Strategy

AAC Mentors

AAC Partner Modeling

UDL 5.3

AAC Mentors are students who are experienced Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) users that serve as peer coaches to other students that are learning to use the same or similar communication systems. AAC includes all forms of communication, other than oral speech, that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants and ideas. A teacher, along with a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), work together to strategically partner students that are skilled and experienced AAC users with novice users. The instructors then support the AAC Mentor in demonstrating how to use the AAC system and modeling effective communication strategies. In addition to acting as a peer coach, AAC Mentors can serve as an exemplar to family members and professionals of what proficiency with the system looks like. Lines of similarity in age and communication methods make AAC Mentors a powerful source of inspiration for students learning to navigate Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Implementation Tips

Identifying AAC Mentors
Look for students that demonstrate a high degree of confidence with their AAC systems when identifying potential AAC Mentors. An SLP can administer an assessment (e.g., [[https://www.ou.edu/content/dam/Education/documents/miscellaneous/air-self-determination-scale-student-form.pdf | AIR assessment]]) to determine an AAC user’s self-perceived level of proficiency.
Identifying AAC Mentees
Solicit a student’s level of interest, when possible, in partnering with an AAC Mentor. Collaborate with an SLP to help assess whether or not a student is likely to benefit from observing a peer with a similar communication system.
Planning Mentoring Sessions
Work with the AAC Mentor to plan the content of the mentoring sessions. Include opportunities for explicit instruction on how to use the device for each of the different situations that the mentee will encounter (e.g., conversation, choice making, academic, games).
Informal Mentoring
Include opportunities for the mentee to observe the mentor applying the modeled strategies in action (e.g., mentee observes mentor having a social conversation with a friend). Seeing the mentor in action can further motivate and invest the mentee in the mentoring process.
Promoting Retention
Follow up AAC Mentor sessions by practicing without the mentor present. The additional practice will promote carryover and also ensure the mentee is not becoming over-reliant on the mentor.
Modeling Mindsets
Encourage mentors to share their personal experiences, both positive and negative. In addition to teaching the nuts and bolts of navigating a particular AAC system, mentors can inspire their mentees to overcome challenges related to using less traditional methods of communication.
Involving Key Partners
Include a mentee’s family, other teachers and therapists that work with the student in AAC Mentoring sessions. Have an SLP present who can highlight effective ways the AAC Mentor is using the communication system for those that are working to support the student being mentored.
Ongoing Monitoring
Debrief the mentoring sessions with both the mentor and mentee to make sure both students continue to benefit from the experience. Use the students' feedback, careful monitoring and the support of an SLP to determine what is working well and what may need to be adjusted.

Examples

Social Conversation
An AAC Mentor has been working with a mentee on how to engage in social conversations with classmates. In particular, they have been focusing on sentence and question formulation. Previously, the mentee has been utilizing single pre-programmed words to comment and respond during conversation (e.g., “yes”; “no”; “great”; “me too”). The mentee is now practicing with a classmate, while the AAC Mentor joins for support. The classmate asks the mentee, “What is your favorite color?” The AAC Mentor assists (e.g., through pointing, gesturing, eye gaze) the mentee in locating the “Favorites” folder on the AAC device. The mentee independently selects the icons “My favorite” + “color is green” from the pre-programmed phrases in the folder. The mentor continues to assist the mentee in formulating the question, “What is your favorite color?” using the pre-programmed folders within the device.
Structured Language Game
The AAC Mentor has been working with a mentee to navigate pre-programmed folders on a new AAC device. The AAC users are practicing by playing a guessing game with animal cards facing down in a pile on the table. The mentor picks up an animal card and then uses a Dynamic Display Communication Board to provide clues to the mentee. The AAC Mentor navigates through the multiple folders in the device (e.g., animals, syntax, describing, habitats) to deliver the clues, “The animal is green, has a shell, and lives in the water.” The Mentor is sure to navigate the folders slowly and within view of the mentee so that the mentee can follow along visually. Then, the mentor points to the “Animals” folder on the mentee’s device. The mentee opens the “Animals” folder and selects the “ Sea Turtle” icon.

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