Academic Skills



Communication Devices

As a teacher of students with special needs I am often given the task of helping children to communicate. This can get challenging because often times the parents provide their own communication device for a child and they can vary from student to student. It is my responsibility as the teacher to become well versed in these devices...hence the challenge!

I have personally used two types of devices in my classroom for students with communication needs, LAMP and Proloque. 

Sooooo let's break these down! 


Lamp stands for Language Acquisition thru Motor Planning. This basically means the kids will motor memorize where each button and meaning is in each folder. This is a very high level thinking and shouldn't be given to students who do not have a large vocabulary. We use it in my classroom for one particular student and he has many known vocabulary words, he simply can not express them using verbal language. When working with LAMP I personally experienced initial student distress. It is complicated and can take a long time for the student to learn the motor memory...BUT once they do--my LORD it is a beautiful sight! I got so much more academically from my student. 

Now, if you are planning on using LAMP in your classroom I HIGHLY recommend your go to a training to learn the metholodgy and get familiar with it. 

The second thing I recommend is to make sure you have patience and teach your student that same patience. In my case, the student is very intelligent so I told him I was learning it too and if he couldn't find a word when trying to talk I would help him. There is a word search option and we will type in the desired word together and learn the path. It made the whole process much less stressful for all. 


Proloquo is a great communication device to help students who may not have a large known vocabulary. My favorite part of this aac device is that you are program phrases into one button. This helps students who have a communication break down get all their words in one quick motion. I also love that you can program the grid any way you want. You are able to pick 2X2 or 20X20 depending on your students levels and abilities. 

I love to add vocabulary words into this device to help facilitate lessons and allow the students to be able to participate in group lessons beyond pointing and yes/no questions. 

My personal opinion on which is better is..........neither. HA I am sorry I do not have some profound opinion on which one you should recommend, but the device is meant to fit the student and just like their IEP's should be INDIVIDUALIZED. I love LAMP for the student in my classroom that fits it the best AND I love Proloquo for the child in my classroom that fits it best. The only down fall to that is I had to become fluent in each software which took me a long time, but I was diligent...went to training...and trial and used my amazing SLP when I was completed stuck....YOU are a SPED teacher and if anyone can learn them...its you!

Shoot me an e-mail if you need more direction with either device!


Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills- ABLLS for students with intensive needs

Assessments are such an important part of the IEP process. Assessments help us see the roadmap to where we want our kids to go based on where they are RIGHT NOW! 

In my classroom I use the Assessment of Basic Learning and Language Skills, or ABLLS. ABLLS is a tool used by teachers and therapists for students with developmental delays or disabilities. This assessment is used best with an ABA approach and will measure basic language and functional skills. Thats is a mouthful so I am going to break it down and tell you some easy tips and tricks to help get started with this assessment.

You should decide when you want to give this assessment. I like to give it at the beginning of the year (but wait a week or two if the student is completely new to you) and at their IEP time. If I am feeling like an overachiever I will also do it at the end of the year so the receiving teacher has up to date information. 

You need the get your hands on the manual. You can order off amazon Here It is a pricey investment, but talk to your Special Ed Director and ask if they are willing to add this to your bag of tricks. More than likely they will agree because of the research that backs this assessment up! There are two books in that you will lget. One is the Scoring Instructions and the other is the Protocol. 

Start with the instructions and familiarize yourself with how to give the assessment and what each protocol contains. The MOST important section in the scoring guide is the very last page there is the score sheet. You can copy this and write right on it....or be a crazy person like me and recreate it in EXCEL so you can have a  pretty digital copy to show the parents.

Two Manuals:

Score Sheet (This is a completed filled in score sheet! Isn't it pretty!) 
Talk to the therapist. The protocols are pretty obvious who should take the data on each one. Such as fine motor, the Occupational Therapist, Gross Motor: Physical Therapist. My students have many language delays so I work very closely with the speech pathologist and we divide up which protocols work best for each of us. I take most of the academic and daily living and she takes many of the language skills. There is no right or wrong, you can do it all on your own....its just easier with friends! 

Gather your materials. Now the two books do not come with materials and more than likely you have assessment in your classroom to help accomplish these tasks.....BUT if you want to spend the money The Autism Helper has a great binder system (it is a ton of prep!) that is really wonderful and I use in my classroom to complete some tasks, not all, but some. You can find that product Here

Here are my binders...they are a little tore up but that is only because I use them ALL THE TIME! 

You can also purchase a very pricey kit with all the materials labeled all nice and pretty. it is VERY expensive, my district just decided to purchase one kit for all the intensive needs teachers to share. I haven't gotten my hands on it yet but it looks pretty awesome!  

 Lastly, You can search ABLLS into the TPT search bar and you will find other resources as well! 
Don't stress about taking all the assessment formally. This is a very informal assessment. I Often have it on an accessible clip board and when situations happen in the classroom I jot down their score. Often times, I know my students well enough to know where they score based on their social interactions and their IEP goals. I use to stress myself out over this assessment, but really it is mean to be taken all the time in natural situations! 

When you are done make sure you add a narrative about the students strengths and weaknesses in their IEP. I like to print off a color copy of the score sheet and attach it to the IEP. I also put a paragraph in the Profile section and the Present levels section of each IEP goal that the data pertains to. The ONLY thing I don't like about this assessment is you do not get a number score. I am a very black and white person so I do wish I could put a numeral on their baseline and progress, but the assessment is meant to be written in a narrative summary to share with the parents and help drive your IEP goals. 

BONUS TIP: The Scoring Instructions books also gives some IEP goals that would work in a child struggles in different protocol. Use that guide, it is super helpful! 

All in all ABLLS is a great assessment to help me figure out what my students can and can not do when they are new to me and  it is an AMAZING running record of their growth if each teacher continues to use it through their educational career. 

Please e-mail me if you have any other questions!