Archive for the ‘AAC’ Category

What Are Core Words?


Have you ever slowed down and examined your speech? Which words do you use most frequently and which ones are absolutely essential in your day-to-day conversations?

Core words include a set of approximately 220 words that are very commonly used and applicable to all populations, places, topics and activities. Approximately 80% of the words we use in conversation will be core words, but most of them are used repeatedly, which is another reason why we refer to them as being “core” to language. Some core words can also be called “sight words” because they have to be recognized and learned by sight. For example, the words “eye” and “new” are nearly impossible for young readers to sound out using phonic rules, so they would require memorization by sight.

Language tends to become very complex over time so it is crucial that we help new learners set a strong foundation through core vocabulary. Once children become comfortable with using core words they can ultimately build on it by using tools like grammatical rules such as where and when to add tense or possessives. When students are able to identify and read all of the core words, they can read about 75% of words in any given piece of children’s literature. Some of the most successful ways to teach core words include consistency and repetition, exposure, and teaching through stories, music and visuals. Natural integration of core words in language produces the best outcomes because children learn quickest when they see others modeling language.

This is a sample page from the Proloquo2Go iPad app

This is a sample page from the Proloquo2Go iPad app

core words

This sample page of core words has color coded backgrounds to represent parts of speech.

It is also important that we entice communication and give the learner an opportunity to use core words when something motivates them. When a word is consistently used and repeated in conversation, the learner begins seeing the pattern of use and is eventually able to reproduce it without being prompted. Some of the first core words in English include “all done,” “help,” “want,” “more,” “it,” “who,” “what,” and “why.” Core words can also be quite challenging to sound out so it is important that teachers, therapists or caregivers spend time teaching children how to say, understand and apply them. For augmented communicators who struggle with speech, it is also helpful to provide an extensive list of high frequency core words on their communication device so they can point to words or visuals to better explain what they may want or need. Grade schools also do a great job with integrating core words into class curriculum so students can acquire fluency as they move up grade levels. Just remember: take things slow, do not overwhelm the learner but do not restrict their access to more words and provide as much support you possibly can for your learner to reach the pinnacle of their core language development.

For more information on how the use of core words empowers language contact us: and please visit us on FaceBook:

Posted by on March 4th, 2016 Comments Off on What Are Core Words?


Apps for Apraxia of Speech

Since we listed a few apps for children with autism (check it out HERE!), here are a few for children who have apraxia of speech!

Try them out and let us know what you think!

  • Articulation Scenes – This app contains over 1200 practice words all centered around a cinema theme. It was created by a speech language pathologist and has a variety of engaging and fun activities for kids to try!
  • Apraxia Ville – This particular app is for children with more severe to profound speech sound disorders and for childhood apraxia of speech. This app targets both consonant and vowel sounds and you can also customize the  structure of the word to work on your specific target.
  • Articulate It! – This app is fantastic for working on speech sounds and articulation delays. It is designed for multiple players (up to 6) and is the perfect tool for both parents and speech pathologists.
  • Match2Say – This is a matching game used to work on children’s pronunciation skills. Adults can also use this app!
  • Smart Oral Motor – This app provides practices for mouth positions in order to correctly articulate words. For adults AND children, this app benefits those with apraxia of speech and speech sound disorders.
  • Speech Trainer 3D – This app actually provides a 3D image form the front and the side on how your mouth should look when you are making certain sounds. Designed by a speech language pathologist, it is a perfect visual for people with apraxia of speech.

Posted by on June 11th, 2014 Comments Off on Apps for Apraxia of Speech


Try These FREE Learning Apps!

There are so many FREE apps that can help your child learn in an interactive and fun way! Try some of these with your child today and have some fun!

  • Animal Book – Line drawing that links to photos of real animals and says the name os the animal AND makes the sound.
  • Opposites – Touch a picture and pick its opposite.
  • Match It Up – Pick items that go together best.
  • Mobi Pizza – Make your own pizza, choose toppings, bake it, etc. Good for sequencing and vocabulary.
  • Where’s Puppy – Fisher Price Laugh and Learn; puppy comes out and identifies body parts when you touch them.
  • Kids Patterns – Cognitive pattern skills; fill in the patterns; preschool to kindergarten age type of tasks.
  • Verbally – Keyboard with a list of frequently used words and phrases ready to use. Word prediction as well.
  • Clean Up – Helps with categorization; drag photo items to the correct location (closet, basket, or toy box)
  • ABA Belong – Follow the verbal direction to touch the one that does not belong.
  • Together – Touch the item that goes together best with the photo on top.
  • Build It Up – Sequencing game that helps children learn how to organize or sequence objects.

Posted by on May 29th, 2014 Comments Off on Try These FREE Learning Apps!


Interacting with Communication Aid Users

Here at CLASS Inc., we have many clients who use communication aids or speech generating devices to help them communicate. It is important to understand and know how to properly communicate with this folks and give them to opportunity to communicate. Colleen Witt gives these EXCELLENT tips on interacting with people who have a communication aid or device:

  • Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you are having trouble understanding the individual or their communication device. Individuals who use AAC methods usually have a long history of practicing patience and understanding with people who have an inexperienced ear for communication devices and/or lack the experience communicating with an individual using a communication board or book. Go into the interaction determined to learn and try not to be intimated by the technology that allows the individual to communicate with you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a person’s communication method. Learn about the system, this will allow you to be a more respectful and sensitive communication partner.
  • Speak directly to the person using the communication aid, not to accompanying persons. This is critical to communicating respect for he individual. While they may not have good oral speech skills, do not make the assumption that they are not every bit as bright as you are! Their ability to advocate for themselves, think for themselves, and receive information responsibly mat not be all impaired.
  • If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted before going ahead.
  • Listen attentively when talking with a person who has communication impairment. A poor listener adds unnecessary frustration to the effort of communication.
  • It may be helpful to ask short questions that require short answers. Questions that require a yes/no response are usually easy for the individual to respond to. However, you need not limit the conversation to yes/no questions exclusively.
  • Consider the effort that goes into using a communication book, device, or board. While technology has offered individuals many more opportunities to speak for themselves, these systems all require time, patience, and skill to use. Give the augmented communicator ample time to respond. Do not go on with the conversation while they are still formulating their answer. Be patient and allow plenty of time for each response.
  • Do not pretend to understand. Be sure to repeat what you have understood and allow the person to confirm that it is what they meant.
  • Do not look over a person’s shoulder at their device as they formulate a questions, comment, or response. This is considered to be very ruse and at the very least an invasion of privacy and personal space.
  • Position yourself in a way that allows you to maintain eye contact with the person you are speaking to
  • Try to speak to the individual with the communication aid just as you would wish to be spoken to.

Posted by on March 27th, 2014 Comments Off on Interacting with Communication Aid Users


Apps to Try!

Apps are a great way to develop language and social skills! Working on iPads is a very interactive way to learn with you children. Here are a few apps that you could download and try with your child!! Make some time every night to work on the iPad with fun drills and letter games! Enjoy!

  • abc PocketPhonics: Teaches letter sounds and practices letter writing.
  • Autism Apps: List of apps that are being used with and by people diagnosed with autism.
  • iTouchiLearn: Stimulates language development in children.
  • Touch & Say: Activities to promote social skills in children
  • Pocket Pond: Cause and effect activities.
  • Tap To Talk: Alternative communication program.
  • Touch Trainer: Cause and effect drills.
  • Starfall ABCs: Works on letter knowledge and individual letter sounds.
  • Pictello: Can add your own books and record your own voice reading the book.

Posted by on March 26th, 2014 Comments Off on Apps to Try!


iPad and Speech Therapy Grants

Listed below are some amazing opportunities for grants towards iPads and other health-related materials as well as speech therapy that can benefit children with special and/or medical needs. All have applications for eligibility in the hyperlink where you can also find information on the foundation/organization in charge of the grant. Enjoy! 

iPad Grants

Babies with iPads

Babies with iPads will be granting an iPad to deserving children as often as funds allow.  I will personally screen all applications to determine if eligibility requirements are met,  then a team consisting of at least a parent, ST, and OT will review the applications without identifying information and choose the top 3 deserving children.  Of the top 3 children one will be randomly chosen and mailed a refurbished or new iPad. For eligibility and more information, click here.

Apps for Children with Special Needs – iPad Assistance Program

Apps for Children with Special Needs has already helped over 230 children and professional around the world by gifting them iPads. Out goal is to help as many children as we possibly can to benefit from this amazing technology and to be able to utilize the great apps out there. Find out more information on how to get iPads and more here.

Speech Therapy Grants

Small Steps in Speech

Small Steps in Speech is a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization which provides grants on behalf of children with speech and language disorders for therapies, treatments, communicative devices, and other services aimed at improving their communication skills.
A grant from Small Steps in Speech provides financial support to families seeking speech and language services for their children, either not covered or not fully covered by their health care plan. Small Steps in Speech also helps other qualified non-profit organizations by awarding grants to help fund programs and services aimed at improving the communication skills of children. For application information, click here.

United Health Care

The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides medical grants to help children gain access to health-related services not covered, or not fully covered, by their parents’ commercial health insurance plan. Click here for more information on this awesome opportunity!

Posted by on February 13th, 2014 Comments Off on iPad and Speech Therapy Grants


Choosing an AAC Method

To follow up on the previous post, after deciding that your child could indeed benefit from an aided Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device, how does one know which one to pick?

There is quite a multitude of AAC devices and methods out there. Choosing one for your child can be overwhelming. However, many therapy programs will provide some kind of AAC assessment to see which modes of communication will work best for your child (even if that means trying out two or three different methods before figuring out the right one).  Most insurance companies even allow a trial period with certain electronic devices to see how it can create the most effective and functional communication for the child. Or maybe the therapist will recommend a picture board with 2-4 pictures for selection to get basic wants and needs met, depending on the child’s level of functioning (and you could even make it yourself).

It is very important to consider the child and their needs. For example, is the program/method easy navigate/use? Can you adjust the size of the keys/pictures for visual impairments? Is the device portable and easy to carry? Can I build in words for spontaneous speech? Is the device for temporary or long term use?

According to “AAC Connecting Young Kids,” it is most important to give the child the quickest and most effective way to communicate at that period in time. As the child grows into adolescence and adulthood, AAC methods can be adjusted to tailor their current needs.  It is also crucial that therapists, parents, and caregivers all know how to use the AAC device and how to implement it into every aspect of the child’s routine. Consistency really does make a difference in the use of an AAC method. Using in only at school, for example, will not benefit the child when they are trying to communicate in another setting.

Here at CLASS Inc., we do AAC evaluations for children who could potentially benefit from using them. We have multiple devices available for the client to trial during each activity (DynaVox, PRC Vantage, iPad with Proloquo2Go, iPad with GoTalkNow). During the evaluation, we tailor all activities we use to the client’s age and cognitive level. A clinician directly models each device for the client, prior to introducing the device into a chosen activity. We require the client to trial all four devices/software. Towards the end of an evaluation, if there is a device that the client clearly uses more efficiently and effectively, we spend the last 10+ minutes focusing on that single device to make sure it is the best choice for the client’s communication goals (i.e. to repair conversational breakdowns; sole communication through a device; can the device/software grow with the client’s skills as they grow…).

Remember, it is important to give children with expressive language disorders a proper, functional, and effective way to communicate!!

Click here for more information about AAC methods:

Posted by on January 25th, 2014 Comments Off on Choosing an AAC Method


Can an AAC hinder speech development?

Parents of children who have difficulty with verbal communication may want to consider an aided Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device for their child. An aided communication device includes any tool that helps the individual communicate excluding body language and signing. These can include simple tools such as picture boards, printed words or symbols all the way to the complex electronic devices like a Dynavox or iPad. However, some parents worry that having a speech generating device that talks for the child will in turn hinder the development of verbal speech output.

Research shows that this is indeed not true.

With such high advances in the AAC and electronic communication field, there is some device/strategy fit for everyone. From a young age to adulthood, any individual who struggles with communication at any degree is a candidate for an AAC method or device.  It is important to remember that they need a functional way to communicate, just as you and I do!

Nowadays, with the opportunity for an electronic AAC device, children are able to hear the request verbally. Thus, if verbal skills are low at the time one purchases a device, with use of the device and hearing the correct speech output, speech can arise. This gives the children an opportunity to improve behavior, attention, independence, self-confidence, class participation, academic progress, and social interaction ( Without some sort of outlet for communication, such as an AAC device or method, behavior is more likely to increase and academics are likely to be less successful.

With some much to offer, AAC is becoming a large part of the speech and hearing world. Everyone deserves the right to communicate!

Posted by on January 22nd, 2014 Comments Off on Can an AAC hinder speech development?


How To Make Free Flashcards the Quick & Easy Way

How much time do you spend searching for therapy materials and making them?  If you are like me, you often feel like you are just spending too much time making therapy cards.

I am going to share with you my little therapy card “trade secret”.  It’s super easy, and even better- it’s free!  All you have to do is go to Quizlet (  This is a terrific site; it is a virtual community of people who use flash cards, make them and SHARE them.  To join, all you have to do is create a user name plus password.  You can search by topic and Quizlet will populate the results section with a myriad of choices for you to grab and print.  Or, better yet, (yes- it gets better!), you can upload whatever deck of flashcards that you want from Quizlet onto your iPad.  Poof!  Immediately, you have a deck of flashcards to use in your therapy or lesson.  No hassle, no cutting, no laminating, no fuss.  Now, if you do want to use the iPad as a platform for your flashcards, it will be necessary to have a “flashcard App”.  I like to use  the free App, “Cardboard”  (  There are other free flashcard apps such as, “Brainscapes” ( and  “Flashcards Delux” (  It’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s even kind of fun to see how creative some people are in the Quizlet community!

Posted by on February 2nd, 2013 Comments Off on How To Make Free Flashcards the Quick & Easy Way


Free Pictures for Communication Boards

Yesterday, I received an email from a woman working in a group home on the east coast who had several adult residents without any means of communication.  Although saddened by this news, I was impressed with her initiative to find a way to provide communication systems for these folks even in the face of a major obstacle:  no money.  I am sharing with you some of the links to internet sites that I sent to her.  These are all sources of free line drawings, pictures and photographs that can be used to create picture boards for communication.  I realize that this is not a comprehensive list, so please share your free resources…thanks!


Here are some no cost or low cost ideas to get you started:

Posted by on January 31st, 2013 Comments Off on Free Pictures for Communication Boards