I made a list of the Top 10 Traits of an effective AAC classroom after I was asked this question by an advocate during an IEP meeting.
I also summarized the Top 3 Issues of AAC classrooms, as I see it in my daily practice. They included programming, planning, and organizing.
And finally, I also discussed the 1st Best Thing to Do in an AAC classroom at the beginning of every year; which is: Back. It. Up. Now.
So, what did I tell this advocate we should see in classrooms with AAC users?
1. Students who do not have sufficient verbal language skills to meet all of their communication needs have an AAC system that offers them at least basic core vocabulary.
2. Staff are consistently using Aided Language Stimulation and modeling, and are familiar enough with the students’ systems to do so effectively.
3. Staff redirect students to their AAC systems if they are not understood, or if they are relying on gesture and body actions when they are able to use more standard modes.
4. Staff model and require communication for a variety of functions - not just requesting.
5. AAC users are being taught literacy skills using effective teaching strategies.
6. Staff repeat, affirm and then elaborate student responses.
7. AAC skills are taught and reinforced in natural, contextual activities, not drill formats.
8. Core vocabulary is taught, reinforced and expanded continuously, and topical materials for the classroom are modified to use core words. Teachers are teaching descriptively, not referentially.
9. Student narrative skills are a focus of classroom activities.
10. Conversational interactions are a focus of classroom activities.
So, those are my top 10. How do your rooms add up?
Keep on Talking.
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