You Get More Information??                                                                             
There's a tip for that!!!                   You can find it at:                
www.aacintervention.com              Tip # 2, 2018

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Three Es of Instruction: Effective, Efficient, and Engaging!

 The Three Es of Instruction:  Effective, Efficient, and Engaging!

You might have seen my post about The Three Ts of Writing Instruction:  Time, Technology, and Teaching.  Well now I'd like to share the three Es of Instruction for AAC and literacy for individuals who use AAC.

Effective.  This refers to following practices and selecting instructional targets that are evidence-based.  That is, the most delightful and enjoyable classroom and/ or therapy instruction must also be effective in supporting learning of language, literacy, math, etc.  This also includes the selection of targets.  For example, the slide on the right is from a recent presentation regarding targets for explicit AAC instruction.

  Talk to parents, teachers, and therapists and you will hear the frequent lamentation, "There just isn't enough time!"  Because we have limited time to complete both embedded instruction (e.g., modeling AAC use) and explicit instruction (e.g., specific tasks to teach sample vocabulary, use of pragmatics, etc.), we need to ensure that we are using that time efficiently.   
Thus, the use of fun and engaging tasks, tools, or materials must always be balanced with the time spent for preparation and implementation.  Remember the Musselwhite 30 Second Rule shown on the left!

Engaging.  As Karen Erickson (Erickson & Koppenhaver, 2020) often says, " . . our goal is not to make them learn, our goal is to make them want to learn."  Engagement is one of many factors that can help students want to learn.  Engagement might mean:

Using a Game, App, or Website.  

For example, when introducing new target vocabulary (at the 'Rehearse' stage), you might play 'Tic-Tac-Talk' (see December, 2012 Tip at www.aacintervention.com ).  You could play this either light tech (on paper, using fun markers), or high tech (e.g., using an app), as shown on the right..

 Wheel of Names

Many spinners are available to quickly support engagement.  The Wheel of Names (www.wheelofnames.com ) is a highly motivating version, because it includes features such as colors, speed of spin, and a wide range of background music while spinning (see the review of features for that website on this blog).

Practicing Skills Using Books, Videos, or Apps. 

  For many individuals who use AAC, practice can be best achieved using books, videos or engaging apps.  This reduces stress because the individual is thinking about what to say and where to find it on their system, but not speaking to an actual partner.  The image on the right shows how an app might be used to practice giving a compliment.  

Using Tools to Support Modeling and Role Play.

For some individuals, role play is a very effective form of modeling.  We have videotaped models and included them into digital books that students can watch over and over, using apps such as Pictello or Book Creator.  For example, the student practiced several sentences that she can use in conversations.  Then we set up a sample situation (e.g., You are going to the movies.  You want to invite your brother), then videotaped her using that sentence to ask her brother.  This was put into a Pictello book so she could review the role play multiple times.

Summary.  These three components, effectiveness, efficiency, and engagement go well together, and can greatly support us in choosing goals, developing implementation plans, and having fun while carrying out these plans!


Erickson, K. & Koppenhaver, D.  (2020).  Comprehensive Literacy for All:  Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities to Read and Write.  Baltimore, MD:  Paul H. Brookes.

Musselwhite, C.  (2020).  AAC:  Building in Generalization: Rehearse, Practice, Model – GO!  XCeptional Ed Course.   https://xceptionaled.com/course/28/aac-i%C2%BF%C2%BD-building-in-generalization-rehearse-practice-model-i%C2%BF%C2%BD-go

Saturday, May 1, 2021

How are you Celebrating this May

Posted by Deanna Wagner, Language AACtivist

Did you know that all Mexican Americans don’t celebrate 5 de Mayo? Here in Arizona it is popular among Americans and we have many places with parties and celebrations. My neighbors had a party last year because it coincides with the birthdays of two family members, and we had fun sharing tacos and different drinks from Mexican recipes. 

Here is a link to a Minspeak Channel video for aguas frescas. Debbie shares ideas for how to access words on an Accent communication device with their Unidad vocabulary (designed for use in both English and Spanish). 


Just yesterday I was told by a family I was meeting with that it is more common for Mexicans to celebrate Day of the Children at the beginning of May. Right after our session a link showed up in my email for the celebration at the Phoenix Zoo. What a great chance to celebrate Mexican heritage and talk about the animals at the zoo!  


Here is the link:  https://youtu.be/XlMj1j4NtxE 

This month we can talk about celebrations for mothers and their children! And since May is also Better Speech and Hearing Month, we can interject some discussions about animal communication. Animals have their own way of communicating with each other, but can also learn to communicate with humans when we think of ways to show them how. Just like human children learning AAC, they need meaningful experiences with caring individuals who are guiding them through the learning process. Animals have learned to use tactile symbols, sign language, and even talking switches! I am particularly excited to learn about the core language systems that are being programmed on buttons to give our pets the opportunity to learn single words that they can combine in unique ways to get messages across to humans. I love this!  Look for Bunny the Talking Dog on TikTok and YouTube. They even talk about clustering core words according to the Fitzgerald key, like the AAC systems we use! And even though the dogs and cats can’t read the words, putting labels on the buttons helps the communication partners know what buttons are nearby in case they make a mistake and need some help finding a better word to express what they are thinking. I just love this! I am giving you a link for dogs because I am a dog lover, but people are teaching their cats to do this, too!

Here is a link to a video about Bunny the Talking Dog

Do you want to use a device with more than one language? It is easy and doesn’t cost extra to add Spanish to the Proloquo2Go app from AssistiveWare. Just like their peers, people who use AAC can learn more than one language. They can do this in bilingual homes or in classes with their typical peers. Most importantly they need guidance and experiences with knowledgeable communication partners. We can’t expect somebody to learn Dutch in this system, for example, if they don’t have any communication partners who are fluent enough in the language to be good models. 

Here is a link to instructions to add other languages to Proloquo2Go. Be sure to scroll down and read some of their other helpful blogs while you are there. https://www.assistiveware.com/support/proloquo2go/bilingual/add-second-language 

Now when we think about AAC systems for speaking with multiple communication partners in creative ways, we can also include our pets! Maybe they even have something they can teach us about attributing meaning to communication efforts and building experiences until multi-modal communication becomes more and more natural. Our goal is communication about everything and everyday stuff, not just school or therapy topics. 

Here is a link to one of my favorite songs to celebrate AAC and Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs) http://everyonecommunicates.org/judybailey/voca.html

How will you use multi-modal communication as you celebrate children and mothers this month?

Monday, March 29, 2021

Readtopia® Getting Started Series

 WhatThis webinar series includes 8 sessions.  Each session will cover a different Readtopia®-related topic (e.g., Shared Reading, Interactive Read-Alouds, Informational Texts, Math, Predictable Chart Writing, and Assessment).  Each session will include:  75 minute presentation including interactive Try It activities, handouts and access to a dropbox with additional materials, a 15-minute Q & A, and optional extension activities (a.k.a. homework).


When:  Thursdays, 4 – 5:30 pm, Pacific, April 8th – May 27th 


Cost:  $150



Who Should Attend:   The series is intended for people who are just starting or planning to start implementing Readtopia®.  You should have a basic knowledge of emergent and transitional literacy goals and terminology.  We will use materials from Dr. Dolittle, as the first few chapters are available for free.   You will also see many sample materials and activities from other thematic units.  This will be a fast-paced, interactive training series.  Participants can include:

• Special education or general education teachers

• Speech-language pathologists who want to use Readtopia®, either privately or in classroom settings

• OTs working with students using Readtopia®

• Paraprofessionals who are working in a classroom or providing tutoring

• Parents who are part of a team using Readtopia®.

Link to Flyer:  Readtopia Flyer




Tuesday, March 16, 2021

MARCH, MARCH, MARCH!!! (by Deanna K Wagner, MS/CCC-SLP)

We have so many reasons to celebrate this month.

Many of us are getting our vaccinations and we are able to spend more time together.  While we were separated, we enjoyed extra time outside walking in our neighborhoods and parks.  With March comes the start of Spring.  On the same day as Caroline's birthday! And there is something else to consider on March 21st.  The entry below was shared with permission from Pranoy's mom...

The United Nations honors March 21st every year (3/21) as World Down Syndrome Day. 

This year’s theme is CONNECT.

We CONNECT so that we can:

  • Share ideas, experiences and knowledge,
  • Empower each other to advocate for equal rights for people with Down syndrome, and
  • Reach out to key stakeholders to bring about positive change.

Meet Pranoy - an 8th grader who is into rock music, airplanes and all things weather. He was born with a chromosomal disorder commonly known as Down syndrome which simply means that he has 3 copies of chromosome number 21. Hence, the medical world named this error, Trisomy 21. What that makes him the lucky recipient of an extra chromosome (we have 46, he has 47).

This extra chromosome creates tension in his anatomy in ways that slows him down mentally and physically compared to the rest of the human species. While this might sound scary but it’s a common occurrence across the planet, being the most common genetic disorder - 1 in every 700 babies with Down syndrome are born every year per CDC - with efforts being made to include them in society - that reflects us all as one species.

Pranoy also has a speech disorder called apraxia. Is that extra chromosome responsible for his apraxia? Could be. That’s common too among individuals with Down syndrome but again, not every person with this genetic diagnosis has apraxia. So it’s another population sample size to consider, without natural voices using ASL and/or AAC to communicate and navigate their lives.

The good part about augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is that you can use it swiftly in a fast-paced environment like a restaurant or on the plane or at school. Pranoy advocates for himself and his disability community on Capitol Hill every year using his AAC device. That’s what he uses to communicate with friends and family. That’s what he uses throughout his school day every day to answer, question, and make meaning of the instruction. That’s what he used recently at the local science fair while working on his project when he was interviewed by 3 judges via zoom.

This was also Pranoy's first time participating in a science fair in a virtual environment handled with precision by SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research Engineering Fair). The admin team took care to make it accessible, inclusive, and humane. Now you would expect a parabolic equation or Bernoulli’s principle in Pranoy’s project, but he was only presenting his findings in weather patterns by making a simple barometer to study pressure differences while measuring the rise and fall of temperature. That’s as far as he could go with his understanding this time.

Then came the interview which was moderated by his Speech Language Pathologist (all middle schoolers were assigned moderators), where judges went off track to check his aptitude, and then came the surprise recognition from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) acknowledging Pranoy for “taking the pulse of the planet”.


If I could sum up 8th grade for Pranoy in one word, I would call it adventurous. The pandemic worked wonders in giving us all a deeper understanding of the education system in a rigorous remote learning environment, and how best a middle school student with an intellectual disability without a natural voice gets his slice of the equitable pie.

Learning 21st century skills and for once, not being singled out for using specific technology like his AAC as his communication aid, Pranoy rose to the challenge and pushed himself harder to navigate his virtual school day independently. He learned how to troubleshoot, got in and out of classes and meetings, pulled his assignments to work on, printed his instructional materials and sorted them, typed his answers resulting in ease and speed - the little things that come naturally to us, that he needs a step by step understanding of to program his brain.

When the right people do the right thing, individuals with that extra chromosome are driven to find meaning and purpose in the world for everything that we take for granted. A reminder that as one species, we are all capable of spreading our wings by helping each other thrive. With technology evolving at breakneck speed, I read this wise man’s words often - “the future ain’t what it used to be.” Amen to that!

Thank you for connecting with Pranoy’s world today. Thank you for lifting someone who needs a little help in your world every day.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Check out Pranoy's video here...

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Poetry Power Permeates Language, Literacy, and Life with AAC

Poetry Power Permeates Language, Literacy, and Life with AAC

What:  A webinar by Deanna Wagner, Caroline Musselwhite, Katie Yonker, and Mary Anne Barno

Where:  Zoom Webinar

When:  Monday, March 8th, 5:30 - 6:30 pm, Mountain Time

How Much:  $15 (reduced!), which includes

- Poetry Power Overview book from TPT

- Certificate

- Drawing for a 1:1 Poetry / AAC coaching sessions with the speakers / moderator

Poetry Power Registration Link 

Download the flyer here:  Flyer Link

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Wheel of Names

 Wheel of Names.  

 by Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite


  What.  Who doesn’t love a spinner?  And I especially love a spinner that you can quickly change, that includes customizable music, and shows the choice clearly!  That’s what you get with Wheel of Names.  For FREE!!


Who.  I’m using this spinner with a range of students from very young to adults.  The music makes it a joy to use!


How.  The most important feature is to customize it!  Here are some features you can change:


1.Make Your Wheel:  Add your own choices.  Remember to save your list to use again.  Yes, you can use names, but you can also change to include:

a.     Core Words.  For example, you can quickly type in your 10-12 core words for the month, then save the list to use multiple times (Read more about this in Core Word Fun, coming soon to Teachers Pay Teachers).  

b.     Character Names.  We have done activities where we compare characters, describe characters, etc.  This is a fun way to pick the characters to talk or write about.

c.     Categories.  Pick a category for device practice, on-the-fly Mad Libs, etc.

d.     Words to Sort.  This is a great follow-up to Making Words, but can also be used for phonological awareness activities such as judging rhymes and odd one out. 

e.     Activity Choices.  Sometimes you have multiple activities that you will do during a class / session.  You can put them on the wheel and use it to pick the next activity.

f.     Actions for a Song:  We added visual choices to the actions of the song, I Have a Friend (Musselwhite, 2019, Singing to Learn CD/dropbox).  Students spin to pick an action. 

2.  Customize Your Wheel.  This is where the engagement features are set up.  Choose many features such as:

a.     Dark Mode.  I always keep dark mode on because it blocks out distractions, and makes a dark background on which I can make annotations such as typing words.

b.     Music to Play During Spin.  The default sound is ticking (boring!)   Luckily, there are many interesting music choices to pick from.  

c.     Length of Spin.  Another ‘during spin’ choice is the length of time.  The default time is 10 seconds, but I typically prefer 5 – 6 seconds.  That’s enough time to enjoy the music without eating into my teaching time!

d.     After Spin Choices.  You can set up choices for after spinning.  My default choices are shown in the picture.  I typically keep these and do not reset them. 

e.     Background Colors.  I have chosen primary colors, as seen on my image.


f.   Image in Center.  You can use an image from their gallery or upload your own image.  For example, I uploaded a picture of a car for the middle of a wheel to play ‘judge the rhyme’.  Spin a word, then judge if the new word matches ‘car.’

3.  Enjoy Your Wheel!  I’m finding that this helps to add engagement and ‘zing’ to our sessions, plus modeling print.  Hope you enjoy it too.  Leave a comment!