Friday, February 8, 2013

February Feature: See it! Hear it! Say it!

Today's guest post is from a blogging buddy of mine. CC, or Cheri as we now know her thanks to her recent ASHA publication, blogs at If only I had Super Powers. Thanks for the guest post Cheri! 

See it! Hear it! Say it!

I work with a number of students who have a few words. They may become increasingly verbal as they get older, but they may not.  Their parents and teachers want them to learn to use verbal words and I support that that is a good plan. In spite of this, I pull out the voice output.

I used to pull create many boards to go on the Go Talk low-tech voice output device. The problems were: creating the boards was tiring, the paper would get shredded as I pulled it in an out of the device over and over, I'd have to re-record myself for each board, and I have no printer to whip up a new board.  My awesome new solution is to use my new iPad with my voice for simple picture choices.

Why use visuals with voice output with early communicators?

1. Visuals are easier for some children to understand. Because visuals are stable and not fleeting (the way that auditory input is), many students can memorize a consistent picture.  Students with poor attention or slow processing may need the stability of a visual, rather than the momentary sounds of a verbal for vocabulary and concepts to be learned.

2. Visuals that remain in a constant grid can be memorized. A student may not understand what those funny lines are in the lower right corner, but if every time she presses that button she gets a marker, eventually the placement of the button may be memorized. I have had students that have no clue what that little bald kid from Boardmaker means on my grid, but have learned over time that they press that button every day during circle to greet the teacher. It lets them participate and have a role in the group.

3. Voice output is motivating. Kids love to hear voices. They push buttons ad nauseam, just to hear a voice.  Ask any mother of a toddler.  I have several "reluctant" speakers that can be motivated to participate in activitives only when they get to push the voice output buttons. I have to hold out the device like a cookie and tell them to "use their words".

4. Voice output reinforces the auditory words. The more that the students hear the words, the more likely they will understand them, and (hopefully) want to repeat them.  Auditory bombardment of sounds is used to help articulation students learn sounds. Auditory bombardment of words (with visuals!) can be used to help language students learn words. Just be warned that, like that annoying Barney song, this can backfire and the student can start saying the words over and over to you!

5. Visuals with voice output works! One of my favorite activities is to sit with a minimally verbal student and do an art project. I let them tell me (with visuals and voice output) what materials to use, how to stick things together, what colors to use, what shapes to cut out. It is so much fun to give the students the power to decide on their own what to do next. And for those that cannot decide or discriminate between words, it is easy to guide them and help them make a choice by narrowing the field to 2 (or 1), while still having them "tell" me what we will do next. When I can complete an activity like this with a student, then I feel like I have really done my job. you that you some of the benefit, how do you go about using voice output for early communicators if you don't have a few hundred extra dollars lying around for a low tech device?

If you have access to an iPad, then you are all set!

But here are some more important questions:

  • How can you make your iPad into a device in which students can get voice output with just a few grid-like visual choices? 
  • And is it possible for you to change from screen to screen 100x faster than you ever could with the low tech device? 
  • And can you get unlimited levels? 
  • And is there a way to get all of this for FREE??? 
  • As a bonus, can you use pictures and symbols that the students are already familiar with???

Learn here!

This entire tutorial was created with screen shots from my computer and iPad and then text and symbols were added using Skitch (I figured that I'd learn something new while teaching you something new!).

Yes, this will take a little bit of time to get your downloads and try this out the first time. But after you do this once or twice you'll love it! It motivates students and increases accessibility for all students dramatically!


Please sign up for Dropbox using this link and then I get some extra free space!










Please do it! Try it! Let me know how it goes!!!

CC has been blogging since dinosaurs ruled the earth at If Only I Had Super Powers. She was also featured in the November 2012 ASHA Leader. You can follow her Facebook page here or contact her at