Sherri Tennant is today's #TotalTalkTuesday Guest!

Well, it's really Wednesday, but it's summertime!

Each Tuesday, a leader in the AAC Community will offer a tip

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This week's #TotalTalkTuesdayTip is from Sherri Tennant.                

Sherri Tennant, M.S., CCC-SLP, is a clinical faculty member in the Speech Language Hearing Sciences Department at the University of Colorado-Boulder (CU). She has 23 years of experience as an SLP and AAC.  Currently, in addition to her work at CU, she has private, school-aged clients who use AAC systems and works with these children and adolescents to improve their communication and language-literacy skills. Sherri was an emergent literacy coach in the Jefferson County Public Schools for two years prior to becoming a clinical faculty member at CU where she managed a large literacy grant that involved in-district training by Dr. Karen Erickson and Dr. Penny Hatch from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.  Sherri had a private practice in New York City (NYC) for nine years. Most of her students were AAC users and attended public schools in NYC. 

INTUITIVE CUSTOMIZATION IS CRITICAL FOR INDEPENDENC

An AAC system that facilitates expression of unique personality and cultural diversity is critical. That's a tall order to fill. And so you want to choose your approach thoughtfully.

There are many variables to consider, but a few important features include the vocabulary and language system. And, just ask importantly, communicative success requires a great customization process and strong company tech support.

An AAC system needs to include robust vocabulary (core and fringe) as well as thought-out social phrases to facilitate generative and pragmatic language. That’s particularly important given that the range of linguistic abilities among AAC users is broad - from beginning communicators to those who have advanced, sophisticated expressive language and literacy skills. An AAC system needs the versatility to meet the needs of these different language levels that will allow the AAC user to be effective as his/her capacity expands and/or as the demands in his/her environment change, and to help them grow. 

Many people also often require a keyboard with word prediction as they become more advanced communicators. In fact, a great system should consider both how to share writing for those who are comfortably literate and prefer to write with their AAC system, and for those who use a combination of icons and spelling to communicate. 

Finally, the customization process needs to be as quick and easy as possible. The reality is that there is less training at the university level in AAC and AT for Speech-Language Pathologists and other professionals now than in the past, so ease and accessibility of customization is more and more critical. The more quickly and intuitively you can support someone with customization, the more quickly they can express their individuality - and that’s of course what communication, at its best, is about.

Finally, if you want to really express unique quality, you should look for features including voice quality, different characters and voices, and access options.

TOTAL TALK HELPS U BE U!

Total Talk was designed to help build not only language, but personality and engagement. With Total Talk, a person can pick up the device and develop a comfortable approach to communication. In fact, our easy to use interface facilitates independence in many aspects of language building, social engagement, and personal expressiveness.

Total Talk offers a robust language system that allows you to maximize your power by pressing magic button before a verb, noun, or adjective in order to pull up easy to access options for conjugations, superlatives, and most commonly used phrases. Additionally, generative language is supplemented with EZ phrases - where you can select a topic such as recess or lunch and find a grid with most commonly used phrases associated with the particular activity.

Our keyboard adapts to both experienced and early users because it includes three different levels of word prediction. And there's not simply clear and delete buttons, but a full menu of powerful editing options. You can even move a cursor and minimize the grid to see whole passages of copy! Pressing a single button expands the readout to fill the entire screen so you can see everything you have written. 

Finally, Total Talk offers a host of emotive voices that allow you to add tonality to your phrases so you can sound bored, excited, or just plain weird! You can also alternate between different voices personas that maximize your expressiveness. 

Looking to express your personality? Then maybe the first thing to look for is Total Talk. 

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Richard Ellenson is today's #TotalTalkTuesday Guest

This week's #TotalTalkTuesdayTip is from Richard Ellenson.

Richard put together the team that created Total Talk. He was also the founder of Blink Twice, which developed the Tango, and served for one year as Chief Vision Officer at Dynavox.

Richard's son, Thomas, has Cerebral Palsy. He uses a power wheelchair and he also uses Total Talk.

Richard said, "Sometimes we set the bar low for people with AAC, which is essentially the worst thing we can do. It's our job to offer innovative tools for people with disabilities so they can achieve their utmost potential.


BE A BETTER WRITER & COMMUNICATOR BY PROOFREADING LONG TEXT!

The ability to write paragraphs of text is critical for AAC users in school and also everyday life. Whether you need to write a book report, present your chemistry project, or read a monologue - you need to be able to write pages of text and see it.

One of the key challenges facing long writing assignments in AAC is not being able to see everything you’ve written. Previously, once you have taken up the space in the readout, the words become hidden behind the grid. (Or if you could get to a whole page, it took many hard-to-navigate steps.)

We all proofread the messages we send out everyday whether that be an email, or even a text. That needs to be the same for AAC. We should all work towards being the best communicators we can be, which means writing and speaking to the best of our ability by editing and proofreading. 

 

TOTAL TALK MAKES IT EASY!

Simply press magic button, followed by "edit" and a menu of powerful editing options appear. People now have the option to move the cursor between text to edit exactly where you want. You can delete a word, move forward a phrase, or back a character, or even go to the end of your text - the options are endless!

And... you can minimize the grid! Pressing a single button expands the readout to fill the entire screen so you can see everything you have written. This is HUGE. Now students have no excuse for poor grammar and punctuation... sorry guys!

Deanna Wagner is today's #TotalTalkTuesday Guest!

Share or like on Facebook and have a chance to win a free copy of Total Talk!

This week's #TotalTalkTuesdayTip is from Deanna Wagner. 

Deanna Wagner, MS/CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist with over 20 years experience providing consultations and training in the area of assistive technology with an emphasis on augmentative communication. She works with educators and families to achieve goals in the area of selection and implementation. Deanna’s work with the AT programs at Southwest Human Development and TherapyOne includes augmentative communication device evaluations, communication device training, literacy education support, and community outreach for alternative and augmentative communication device users.


DON'T FORGET THE ROLE OF THE COMMUNICATION PARTNER!

As a speech language pathologist who works with both students and adults with complex communication challenges, I take my responsibility for teaching social interactions very seriously. The AAC user, the conversational partner, and the person who is prompting/facilitating need to be very aware of their roles.  Using an AAC device can be awkward, and learning to socially engage others can be difficult if one focuses first on looking at the device and looking at the other person as an after-thought. Being aware of the communication partner when initiating conversations, turn-taking, commenting, and closing conversations are all critical social skills.

Additionally, all AAC users feel better about themselves when they can make somebody laugh. To that end, we have carefully studied tips on sequenced social scripts by Caroline Musselwhite and Linda Burkhart over the years. In August, 2007, we collaborated on tech tips for communication scripts/stories on multiple devices (www.aacintervention.com). This strategy teaches our AAC users to move from one message to the next, either by pushing the same button or by moving from left to right across the screen.  Scripts are used to provide multiple turns and structure the conversation to include messages that initiate, comment, and close.

Both the AAC user and the communication partner may need cues in order to instinctually respond in natural ways. In AAC, it can be pretty disappointing when the punch-line is not delivered at the right time and the entire joke lands flat.  


TOTAL TALK TAKES BEING FUNNY SERIOUSLY.

Total Talk’s Joke Pages offer a solution to bad deliveries (and also bad jokes!). The joke page takes advantage of opening and closing lines, and also offers flexibility to repeat the first part (or the punchline) as many times as needed. The lines that have already been spoken dim out, so the user is aware of where he/she left off. Instead of providing only a rigid structure, Total Talk lets you really control your joke telling and build a more gratifying exchange.

 

 

VISUAL CUES HELP BRING COMMUNICATION PARTNERS CLOSER.

With Tele-Prompt we now have the tool we need to help our AAC user wait for a visual cue (or even a text) before going to the next message.  As the facilitator, I can now become as invisible as I always wanted to be.

Total Talk Orbit is a free companion app that connects through Bluetooth (so you don’t have to worry about blocked or poor WiFi connections) that you can use without intruding upon the user’s personal space, using your iPhone to prompt from across the room!

The overall experience is very typical… a person using AAC asks a question, waits for the partner to say something, then responds with the punchline.  We can use tele-prompting to encourage activation of a recorded laugh track (or rimshot).  At the end of the joke, we have historically used one message to guide an AAC user to finish the interaction.  With tele-prompting, we can circle a few options for the user to choose from, giving more flexibility for ending the joke or managing the conversation.

In sum, when facilitating interactions, remember to keep the needs of both communication partners in mind.  Everybody needs to enjoy the conversation.  Over-cueing joke telling can be horribly awkward, to say the least.  If you remember to monitor the level of supports and cues, you’ll find that you’re not only growing communication skills, but also the number of people who enjoy interacting!

Thank you TotalTalk for providing the tools we were missing to finally achieve successful timing of jokes with our AAC users.  I love Tele-Prompts!

DON’T FORGET TO SHARE OR LIKE THIS TIP ON FACEBOOK

(AND IF YOU HAVE PRIVACY SETTINGS ON, SEND US AN EMAIL SO WE KNOW TO INCLUDE YOU!)

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Hello again and happy #TotalTalkTuesday!

Each Tuesday, we share a great tip from communication experts!

Share or like on Facebook and have a chance to win a free copy of Total Talk!

This week's #TotalTalkTuesdayTip is from Mark Surabian.

Mark Surabian developed and presently operates ATHelp.org, a free assistive technology support program at the JCC in Manhattan, where he serves the needs of over 1700 children and adults with communication, vision, learning, and physical challenges.

 

DON'T FORGET THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA!

As an assistive technology consultant for 30 years, I've come to realize true inclusion in any community, for an individual with a disability, is defined by that person's level of participation. But when we think of participation today, we might be overlooking one of the most important channels that we all use – social media.

A few years back, one of my students taught me quite a bit about the ever-changing face of augmentative communication. I'll never forget the day, a couple years back, that he shared with me his pride over a 20 minute conversation that he had maintained with a friend. Previously I had been pushing him to make an effort to communicate with his peers more actively. He tried to explain to me how high schoolers barely stand still long enough to have a decent conversation, and lamented the laborious task of using an SGD to even quickly make a greeting, never-mind convey an extended thought before they shuffled by. I acknowledged the considerable challenge, but expressed that he needed to find a way to connect with his peers and communicate more effectively. 

He did. That 20 minute conversation was actually a Facebook texting exchange that was so teen typical, and for him so deeply satisfying. And suddenly, for me, there was a new insight into the power of multimodal communication. And looking at communication with not only a sense of all that is possible – but also with some of the things that make it more likely to happen.

Sure, I knew the value of email, texting, posting, tweeting, and the hundreds of other ways in which we express ourselves in 21st-century; but it never dawned on me how any one of those could be as powerful as face-to-face communication when all I ever hear is about how adults are dismissive as to the value of digital exchanges between youth. He had taken digital communication and proven that it has an equal value in his world to the verbal communication of my own.

For when we are all in the digital world, temporarily transfixed by our backlit screens, it makes us pause long enough to let friends, and those who could be our friends, communicate as peers.  

 

TOTAL TALK MAKES IT EASY!!

Total Talk allows a person to not only verbally communicate with spoken words, but also to text, email, or FB right from within the app – using large buttons that work for them, not iOS defaults.

Once any SGD or SGA user discovers that an effective communication exchange is possible, then they are more apt to pursue deeper conversations and achieve greater participation in the world around them.

Total Talk has been created to give a person the greatest functionality and flexibility in communication approaches. It not only provides a platform for strong communication, but also self-empowerment. And reminds us all that the greatest tool for building communication skills is… motivation.

 

DON’T FORGET TO SHARE OR LIKE THIS TIP ON FACEBOOK

(AND IF YOU HAVE PRIVACY SETTINGS ON, SEND US AN EMAIL SO WE KNOW TO INCLUDE YOU!)

Download Total Talk

Download our fun & informative primer

Smart Apps for Kids Gives Total Talk 4.5/5 Stars!

Read about us on Closing the Gap!

Read about us on AbleNet!

 

It's the best of the week - #TotalTalkTuesday!

Share or like on Facebook & have a chance to win a free copy of Total Talk!

This week's #TotalTalkTuesdayTip is from Dr. Caroline Musslewhite.

Dr. Caroline Musslewhite is an assistive technology specialist with more than 40 years of experience working in the areas of AAC and literacy. She has written many textbooks and “how-to” books and has authored a number of software programs. She has presented thousands of workshops, locally, nationally and internationally.  She is a founding member and Fellow of ISAAC.

 


HERE’S HOW YOU CAN A.C.T. TO CREATE A GREAT STORYTELLER.

Stories (also called social scripts) are about sharing life stories and general conversations. They help persons using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) move beyond wants and needs and find faster ways of using efficient communication for conversational purposes’ (See more at Musselwhite & Burkhart, 2001, Can We Chat?  Co-Planned Sequenced Social Scripts, p. 4).

ACT for Better Stories!!

When you remember to A.C.T., everyone - parents, teachers, therapists, and siblings - can support the development of better stories!

A for Ask the Student! Choose topics for stories that the student cares about and then involve them in
co-creating stories!  For example: 
Jenna just got
back
 from the movie Jungle Book and she LOVED it!
Ask her if she wants to make a story about it, and ask

for ideas. For example, ‘What did you think about the movie?’
Then let her answer. Maybe two words…. EPIC and SCARY.
Now the story can include: ‘It was epic!’ ‘But it was scary too!’

C for Conversational! One of the goals of creating stories is to help students learn to get attention, set a topic, keep it going, and end the conversation. We can support this by helping communicaators remember to include that type of language.  
Continuing with the Jungle Book example: 

Hey! 

I have something fun to tell you. 

I went to a movie! 

Can you guess what it was?

T for Turntaking! Another goal of using stories is to actively include the partner, so students can practice turntaking. For the Jungle Book script, we might include questions such as:

Have you seen it?

Who’s your favorite character?

But most of all, stories are about engaging people – both the story teller and the listener. So make sure they’re fun and interactive. Enjoy!


TOTAL TALK MAKES IT EASY!!

Total Talk was built to make it easy to build your own social scripts, find them, and use them.

Our Storymaking Wizard let’s you BUILD stories in an amazingly efficient manner. Just type in the story, part
by part, and it will appear in sequential buttons. We’ve even got a story that…. tells you how to make stories!
Find it on the first button of the Stories Page.

It’s also super easy to FIND your social scripts. Just hit
the Total Talk button to see all the great additional communication modes on Total Talk. Then select Stories.
If you look above you'll see I’ve added a picture to
each story image, so students can find their new
stories quickly. 

Finally, Total Talk has added a special feature to let
you better DELIVER your story. Stories buttons appear
with numbers (or with whatever words you wish.)
A person can press the buttons one by one
However, a person can also just keep hitting the
‘next’ button.  That’s not just an efficient
idea. It also means you can focus on interaction
(eye gaze, smiling, nodding, etc) more than access. 

Now that’s what we call a story with a happy ending. 

DON’T FORGET TO SHARE OR LIKE THIS TIP ON FACEBOOK

(AND IF YOU HAVE PRIVACY SETTINGS ON, SEND US AN EMAIL SO WE KNOW TO INCLUDE YOU!)

Welcome back to #TotalTalkTuesday

Each Tuesday, we share a great tip from communication experts!

Share the post on Facebook and have a chance to win a free copy of Total Talk!

This week's #TotalTalkTuesdayTip is from Pati King-DeBaun.

Pati has written several books and software programs, including the Storytime Series, Emergent Literacy Success,  Progressing Monitoring Assessment, Tango to Literacy, and Tango Assessment.  She has developed Apps including the Adapted Play Book Series, MyOwnBooks2go and AAC2go Apps. Pati also owns Creative Communicating, which produces materials and provides consultation services.


MAKING FRIENDS IS ABOUT MORE THAN MAKING SENTENCES.

 

Working with so many early communicators, I’ve seen that we often focus on the work of language instead of the wonder of it. With all the focus we put on language, we sometimes forget about the importance of conversation skills. And yet they are also so important when we look at the entire picture of successful communication.

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When you work with children, especially those who are non-verbal and learning literacy, there is going to be some frustration - that's to be expected. Just be sure to balance it with fun, desirable activities!

Create some easy phrases with real personality options. Let the child show who they are through their communication.  Sassy, demanding, humorous, naughty, etc. all are a part of who an individual is. And make sure there is easy access to those phrases all of the time.

Just as you would model sentence building, you can also model phrases at appropriate times. Remember to provide communication opportunities that are real and motivating by listening to what their peers are saying in order to help others fit into their peer group. These interactions need to be fast and easy. 

Life with disabilities is, of course, a challenge. But when we do our jobs with joy, positive energy, and thoughtful preparation, we can lower the bar - and raise the roof!


TOTAL TALK SUPPORTS NOT ONLY THE DEVELOPMENT OF GREAT LANGUAGE, BUT ALSO OF GREAT ENERGY AND GREAT RELATIONSHIPS!

We’ve created a communication system that marries strong generative language building with innovative social tools, like jokesstories, and “my stuff” foldersAnd we’ve created a remarkable interface that makes it so easy to learn and access that important communication.

Total Talk features a super intuitive editing interface that makes it fast and easy to customize language or create exercises for an individual.

Total Talk also features PCS Persona symbols, which offer the ultimate advantage in social capital. These symbols take into account the need to combine strong communication of a word’s meaning as well as a strong positive impact in how someone is perceived by a communication partner.

DON’T FORGET TO SHARE THIS TIP ON FACEBOOK
(AND IF YOU HAVE PRIVACY SETTINGS ON, SEND US AN EMAIL SO WE KNOW TO INCLUDE YOU!)

 

Welcome to #TotalTalkTuesdays

Each Tuesday, a leader in the AAC Community will offer a tip.
Share this post on Facebook and have a chance to win a free copy of Total Talk!

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This week's #TotalTalkTuesdayTip is from Richard Ellenson. 

 

Richard put together the team that created Total Talk. He was also the founder of Blink Twice, which developed the Tango, and served for one year as the Chief Vision Officer at Dynavox.

Richard's son, Thomas, has Cerebral Palsy. He uses a power wheelchair and he also uses Total Talk.

Richard said, "Having disabilities certainly presents people with challenges. But we should never forget the many joys and successes that can also be celebrated. Making sure those things are shared, not only leads to better communication, but often better lives.


When you create Personal Information,
don’t forget to show personality :)

The first thing people often do when getting an AAC device is to put in personal information. A name. An address. Favorite things. And key questions, like “What’s your name?”

That’s a great first step. But here's a way to go further and help a young user show that wonderful personality you've been able to see. 

 

 

Don’t just say, “Name is Bill."

Try “Hey, my name is Bill. Now, don’t you forget it!” 

Or maybe “Hi. I’m Bill. And I’m a Yankee fan.” 

Or maybe, "I’m Bill. It’s cool to meet you! What’s your name and what music do you like?”

 

Any of those are likely to do more than provide information. They’ll provide a chance for conversation. And that’s how relationships begin.

Or instead of giving a simple address, try - “Hi. I live on Blue Hill Avenue. We have the yellow house. My parents think it’s a good color! What color is your house?"

Let us know what you think. Send us your ideas so we can share with others!
And…. see you next Tuesday!

Each week, we will randomly select one name from our FB shares and let that person know they have won a free copy of Total Talk.