Please share this blog with your friends and neighbors!!
Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

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