How Kids Using AAC Engage At School
Written by Katie & Kim – Education Support Staff at Ocean Grove Primary School.
Throughout 2021, we are working with beautiful Emma, who joined us in Prep at the start of the year. Emma has cerebral palsy and is nonverbal. We feel so fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with Emma, her family, and the team at Kids Plus. The support from Kids Plus has been invaluable, especially since we are a mainstream school. Being in a mainstream school it is fair to say that we have had to adapt. We have been challenged and have learned new skills to provide the support that Emma needs in her day-to-day school life.
Emma started the year with a small amount of exposure using her AAC and we were new to the world of AAC communication. We all had a lot to learn! We were incredibly lucky to participate in the Kids Plus nine-week AAConnect course. We found it to be an important introduction to AAC as it really highlighted how essential this device can be for Emma’s communication. It increased our awareness of the world of possibilities the device can provide her, and at the stage Emma is at, the importance of model, model, model!
In the months since starting the course, we have been amazed how quickly Emma is learning to use her device. We have seen so many wonderful moments of Emma being able to make choices and have some independence with her own thoughts and needs. Her AAC has allowed her to be in charge and we can respond to her direction. In turn, we have seen an enhancement in her ability to enjoy interactive games with her peers and assist in her learning goals at school. ‘It takes a community to raise a child.’
Ocean Grove Primary School has become Emma’s community. We have made it our mission to educate everyone that we can, to understand the importance of supporting and modelling AAC for Emma. We have the NuVoice app on our classroom TV and our classroom teacher uses it for instructions for all the students. We use laminated screenshots of Emma’s device for her peers to model and interact with her. We have laminated prompts that stay with her device for those that are not around Emma all the time, to support their interactions with her out in the yard. We have also run professional learning for all the Education Support Staff and will be running one for the teaching staff so that every staff member can be a part of supporting Emma. We are extremely lucky to have so many enthusiastic advocates as part of Emma’s community.
It’s been a process and lockdowns have not been helpful, but we are dedicated to continuing our own education, educating others, and supporting Emma’s AAC journey in the best possible way.