Posts Tagged ‘speech and language’

Go Talk Now (lite) an easy start for AAC

What is it?

One of the simplest electronic communication aids – so-called augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) – is the Go Talk. A physical device with a set number of squares in a grid that when pressed played a recorded message. They come in various sizes, and each can be loaded with a number of set ups which are then associated with an overlay to guide the user.

It is a system that has now been made into an iPad app which has retained much of that simplicity.

To get you started there is a no-cost ‘Lite’ version which is restricted to six pages, but within that these can include an on-screen keyboard, grids to build complete sentences, or single word responses. The grids can range in size from 1 to 36 cells, any and each of which can contain both text and images, or just either, and the option to speak either the words shown, or a recorded sentence, as well as switching to another page.

This flexibility means it can be used by those who can read, and by those who need images or symbols, and everyone in between.

Who is it for?

Anyone who needs a voice. This might be a child or young person with an autistic spectrum condition who is non-verbal, or else someone with a speech and language condition that makes their words indistinct, or even a learner with profound and multiple learning difficulties who is given two options to make a choice for what they want to drink.

It could be used by an individual, or shared and passed around a group, perhaps to build new vocabulary, or to rehearse language for social situations.

How do I use it?

The simplicity and flexibility of the set up mean that it can be used in myriad ways. It could be given to a learner to take everywhere to literally be their voice – whether that is in class, out in the playground, and even when they go home or go to the shops. It might also be a way for a pupil to join in a lesson. Grids with appropriate answers can be prepared so that he or she can answer teachers questions, or make choices about what is happening in the lesson, or maybe to give them options for what they want to do next.

For instance, a grid of numbers will allow them to join in  a mental maths lesson. Initial letters might help with phonics, and adjectives with descriptive writing. It is also a useful assessment tool, both for literacy itself to ascertain reading levels as they read words to complete activities, or to assess understanding of what has been learnt.

What else is there?

There are a number of great  communication apps on the  market, such as Proloquo2go, Grid Player, and Clicker Communicator, all offering similar features. What distinguishes Go Talk Now (Lite) is that it can be downloaded and installed for free, albeit limited to six pages, then quickly edited and expanded. Whilst Grid Player is also free, you need to invest in  Grid 2 to edit and create pages.

Because of its easy availability Go Talk Now is an easy point of entry into AAC.

Online sources for Speech and Language Resources

One of the largest areas of learning need in schools is speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), with almost a quarter (22.6%) of pupils requiring SEND support having this identified as their primary type of need, and 14.6% of EHCPs issued for this reason. (2018 SEND Census)  It is an area that is fundamental to learning, to socialisation, and to functioning successfully in society. Yet it is also an area where there is a challenge to get specialist support in schools, with shortfalls in provision, sometimes considered due to shifts in NHS priorities and CCG commissioning, with some schools contracting private speech and language therapists to bridge the gap.

Many schools, in all phases, will be facing challenges in meeting pupils’ needs, both in assessment and provision. One place they could look for help is, inevitably, the internet, with a lot of sites providing useful information for staff development and practical guidance for working with pupils.

A good place to start is the Communication Trust,  an umbrella organisation for not-for-profit groups  providing guidance and support for a broad range of practitioners. Their self-assessment framework  helps anyone to evaluate their current level of knowledge and understanding and offers suggestions for training that can move their practice on.

The trust also have a plethora of practical resources focused on working in schools, for instance, there is a very straightforward booklet on teaching phonics to learners with SLCN,  which has sections on specific conditions such as dyspraxia, stammering, and Down’s Syndrome.

Another good source for online CPD is the SEND gateway, now hosted by NASEN. Several sets of materials were developed in 2012 that can be approached in different ways. The SLCN modules  have a strategic element for whole school approaches and the management of  resources, through assessment and profiling of pupils to working with other agencies and delivering interventions.

Some training providers offer  well regarded courses such as  Ican  who also have the free Talking Point booklets  a range of guides for various stages of speech and language development with appropriate activities. There is also a link to the Communication Cookbook, originally sponsored by BT, which can be purchased online. However, it can be downloaded for free from the TES.

It is also well worth paying a visit to Commtap . These are a range of activities for all levels compiled by speech and language therapists to guide non-specialists in how they can work with children in school. They can be filtered in different ways, such as key stage or area of focus, and give clear instructions on how to conduct sessions.

A more structured set of free resources have been developed by Tobii-Dynavox, a company known for providing electronic communication aids, including eye-gaze devices, and for its Boardmaker software and the associated Mayer-Johnson PCS symbols. They have been working on Core First learning. This is a  structured approach to reading development based around core words, those that make up the bulk of our interactions.    Thirty-six words are included, with three books concentrating on each of them, making 108 books in all, which can be downloaded in pdf format. These build on previously learnt vocabulary and use colourful photographs on each page as illustrations. A scheme of work is provided, although some practitioners may choose to simply use the books to supplement existing approaches.

Speech language and communication is a complex area, which often benefits from expert advice and guidance, however, if you know where to look, practical support can easily be found.