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MY TOP RESOURCES

1. PROVIDING VISUAL CUES AND INFORMATION It is essential to have a good graphic symbol software program. Communicate: In Print 2 is available from Widgit Software. You can use it to make colourful and attractive resources to support the songs. I find that showing large symbols helps the children (and the adults) to remember the words and to sing more confidently and attentively. There are ready-made symbol resources to support the songs on Nice Warm Socks available as free downloads on the Widgit website. A valuable add-on to Communicate: In Print 2 is Lets Sign and Write v2. You can make a grid of the signs used for each song and give copies to staff and families, to remind them how to make the signs accurately. www.widgit.com 2. ALTERNATIVE AND AUGMENTATIVE COMMUNICATION DEVICES Keep a supply of simple voice output devices so that AAC singers can join in and also refine their switch access skills. I particularly like the sequencing devices such as Step by Step (135), Sequencer (115) and BIGstep (116). You can record in the repeated lines, or even the whole of a song sung as a round. The AAC singer can then lead the singing. Another good device is the 4Talk4 (229). There are many songs that have four simple lines. The AAC singer can either sing it all or maybe lead the call so that other singers can sing the response. They might also sing each line in turn with another singer. All these Voice Output Communication Aids are available from QED (Quality Enabling Devices Ltd) on www.qedonline.co.uk. Prices quoted are as at January 2007 and exclude VAT. 3. MAKING THE VOICE SOUND LIKE ME It is important to use age and gender appropriate voices on voice output devices. I find the best way to manage this consistently is to use a mini disk recorder with loudspeakers. There are other technologies which will also work well. I find a willing volunteer who can sing clearly and fairly accurately. S/he learns and then sings the phrases that need to be recorded onto the voice output device. These songs are best sung slowly, so you need to get the pace right. You then have a permanent stock of songs and lines ready. You will need to keep the pitch consistent, either by using a pitch pipe or by listening to the AAC device first. Make sure you record a lead in phrase if other people will be joining in with the AAC singer, for example OhhhhGo through the gateway no matter where it takes you. 4. KEEPING RESOURCES ORGANISED PART 1 It is a good idea to store the flat resources for each song in a labelled plastic pouch. This will include a copy of the sheet music, the lyrics printed large so you can quickly refer to them if necessary, symbols for overlays and switch caps. Also include any other symbol resources you will need, such as matt laminated A4 or A5 symbols, symbolised lyrics, illustrated books of the lyrics and graphic representations of the signs. It is useful to keep details of how a song is best organised for a particular group and also of ways you have adapted a song that works well. 7. GETTING READY TO SING It is good to have a few body and vocal warmup activities before each session, especially in large groups. This helps to get everyone - especially the adults - less inhibited and more ready to sing and sign. We do some bending, stretching and shaking movements which everyone can join in at whatever level they are able. Voice warm-ups can include things like yawning loudly, shouting hiya to someone across the street, saying your name or a rhyme with your tongue hanging loosely out (guaranteed to make everyone smile) or making miaow sounds as if the cat is locked out. I find everyone loves to join in these silly noisemaking sessions and the singing is better because of it. 8. MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT Most songs are best sung unaccompanied, but some can benefit from simple instruments. Some of my most successful instruments are ones I have made myself and are therefore very cheap. Ocean drums are wonderful but also expensive and can be fragile. I have made a similar instrument out of a Frisbee and some gold beads. There is a simple song that can go with it and it can be played with any learner, whatever their physical control ability. It can make a gentle noise but can also be knocked around the room with no ill effect. Another favourite is the rattletops. This consists of plastic milk bottle tops which have been strung onto elastic, with a handle at each end. This song is included on the Nice Warm Socks CD. For details of how to make these, see Heres one I made earlier p.7. 9. DEVELOPING YOUR OWN VOICE Find ways of releasing your own natural voice. You could join a community choir, or find a natural voice teacher or group near you see www.naturalvoice.net. There is an excellent Study Break held in Devon each October half term, where you can explore ways of finding and using your own natural voice, individually and in groups contact Wren Music through www.nicewarmsocks.org.uk. 10. (RE-)SOURCE OF INSPIRATION Keep a copy of the CD Nice Warm Socks available. Get to know the songs by playing them, thinking of ways to use them and singing along on the way to work. Your voice and your body will then be ready to sing in whatever setting you work. Then start adapting and creating your own songs to suit your particular client group. www.nicewarmsocks.org.uk

SHAN GRAEBE M.A., MRCSLT WORKED FOR MANY YEARS AT A SPECIAL SCHOOL IN READING, SUPPORTING LEARNERS WHO HAVE MULTIPLE NEEDS AND ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO USE AAC. ANOTHER MAJOR INTEREST IS IN RESEARCHING, SINGING AND PERFORMING TRADITIONAL ENGLISH SONGS. OVER THE YEARS, SHAN HAS GAINED KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE IN COMBINING THESE TWO ASPECTS IN ORDER TO DELIVER EFFECTIVE ACTIVITIES TO SUPPORT COMMUNICATION. IN COLLABORATION WITH A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN AND A SPECIALIST MUSIC TEACHER, SHE HAS RECENTLY RELEASED A CD OF SONGS NICE WARM SOCKS. THESE SONGS HAVE BEEN ADAPTED FROM TRADITIONAL MATERIAL OR WRITTEN WITH THE DEVELOPMENTAL PROGRESS OF CHILDREN IN MIND, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO HAVE ADDITIONAL NEEDS AND ARE AAC USERS. SHAN SAYS, THERE IS A GROWING BODY OF BIOEVOLUTIONARY THEORY AND NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL RESEARCH WHICH SUPPORTS USING SONG TO HELP DEVELOP EARLY INTERACTION AND MORE COMPLEX COMMUNICATION SKILLS. THIS IS AN APPROACH THAT CAN BE USED BY ANYONE, INCLUDING FAMILIES, TEACHERS, CARERS AND THERAPISTS. IT ONLY NEEDS SOME SUITABLE SONGS AND A PERSON WILLING TO SING THEM, USING THEIR OWN VOICE IN THEIR OWN WAY. SHAN IS BASED AT 100 CHELTENHAM ROAD, GLOUCESTER GL2 0LX, E-MAIL SHAN.GRAEBE@BTINERNET.COM.

5. KEEPING RESOURCES ORGANISED PART 2 Organise the bulky resources you will need by keeping them in bags which have the song title written on them. I have obtained ripstop fabric off cuts which are easily sewn into drawstring bags of any size. For the title song Nice Warm Socks we need several items of clothing. The song is a cumulative one, and learners can choose which item they want such as nice warm trousers, nice warm hat, nice warm trainers, nice warm jumper Nice Warm Socks. Ripstop fabric offcuts available from Point North mail order, www.profabrics.co.uk. 6. DISPLAY Make a large free-standing board which is covered in Velcro fabric. You can then stick self adhesive hook Velcro on the back of your matt laminated symbols. I have also made a Velcro fabric apron, so I can stick symbols onto my front, and still have my hands free for signing and shuffling resources. www.spentex.co.uk/catalogue_public/ (search for Velcro)