Welcome to spring!
Welcome to the spring newsletter! Let’s talk about family roles. I feel that families need to be what drives the bus because if you don’t have a good communication line with the family you will have a hard time. Each family looks different. They might have one parent or two and/or step parents. They might have grandparents who are very important to the family, and siblings are overlooked a lot, too. Communication is important with everyone; please remember everyone when you are teaching the device. Siblings are the longest communication partner that a person will have, but they can be forgotten in training. If you have access to siblings, please do training. Make it understandable and fun for them. Remember that some families have parents that might be scared about the device, but the older brother or sister, is really into AAC. They are your go to person to get the parents on the communication bus!! I hope you will start training the whole family!!
AAC knowledge is a powerful tool for parents
As a parents we sometime are so busy in providing for the day to day needs of our AAC communicators that we forget (or maybe are just too exhausted from everything else) to make ongoing learning about AAC a priority. There are so many great resources available from in person conferences to on line learning. Mike and I are both involved with AAC in the Cloud, June 25 and 26 sponsored by Cough Drop. It is an on line conference. The company has an interesting back story. The founders named their company Cough Drop because they would like to see AAC as inexpensive and common as cough drops. Now that is a goal I can get behind. Mental Health is a huge focus for school and communities. I cannot wait until May 8th to listen to USSAAC webinar on Mental Health and the Complex Communicator Needs (check out USSAAC website). The dates for Closing Gap are set for October 2 thru the 4. It is in Prior Lake Minnesota. It is a premier AAC conference just seven hours away from Appleton. The vendor hall is filled with everything AAC and a great chance to check out new devices and resources to support the communicator. It is a chance to actually see and try out some of the latest in AAC solutions. The vendor hall is open to non-attendees but really think about going to the conference at least once. You will have so many great presentations to choose from to fill your day. The conference was started by the parents of a child with complex communication needs. The parents were frustrated with the lack of resources and information so created the conference to showcase options and solutions. It has grown to one of the biggest AAC conferences in the US. If you go make sure you attend one of the parent orientation meetings. It will help you get the most out of the conference. So make plans to join Mike and me at Closing the Gap this year. Remember all the device manufacturers’ websites have great resources too. Therapists please give your student’s parents a little nudge to further their knowledge and share conference, webinar information with them.
Here are two book titles with a character or story line relating to ACC. It is important for AAC communicators to feel connected to others by reading about characters that use devices. So read a book to them or let them read it to themselves. School staff please share titles with your libraries. If these types of books are in the library and available to classmates to read it may increase classmate’s awareness and understanding of AAC.
Window Boy is geared for sixth grade and up. The author is Andrea White. This book is about a boy who has CP growing up in 1968. It was rare for a student with a disability to be included. Sam’s mother convinces the school to let Sam enter the sixth grade. Sam gets to go to his local school for the first time. His caregiver Miss Perkins is a caring and loving lady who will do anything for Sam. She often spends more time with Sam than his mother. Miss Perkins is from England. She spends hours reading to Sam about Winston Churchill. Sam loves Winston Churchill and has imaginary discussions with Winne. These discussion help Sam overcome his disability. His favorite sport is basketball. The title of the book comes from him sitting in his wheelchair looking out the window of his apartment where he watched kids play basketball. Once he got to go to school, he met friends, but everything changes when his mother met a new boyfriend. The book addresses many prejudices, old beliefs about what people with disabilities can do. Some parts of the book are sad and emotionally charged but Sam does win in the end. Please read the Afterword section too.
Private Eye Romeo Riley-The Boy Who Saw Too Much is geared for first grade and up. The author is April M Whitt. The book is a three book series with a boy who has CP and uses a communication device. He goes around solving mysteries so calls himself private eye Romeo. This is a great book to read to a new device communicator or their class. The way it addresses mishits on a device is cool.
How do I know if my child will be eligible for obtaining an AAC device or speech generating device (SGD) through medical insurance, such as Wisconsin Medicaid?
Medical insurance, such as Wisconsin Medicaid, require that SGD meet the criteria for durable medical equipment (DME). SGD that are DME support communication and do not offer other functions associated with regular computers or tablets such as web access or games. At this time, Wisconsin Medicaid will not pay for off the shelf devices such as iPads. Some SGD manufacturers and venders use iPads and other tablets in creating their SGD and they implement needed modifications so that their devices meet DME criteria. They disable features not needed for communication, such as accessing games or the web. Some manufacturers and venders may offer families an option to pay to unlock these features after the SGD is purchased through insurance. It is important to note that Wisconsin Medicaid and Medicare cover SGD when their purchase criteria is met but private health plans including HMOs vary in terms of what they will cover related to SGD. Families should speak with a representative of their private insurance company or HMO to determine any coverage options they offer related to funding SGD.
Medical insurance that offers coverage for SGD will often have specific process and documentation requirements in order to approve a recommended SGD. The current guidelines from Wisconsin Medicaid can be found at this link: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/publications/p1/p11065.pdf
Wisconsin Medicaid and most insurance companies require documentation from a speech-language pathologist (SLP) holding a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from ASHA. The SLP’s report will include information about SGD considered and why the features of the recommended SGD are appropriate for the skills and needs of the child. The report must provide information about the child’s medical need (medical necessity) for the SGD and document that the SGD supported enhanced communication and expressive language skills (functional use). For most children, the evaluation will be a process rather than a single evaluation session. The evaluation process may include a rental period using the SGD. A rental period may be needed for some children to confirm that the recommended SGD is the appropriate option for them. A rental period can provide the SLP, family and team with additional opportunities to teach the child new skills and to document changes in communication for the report. The SLP’s documentation will be submitted to the SGD vender. The vender submits the documentation and request for funding to Wisconsin Medicaid and/or other insurance companies. The request for funding of the recommended SGD may be approved, returned for additional information, or denied. If the funding request is denied, families have the option to appeal the denial decision. It should be noted that most companies that sell SGD have a variety of resources for families and teams on their websites, including report templates and guidance about what documentation needs to be submitted to them. Many SGD venders also have representatives that may be available for additional assistance during the evaluation and funding process.
Our AAC tip-check out tarheelgameplay.org
They have games everyone can play. If you have a tip or a helpful website share it with the Network so we can include it in our next newsletter.
Wrapping up a year of WATRN
Approximately one year ago four members of the school committee of the Wisconsin AAC Network had a vision for developing a professional learning network that would bring Wisconsin back to a place where AT/AAC professionals are created, developed and supported in order to provide a high quality of AT/AAC services to all students with disabilities throughout Wisconsin. Mike Hipple, Sharon Redmon, Kelsey Osten, and Jennifer Schubring brought this vision to life and organized the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Regional Network (WATRN).
WATRN set out to host quarterly meetings throughout the state. In the first year WATRN expanded from three regions in the Summer of 2018 to seven regions by the Spring of 2019. Summer meetingshelped to set the foundation for the remainder of the year, and spread information about this grassroots, volunteer effort to build educator’s capacity in AT and AAC. The topic of the fall meeting was “Best Practices in AAC.” Tobii Dynavox was invited to share information about their products and attendees were able to get hands-on time with the Tobii Dynavox products. The winter meetings proved challenging due to the weather, but we persevered and learned more about the difference between instructional technology and assistive technology, how to write AT into the IEP, and Prentke Romich Company (PRC) shared their products with us. Our spring meetings focused on switch skills and alternative access. AbleNet’s AT kits were on-hand at all of thee meeting and attendees learned more about their products. Did you know that if you have an AbleNet device that is no longer working that you can send it in to be recycled and receive a 30% discount on new equipment?
Additionally, the founding members of WATRN reflected on their journey with the host of Talking with Tech, Christopher Bugaj. Check out the podcast (https://xceptionaled.com/podcasts/talking-with-tech-podcast/) and learn more about the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Regional Network.
Make sure you “like” the WI AAC Network Facebook page or watch the website for more information about the 2019-2020 school year WATRN meetings! You won’t want to miss these FREE meetings for school professionals. Come and expand your professional learning network and join fellow educators with an interest in AT and AAC in your area!