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What is PODD?

• A language organization system

• A system offering light-tech and high-tech options that realizes the need for both

• A system that provides access in all access methods and language options for all language levels

• A system that includes core words and predictably associated vocabulary

• A system designed to grow as language develops systematically from early functions to complex syntax while maintaining learned patterns

• A system where sentences are made across the page, so words locations are highly predictable  

• A system that uses pragmatic branches to mark the intents of messages for early communicators the way those who speak do through gesture and intonation

• A system that keeps the areas of many words

• A system designed for aided language input, discourse, and conversation

• A system that won't feel so cumbersome once you see how it can support authentic, meaningful communication

• A system like any other that gets more comfortable as you become familiar

P - Pragmatic: the ways that we use language socially and with purpose

O - Organisation: words and symbols arranged in a systematic way

DD - Dynamic Display: changing pages for a wide vocabulary and range of statements


PODD is a way of organizing a whole word and symbol vocabulary in a communication book or speech-generating device. This way, expression and understanding of the language for people with complex communication needs become possible.

There are many different types of PODDs, so the one to use will depend on their communication needs. In addition, everyone has other communication preferences and abilities. Therefore, PODDs can have different formats, depending on the user's individual physical, sensory, and communication needs.



Why should you use a PODD?

- For "all the time" communication strategy.

- To access a more extensive vocabulary of words.

- To choose messages that suit each situation.




How to use PODD?


- Use it all the time.

- Bring it everywhere!

- Remember, everyone is different.

The pragmatic branches (e.g., asking a question) used in the early and expanded function, PODDs give users a method to set the underlying intention of a message for their listeners. It provides communication partners context for whatever words come next. Communicators do this through vocal intonation, eye gaze, and gestures. It is one of the unique ways PODD accommodates AAC users with complex needs, physical challenges, and sensory processing differences.


What is Verbal Referencing?

• A strategy in which a partner describes a communication behavior they observe, as well as their interpretation of it 

• Helpful for teaching new movements for communication

• Verbal Referencing provides the student with feedback on body movement in space, partner perspective, and own strength in interaction

• A helpful strategy for maintaining partner attention when communication is slow or effortful


AAC shouldn't feel like work!

Don't make AAC feel like work! It won't become their voice if it feels like work.

We want to teach communication functions, vocabulary, and grammar. The AAC user needs to see other people use AAC to talk about things they find interesting.

When teaching AAC, we focus on the device and forget that we are all multi-modal communicators. All methods of communication have their place, depending on whom you're talking to and the context. We should respond to all forms of communication. 


If we ask for an individual to repeat it using AAC, we teach that AAC is work. If AAC is work, how can it be their voice? Respond to their communication by referring verbally to it and modeling language on their AAC that reflects that intention. Respond to communication and demonstrate the target skill.⁣


What's the problem with prompting in AAC?

Prompts and cues get discussed a lot when it comes to teaching AAC. We have so many things we want to teach. We have good intentions, but we have to be careful.



- It's their voice! We can guess based on context. We might get it right, close, or be totally off base. When we propose language that does not match their internal thought, we teach them that the device isn't their voice. We teach them that it's another task other people impose on them.

- When we use much communication prompts, we also teach our learners to be responders, not initiators. Everything we want for them in the long term requires that they initiate their thoughts. Our teaching needs to reflect that.

- How do our learners understand our prompts and cues? How do they begin to think about us? Are we helpful? Are we annoying? Are we no longer fun to interact with? Communication is about relationships. 

Things to consider about prompts when teaching AAC:


1. Sometimes, a perfect pause is all that's needed. Stop the action, look expectantly at the learner, and wait silently. 

2. It's crucial to consider both the type of prompt (e,g., gestural, verbal, physical) and how much information it provides to the learner. 

3. Prompts can speed up the learning process with some help from an experienced clinician. However, as soon as we begin using them, we should plan to fade them, so the AAC learner becomes more independent.

4. Prompting hierarchy

Using a prompting hierarchy is ideal when more than one person is available. This allows one person to be a communication assistant and the other to be a communication partner.




Give the AAC user time to respond or the opportunity to initiate discussion. 


Indirect Nonverbal Prompt


Use body language to indicate to the AAC user that something is expected (e.g. expectant facial expression).


Indirect Verbal Prompt


Use an open-ended question which tells the AAC user that something is expected but nothing too special: "What should we do next?".


Request a response 


If there is still no response, you can try to direct the AAC user more specifically: "Tell me what you want."


Gestural Cue


You can point to the symbol or tap your finger there for several seconds to get the AAC user started with their message.


Partial Verbal Prompt


If there is still no response, give them part of the expected response.


Direct Model


If the AAC user still doesn't respond, you can tell the child what to say. Pause and wait for the AAC user to respond in some way with their device.


Physical Assistance 


Provide hand-over-hand assistance to help the AAC user to form the message using their device.


Functional Communication

For most children, functional communication begins to arise in the first year of life with gestures. It is expanded on in the following years with words and, later, simple sentences. However, this may happen much later for children with speech and language delays. 



What is it?

• Requesting what you want

• Expressing your opinions and preferences 

• Protesting undesired actions, events, items

• Asking questions to get information about your life and topics that interest you

• Disagreeing, complaining, negotiating, telling people off

• Self-advocating and making decisions related to your own life 

• Talking about personal experiences and the world around you

• Establishing and growing relationships with others

• Literacy - the ability to read and write allows complete communication autonomy

• Using language to regulate yourself and your environment, as well as to direct others


What is not?

• Asking for things

• Limited language that is selected  by someone other than the communicator

• Limited to topics related to physical needs and activities of daily living

Who needs to work on Functional Communication?

Any child who struggles to get his basic wants and needs met by communicating those needs to others would benefit from working on functional communication. This may be a child who is non-verbal (or who doesn't speak yet) or who simply doesn't have enough words to get their message across. Sometimes, a child may have such low speech production that they try to speak but cannot be understood. Children also need to be taught to use a functional communication system to reduce frustration and provide them with alternative communication methods. 


How do you work on Functional Communication?

A speech-language pathologist best addresses Functional Communication. Suppose your child struggles to communicate his basic wants and needs. In that case, you should seek out a certified speech-language pathologist for assistance. However, the following presents an overview of what a speech-language pathologist may do for a child with functional communication needs.


Independence vs. Autonomy


May limit autonomy:

• restored or limited words may mean the message doesn't match an inner thought 

• some devices may allow independence, but not novel message generation
It may not be possible all the time. For example, some AAC users can be independent with high-tech but need a competent partner to support access to a robust light-tech option.

Important, but frequently overestimated. When independence is the primary goal, communication autonomy can be compromised. 


• Saying what you want to say. 


• Choose how you will communicate (device, gesture, eye gaze, body language).


• Choosing when to say something, but also choosing not to.


• May not always be independent.


• Request access to and instruction for robust language and spelling.


• Likely requires multiple AAC options.


• It doesn't need to be highly sophisticated. If you choose signs instead of language, that's autonomous. It's just crucial that you have the choice. 


What makes an AAC system robust?

Characteristics to look for:

- Lots of words with both core and fringe vocabulary and enough variety to allow for an individual style.

- Many different kinds of words (nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives).

- Ability to communicate a wide range of communicative functions. For example, comment, ask questions and protest.

- An organization that supports a flow of conversation.

- Options to help grammar. For example, verb tenses, plurals, comparatives, and possessives.

- Option for preprogrammed messages for frequently used phrases, advocacy, and self-talk.

- An organization that maintains a motor plan as much as possible to support efficient access. 

- Options to grow language over time.

- Access to the entire alphabet and word prediction.

- An organization that accommodates an individual's access method.

- It can be available at any time (high tech and low tech options).


Light-tech AAC is not just a back-up!

Everyone using AAC needs a paper-based alternative to complement their high-tech device. They give the AAC user another option to pick from: communicate whatever, whenever, and however they want. It is one of the methods to make sure that they always have a way to communicate. Moreover, a paper-based system also has many advantages.


Light-tech AAC advantages:

• Light-tech supports rely on help from human associates. These associates can accommodate the AAC user in ways that a computer cannot. For example, they can provide extra time and interpret selections that are in-between locations. They can also respond to non-verbal communication that might indicate an error.

• Paper-based supports are affordable.

• They can be made highly durable and waterproof.

• They never run out of batteries.

• For AAC users that access their system using scanning, light-tech AAC can provide a way to communicate. At the same time, they work to develop the motor skills necessary for switch scanning.

• It's relatively easy to create.

• It can be used in demanding environments (full sunlight, bath time, beach). You can also use it if a high-tech device fails.

• All AAC takes time. Light-tech AAC gives partners a way to participate actively, which increases their attention and engagement with the AAC user. 




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