Since the pandemic, teachers and therapists have worked harder than ever before. It is not easy to make online AAC implementation fun and effective. We at TechOWL have the utmost respect for all of you! This post is meant to provide some resources for you to explore. It will be especially helpful to pre-service students and new therapists. Find what works for you. You might want to explore these ideas even if you are currently working in person. You don’t know when you might need them. Here is a sampling of tools and how they may be used to enhance learning in the online environment. Do you have some to add? Please list them in the comments below. We may add them to the body of the article. With credit, of course!
Core Boards for AAC Modeling
If you or your student don’t have an AAC system to work with, you can begin modeling on a core vocabulary communication board. If you have access to a laminator, send some core boards to your student’s family and start a conversation about the power they have to impact their child’s language development.
If the student has access to a high tech system (and you don’t) print out a light tech board that matches. You could then use a document camera (or your phone on a stand) to show the light tech board and model AAC. The following links take you to free printables.
Virtual Core Board Background for Zoom Meetings
Saltillo has free printables for TouchChat HD with WordPower. These resources include a core board background for use during Zoom meetings. Download the virtual background here.
You can also screenshot the homepage of the student’s app and import the image as a virtual background into Zoom.
For some older computers, you can’t add a virtual background without a green screen, but they are not too hard to make. You can buy a piece of fabric to hang on the wall behind you. There are also green screen paints.
AAC Language Software
With AAC editing software, you may be able to model AAC by screen sharing from your computer. If you are working from a Windows machine, you can download PRC’s PASS software for the LAMP app and Unity language system.
For TouchChat or NovaChat, download Chat software from the PRC-Saltillo website. These companies have merged, but they still maintain some separate resources on the web.
Play Backgrounds for Virtual Therapy
Play SparkToys has free backgrounds for use with common early childhood games, songs, and stories.
Mirror your iPad on a Zoom Call
You are probably familiar with the Share Screen feature in Zoom. It is not hard to share the screen of your iPad or iPhone. How you do it depends on the operating system your computer uses.
Using a Macbook:
you can share your iPad or iPhone screen by using AirPlay.
In Zoom, click Share. Choose the iPad/iPhone option and share. Go to your iPad and open the Control Center. For a device running iOS 12 or later, swipe down from the top right of the screen. Choose Zoom-Macbook. Once launched, you can show your AAC app on the Zoom call. Pretty awesome. You can also share your iPad screen by plugging the iPad into your MacBook with a lightning adapter.
Other Operating Systems
If you have a Windows laptop, you may need to download an app, such as LonelyScreen or Reflector to connect your device.
Using Assistive Touch to Model on the iPad
One problem with screen sharing is that your student can’t see where you are touching the screen. Don’t worry! There is an awesome work around for this.Go into iPad Settings. You will be using Assistive Touch to place a pointer on the screen. You can find Assistive Touch under accessibility settings:
Settings → Accessibility → Touch → Assistive Touch → Create Custom Gesture (Tap the screen) → Name and save → Toggle on Assistive Touch
Now, go back into the AAC app. Tap the button and select Custom Gesture. You will then choose Pointer. Now, the pointer will show up anywhere you tap the screen! This is great for modeling over Zoom.
Sound confusing? Here is a video that shows you how to set this up. Thanks to
Seeing Your Student’s Device
How do you see what your student is doing on their device. One of the easiest ways around this is to ask the parent to join the Zoom meeting on their smartphone. They can then show you their child’s device. This may have the added benefit of keeping everyone focused on what the student is communicating.
Bitmoji Therapy Rooms
Most of us are familiar with Bitmojis. These customized images have been used all over social media for years. Did you know that you can use Bitmojis to make an online classroom? You can embed your image in a Powerpoint slide. On that slide, you may choose to import a cartoon image of a classroom or therapy space. Don’t stop there! You can add bookshelves, a desk, a cup of coffee, or a sleeping puppy. This seems like a great way to engage your students, right? You can also embed actions into these images. Imagine placing a book on your virtual desk. Add a link that takes your student to a video of you reading the book.
Hello Teacher Lady has written a blog post that gives you “How tos” for embedding Bitmoji classrooms into different types of platforms:
Stuck at Home with Nowhere to Go
Teaching AAC is not about drill, rinse, repeat. It is hard to model communication without something to talk about. Communication can be layered into daily routines and preferred topics, but sometimes you just need to do something new. Here is a list of webcams that you can visit from the safety of your home.
Just when we thought we couldn’t love the folks at UNC any more, they have added games to their online resources. For a long time, Tarheel Reader has allowed us to create, share, and read switch-accessible books. We can now play games as well. Tarheel gameplay can be used with one or two switches and can be played in the Chrome web browser.
Lessonpix has added some amazing tools! You can add your own symbols to game templates and then use game pieces to play the games online. There is now a play tools tab above your symbol tray. Create custom spinners, draw pictures from a hat, or set a timer.
And when you import your materials into Powerpoint, you can still use the spinner widget. You will need to remain in edit mode to move your game pieces, so use Preview not Present mode. Now you can play a game with your student online!
While not free, Lessonpix remains one of the most fun and cost effective tools on the web. Beyond playing games, you can also create a variety of materials, including Core boards and device overlays.
There is so much more to learn! You can use online annotation tools, whiteboards, and share cursor control with an older student. For younger kids, you can watch wordless videos on Youtube and talk about what you see (commenting is powerful!). Below, we have compiled a list of some webinars which can help a new clinician get up to speed in a virtual environment. Do you have resources you would like to share? Please leave them in the comments below!
Attention Grabbing – Tools and Ideas for Virtual Language Learning with Rachel Madel and Lauren Enders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ6KY-YqxCU
AAC and Teletherapy with Rachel Madel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEY6ymEP4ZE
Tara roehl on Using Lesson Pix for SLP Teletherapy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFasJlkJydo
LessonPix Live: Games People Play with Chris Bugaj and Beth Poss: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPmYk2EiqbU
Online learning with AAC (Proloquo2Go): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86Y4B8filOA
Ten Ideas for Virtual AAC Modeling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmlSvvuRqsg
Sara Gregory on Teletherapy ideas for modeling AAC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYAvV1Ipz1k&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3uLJE23J8qdjotJer1qudEDzwrZWr3Bo-YblxkOXzn_Vv1KPx5TfwT8tU