Impact of a 2024 ISHA Convention Session on My Practice as an Early Intervention SLP

Published in the April 2024 ISHA Voice.

By Karissa Louthan, Chair of the Early Intervention Committee.

Each year I attend the ISHA Convention, I am always eager to go back to serving families in Early Intervention and implement the ideas, techniques, and strategies that I learned during the continuing education sessions. Though it easy for me to get back into “old habits” of the same therapy techniques and parent education script, this year, I am making the extra effort to take what I learned and implement it in my sessions. Here are a few things I learned or “relearned”, specifically with AAC: 

Personal Core
This term refers to words frequently used by an individual and often includes highly motivating language. Personal Core might change over time. Personal Core words are different from Core Vocabulary words as Core Vocabulary words remain consistent across a person’s life span.

The Rule of “One Hard Thing at a Time”
This refers to focusing on only one “thing” (e.g., access, vocabulary, anything new) that can be hard or difficult for the client. I also like to think of it as decreasing other “demands” or “loads.” If the task cognitively or linguistically challenging for the client, then the access or physical effort, sensory input, time restraints etc. all need to be easy or less demanding for the client to have the best chances for success. I had the opportunity to see how this rule played out in one of my therapy sessions recently. While my student and I were working with a client who uses AAC, we started to brainstorm if a different access point for one of her switches could possibly make her access, and as a result communication, more efficient and effective. She is an emerging user and language activities are still a challenge. We started the session teaching her the new access location with a language activity. We did not really get anywhere. It was not until we moved from a language task to a highly motivating switch toy to teach the new access location, that we saw some independent attempts to access the switch at the new location. A teaching moment for myself and student on how to the follow the rule.

Aided Language Stimulation is Different that Modeling
I find I often use these terms interchangeably, especially when I am trying to educate a family on using AAC. “Modeling” just seems like an easier to relate with word than the term “Aided Language Stimulation”. However, it is important that we realize the difference in meaning of these terms and educate others on the difference. “Aided Language Stimulation” is the idea that we use the device or language system that the AAC user is learning to use without any expectation form the user themselves to use the device/system. We are showing them how to use the language system as if we needed to use it as well. I often hear the comparison of learning a second language. The best way to learn that language is to be immersed in hearing the language, daily, and in variety of routines. If our AAC users never have the opportunity to hear or see others talking in the way that is expected of them, how successful can we expect them to be?Modeling”, while very close to “Aided Language Stimulation”, is showing a client how to use the AAC device/system to say or access the vocabulary that might be their target word or what they are trying to communicate.

I hope sharing some of the things that stood out to me this year, specifically with AAC, can help you in your practice as well!


“Ideas, Imagination, and Implementation: Taking the Research from the Journal, Pushing it Through an Analysis and Applying it to Your Session” Presented by Beth Speaker-Christen, SLP -ATP and ISHA 2024 Convention

Karissa works for DSC in Champaign, Illinois providing Early Intervention services. She serves a high number of children and families using AAC. Karissa is the ISHA Early Intervention Committee Chair and member of the EI Coalition.