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Summer 2022 Newsletter

Summer 2022 Newsletter

Welcome to the WI AAC Network summer newsletter by Mike Hipple.

When I was a kid, we couldn’t get through a year without a terrible thing happened to our country. Between 9 11, the war in The Middle East, Virginia killing, political things, and many more events. You might think that keeping AAC Communicators away from the news would be a good thing to do and you are helping them so they don’t know about the bad events in the world. I understand that, but let’s look at this and discuss it. When 9 11 happened I was just six, my teachers and my parents just told me that a crash happened and people died, but I was safe and God was watching over me. I remember feeling calm and confident that I had God, my teachers, my aide, and my family were all watching over me to keep me safe. I think that is what children with and without a communication disability need the most to have someone tell them that it is okay and they are safe. 

Regardless of their communication level, give them the opportunity to talk about what happened. Meet them at their level and respond to their emotions.  Reassure them to ask questions to you or anyone about the event and share how they are feeling. School professionals, if you are having a class discussion, give the AAC Communicator the questions ahead of time so they can type up their thoughts and feelings. We all need to remember that sometimes it is hard to start talking about these things, but we do and we need to let AAC Communicators do it too.

Mike Hipple

Included in this issue are:

  • Welcome by Mike Hipple
  • Online News Sources
  • News from the Waisman Center
  • New book featuring an AAC communicator
  • Wisconsin family shares their AAC journey-meet the Notstad family


Contributed by Kelly Fonner, www.kellyfonner.com

There are many online sources of news. Some sites have been created with grade-leveled reading versions of online news. There are also websites for K-12 students that have had accessibility features such as leveled versions of the news, accompanying fringe communication boards and symbolated text. Please note: symbolated text is a much discussed issue in the literacy and disability field with supporters and opponents to completely symbolated text. These differing views are based upon using symbols to provide access to literacy materials for those who cannot read, versus having no symbols with text for developing readers following guidance from recent research that shows that symbols attached with every word can be a barrier to learning to read. It is important to explore these issues for yourself. Just as in every decision about providing accommodations through assistive technologies, it is critical to look at each person’s situation, their strengths and their purpose for using accommodations and adaptations. In this case it is with the purpose of accessing the news. It may not be everyone’s purpose to learn to read while accessing the news.

A recent article on Common Sense Education posted the 16 Best News Sites for Students. You can find that article with descriptions, reviews and links to the sites at https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-news-websites-for-students. Many of these sites have free versions or trial version before you subscribe to their news service.

The sites that are included in the Common Sense Education article include:

Here are some commonly used news sites that have symbol accommodations:

  • News-2-You (company: N2Y – https://www.n2y.com/news2you/) News-2-You is a subscription based current events news app of the N2Y webset of products (https://www.n2y.com/). It is weekly during the school year and monthly during the summer months. This newspaper can be read online with a built-in electronic reader or downloaded to a PDF version that can be electronically read or printed. News is presented in a theme and available in 5 versions (simplified, regular, advanced, higher, and text only). Each issue contains 3 to 5 pages of news content, and accompanying activities such as comprehension questions, crossword puzzles, cooking recipes, crafts, and vocabulary reviews. With the subscription also comes access to the online games within Joey’s Locker; news related Activities, Holiday section, the ability to create your own classroom or personal Daily News; and individual articles on current events with the world in Breaking News. Each edition is accompanied by a fringe communication board that can be accessed electronically or printed.
  • home screen from news 2 you online newspaper
  • Symbol World (company: Widgit – https://symbolworld.org/) This free online news source is produced out of London, England, by the Widgit company (https://www.widgit.com/) that also makes products for symbolated reading, writing and internet access. Their news is international and is presented in 8 categories (eLive News, Science, Time/Place, Lifestyle, Entertainment, People, Sports and Stories. There are often several stories included each week that take place in the US. The news is continuously updated by both the Widgit company and by readers who author the movie reviews and other contributions to current events. Often new articles are uploaded on Tuesdays. You can print individual articles or reading with most audio supported reading tools.
home screen from symbol world


On Saturday, October 15th 2022, the Waisman Center will be hosting the Day with the Experts on AAC from 9:00-11:00 a.m.  The event will be hosted at the Waisman Center and will be live broadcast for attendees to join in-person or virtually, and will include presentations from experts in the field of AAC as well as a panel with AAC clinicians and Augmented Communicators.  Further details on the presentations and ways to register will be sent out in August 2022 and posted on the Waisman Center website at https://www.waisman.wisc.edu/events/

We hope to see you there!


Out of my heart by Sharon Draper

Parents and therapists are you looking for books that feature AAC communicators check out this book by the author of Out of my mind Sharon’s first book.  Both books feature middle schooler  Melody Brooks who uses an AAC device(they term it a Medi-talker) that she just happened to name Elvira.  The book is about summer camp.  Melody learns about camp Green Glades at the local library. She has never been away from home so she has to do a lot of talking to convince her Mom and Dad to let her go. They do finally consent and she is off on quite the camp adventure.  Sharon uses a neat technique bolding Melody’s conversations in the story so your communicators can really identify with Melody.  Your teenage girls will love it but I think the boys will like it too, as the boy’s cabin competes with the girls cabin in several camp activities. Enjoy the rest of the summer with this good read.

Sue Hipple


Wisconsin family’s AAC journey featuring the Notstad family

Adam Notstad is currently 31 yrs old and lives at home with his Mom, Sister, two nieces, dog Lulu, and cat Missy in Stoughton Wisconsin. What does AAC stand for; Augmentative Alternative Communication.

Adam was born with a deletion on chromosome 8, he’s undergone several surgeries, one causing a stroke which left him with a right sided weakness, nonverbal and a seizure disorder, he was then labeled as having Cerebral Palsy. So how does a person who cannot speak words communicate? We received Communication Aides and Systems Clinic (CASC) assistance when Adam was 3 years old at the Waisman Center in Madison, and continued to receive services until Adam aged out of school in 2012.  Adam has learned some sign language, experimented with audio devices and picture communication in which he would make choices, gestures and body language (which has been the most consistent), and as of 2010 an iPAD with the GoTalk Now app. As the High School team and I developed a business for Adam, we invited a CASC representative on our business team. I felt communication is a very important part of his daily life and to continue communicating with his clients.

The GoTalk Now app allows you to set up “books and pages” with pictures and the ability to record voices. Adam and his support staff used the app to communicate with his clients as he provided a service thru his business called AdamCan Recycling. Attainment created a YouTube video about AdamCan Recycling and installed it on the GoTalk Now app allowing him to promote his business and obtain new clients. It also has pages that he can choose to communicate thank you messages and recycling tips. Additionally we have used the iPAD and the app to provide presentations at conferences and to Legislators to help people learn about his service in the community. The trick with this communication tool is finding a voice that best matches the individual. We have had four different male voices over the years. The app also has the ability to include a voice already programmed in the app.

  • 2013 Picture being used in a meeting

Adam sold his business in 2021 and now retired due to another health setback. He continues to use the GoTalk Now app in his daily life for Adaptive fitness, home support, and his personal Trainer is the voice of Adam. The app promotes collaboration between the people outside of the home like the Professor and students at the UW Adaptive Fitness program and Adam’s Personal Trainer who meets with him weekly. The GoTalk Now App is available thru Attainment Company in Verona Wisconsin. Attainment also has staff that can help you get set up as well as troubleshooting support during the life of the device.

  • The 2022 picture is Adam communicating with the UW Adaptive Fitness student team

We have been satisfied with the use of this communication tool to initiate and promote interaction, as well as the use of “pointer” Adam’s finger, to communicate feelings and wants.

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