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Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Down with Demands; Up with Invitations!

Too often, we make unrelenting demands on individuals who use AAC
- Show me _______
- Where is ________
- Direct Questions:  'What do you want?'  'How do you feel?'
- Drill & Kill - constant inauththentic activities

This can be overwhelming to students who are learning AAC, and may be impossible for students with apraxia.

Instead of constant demands, let's change to . . . 

Invitations means that we:
- Motivate (fun, interactive, authentic activities)
- Model 
- Reflect ('I think you're saying __________'; 'Are you telling me _______?')
- Pause (expectantly)
- Move on!  If students don't respond, we continue to motivate, model, reflect and pause!

For more information and ideas, watch the webinars of the Angelman Communication Training Series.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dr. Gretchen Hanser's CTG Phonics Phun

Below is the link to Gretchen Hanser's Closing the Gap Phonics Phun Handouts:
Hanser: Phonics Phun CTG 15

Gretchen Hanser's Handouts from Nova Scotia!

Below is a link to the handouts prepared by Dr. Gretchen Hanser for her recent workshops in Nova Scotia.  Enjoy!

Hanser's Nova Scotia Workshop

Monday, October 26, 2015

Communication Circles for People Who Use AAC

What:  This full day session will focus on setting up and maintaining a Communication Circle for people who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

When:  November 23, 2015, 9:00 - 3:00

Where:  PRCVI Conference Room, 1750 W75th Ave #106,
Vancouver, BC

Who:  This presentation is for teachers, therapists, and family members of students who learn AAC, whether they are beginners or experienced at using their systems.

How to Register:
Communication Circles Vancouver Flyer 


Tarheel Reader - A Few Great Authors!

Below are a few great authors on Tarheel Reader:

Reed A Booke (a.k.a., David Koppenhaver!)
Features Include:
- Both explicit and subtle humor
- Lots of practice with pronouns (ex: He blew it; she knew it)
-  Fun use of homophones (ex:  knew / gnu; X / eggs)
- Some alliteration (ex:  My Friend Loves to Eat)

CLDS (Center for Literacy and Disability Studies)
Features include:
- Chapter summaries of book classics (e.g., Blue Shoes summarizes the book Holes, but does not give away the ending)
- Predictable books, with repeated language (e.g., However You Dance)
- Caption books, or pictures with a single word, such as 'waking' or 'swimming' to describe each page (e.g., My Action Words Book )

Jane Farrall (literacy guru from Australia)
Features include:
- Engaging books about fashion ( I Like Earrings; Lipstick )
- Books about pop culture ( Spiderman; Shrek; Taylor Swift )
- Alphabet books (e.g., Z to A) and letter books (e.g., S is for Shopping)
- Concept books (Light;  Ice)
- Great books about Australia (Captain James Cook - Explorer; Koalas)

DLM (Dynamic Learning Maps)
Features include:
- Frequent use of repeated lines (e.g., "Tom got in trouble." from Tom's in Trouble)
- Books connected to classic literature, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (e.g., Aunt Polly;  Tom's Fence; Tom's Adventurous Day). 
- Some of the literature-related books help students think about concepts such as making choices that get you into trouble, vs making better choices (e.g., Trouble)
- Changing carrier phrases such as "Cats like ______" and "Cats chase" (What Do Cats Do)

Features include:
- Great chapter summaries with photos for chapters of classic literature that are part of the common core (e.g., About Hatchet:  About Tuck Everlasting; About Shiloh)
- Predictable books, such as "There can't be too much ________." from In My World.
-  Books that tap into important feelings (e.g., Not Afraid; My Pet, My Friend)


Tuesday, October 20, 2015


When:  December 1, 2015, 8:30 - 3:30

Where:  North County Regional Education Center
255 Pico Avenue, San Marcos, CA 92069

Who:  Pre-k and early elementary teachers of students with moderate/severe disabilities

The prospect of teaching students with significant disabilities to begin to read with comprehension and begin to write generatively can
seem overwhelming. This presentation will cover: assessment for students who are difficult to assess, shared reading (developing a love
of reading, and supporting language through reading), emergent writing (beginning to write with symbols, words, and the alphabet), self selected
story listening (listening to and interacting with a range of engaging books across a range of genre), alphabet interaction and
phonemic awareness (understanding spoken language at the word, syllable, and letter level). Throughout the day, you will see student
samples, videos, and creative use of apps.

Learning Outcomes:
Describe 3 assessment tools that can be used for students who are difficult to assess with standard tools
Identify at least 2 activities to support: Shared reading, emergent writing, self-selected story listening, alphabet learning, and phonemic
Describe at least 3 apps, and tell how you would use them interactively to support literacy learning.

Download Flyer Below:
Emergent Balanced Literacy Younger Flyer



Where:  North County Regional Education Center
255 Pico Avenue, San Marcos, CA 92069

When:  December 1, 2015, 8:30 - 3:30

Who:  Elementary through high school teachers of students with moderate/severe disabilities

The prospect of teaching older students with significant disabilities to begin to read with comprehension and begin to write generatively
can seem overwhelming. This presentation will cover: assessment for students who are difficult to assess, shared reading (developing a
love of reading, and supporting language through reading), emergent writing (beginning to write with symbols, words, and the alphabet),
self-selected story listening (listening to a range of engaging, age-respectful books), and an introduction to phonics (developing letter sound connections) and phonemic awareness (understanding spoken language at the word, syllable, and letter level). Throughout the day,
you will see student samples, videos, and creative use of apps. Use of age-respectful activities and materials will be considered for each

Learning Outcomes:
1) Describe 3 assessment tools that can be used for students who are difficult to assess with standard tools
2) Identify at least 2 activities to support: Shared reading, emergent writing, self-selected story listening, phonics, and phonemic
3) Describe at least 3 apps, and tell how you would use them interactively to support literacy learning.
4) Summarize at least two strategies for ensuring that activities and materials are age-respectful for older students.

Download flyer here:
Emergent Literacy Older Students

Friday, October 16, 2015

Word Study Reminder Checklist

WHAT:  This checklist is a reminder of major areas of word study for emergent and early conventional students.

 Word Study Checklist

Gretchen Hanser Digital Books Handouts - CTG 15

Below are links to Dr. Gretchen Hanser's wonderful CTG 15 handout for Digital Texts.  The handout is presented in 6 slides per page and 4 slides per page formats.  Enjoy!!

Digital Texts CTG 15 (4 per page)

Digital Texts CTG 15 (6 per page)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

North Bay Down Syndrome Associatione: Speak - Read - Write

WHAT:  This 2-day seminar costs $10 (which is refunded at the door!) and includes free lunch!  IPads will be raffled off!

My part is:
Emergent Literacy
• Assessment
• Shared Reading
• Emergent Writing
• Early Conventional Writing
• Self-Selected Reading
• Interactive Phonics
• Phonemic Awareness

Fountain Grove Inn, Hotel & Event Center
101 Fountain Grove Parkway
Santa Rosa, 95403
Download the flyer below!
North Bay Down Syndrome Flyer

Monday, October 5, 2015

Angelman Communication Training Series Flyer

Please share this flyer for the yearlong Angelman Communication Training Series which includes:
• Weekly webinars
• Core language supports
• Lots of materials to download

All for FREE!


Friday, October 2, 2015

Emergent Balanced Literacy for Upper Elementary Through High School – Apps Included!

WHO:  This workshop is sponsored by the North Bay Down Syndrome Association.  It is intended for family members, teachers, and therapists of students who are emergent readers and writers.

WHAT:  This is a 2 day conference.  Day 1 is about emergent literacy and day 2 is about conventional literacy.

Fountain Grove Inn, Hotel & Event Center
101 Fountain Grove Parkway
Santa Rosa, 95403

Registration page

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Caroline Musselwhite's Alberta Tour - October / November, 2015

WHERE & WHEN:  5 Cities in Alberta, Fall, 2015
- Grand Prairie,  Tuesday, October 27
- Lloydminster, Thursday, October 29
- Edmonton, Friday, October 30
- Red Deer, Monday, November 2
- Medicine Hat, Tuesday, November 3

Download the 1 page flyer, with links to each workshop
Alberta Tour Flyer

See you in Alberta!!


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Core Vocabulary: First 40 Words from Dynamic Learning Maps™ (DLM)

Many people have been asking about the DLM™ First 40 words that we are including in our Angelman Communication Training Project.

'The DLM Core Vocabulary Project was initiated to determine the vocabulary that is necessary for students with significant cognitive disabilities to engage, learn, and demonstrate knowledge in an academic environment.'
            (The Dynamic Learning Maps Core Vocabulary, DLM Professional Learning Team at UNC-Chapel Hill, May, 2013).

These words have been extensively researched by the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies for words needed for AAC Core vocabulary and Academic Core Vocabulary.

DLM™ FIrst 40 Handout

For more information, please go to the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies website, with many links for information to the research and to presentations about their implementation of Core 40.

More info on Core Vocabulary

Communicative Functions Checklist by Keisha Tipton

Below is a DRAFT version of the Communicative Functions Quick Checklist, developed by Keisha Tipton.  Please give us feedback on its usefulness and any changes that you suggest.

This could be helpful in tracking changes across time.  Look for:
• New functions that the student is now showing
• Old functions being shown in ways that are easier to understand (ex:  moving from body language only to sign, or adding vocalization, or using AAC device)

For use across time, use a different color each time you assess.

Thanks so much to Keisha Tipton, special educator and mother extraordinaire, for sharing this!  Download the form using the link below.
Communicative Functions Quick Checklist

AAC in DC: Handout Day 1

Below is a link to the handout from Day 1 of the AAC in DC Conference.  Enjoy!

AAC in DC Day 1 Handout

AAC in DC - Day 2 - Emergent Balanced Literacy and AAC

Follow the link below for the handout for AAC in the Desert - Day 2, Emergent Balanced Literacy & AAC

AAC in DC - Day 2 Handout

Friday, September 18, 2015

Angelman Communication Training Series

What Is It?  The ASF Communication Training Series takes all of the hours of great communication workshops and breaks them down into smaller, digestible parts so that you and your individual with AS can reach her/his greatest communication success at any age. Using web-based teaching, the Series is designed to be sequential and you can join at any time and proceed through the training at your child’s pace of learning.

Who Is This For?  This series is designed for parents and other family members of students with Angelman Syndrome.  But it is open to everyone.  This includes:
- Special Ed teachers
- General Ed teachers
- Speech-language therapists
- Occupational and physical therapists
- Administrators, psychologists, and anyone else who is interested!

How Much Does It Cost?
The series is FREE, and is made available by the Angelman Syndrome Foundation and a generous grant from The Foster Family Charitable Foundation, a family foundation established in central California.

Where Can I Get More Info, and How Do I Register?

Go to the home page of www.angelman.org 

Click on the Communication Training link to read more about the project and get started!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Martin Pistorius: Author and Ted Talk Presenter!

Check out this excellent and thought-provoking Ted X Talk, by Martin Pistorius, an ISAAC colleague.

Martin's Ted X Talk

Spoiler Alert!

If you watch this first, you will get the 'short version' of Martin's amazing memoir, Ghost Boy.  I strongly recommend reading the book first, then listening to the Ted Talk.



Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Noun Town: A New Book from AAC Language Lab

Check out this fun book from AAC Language Lab.

It shares the importance of using high frequency words, instead of living in 'Noun Town.'

Thanks to Jane Odom for sharing.  Enjoy!

The book is a free resource, and can be downloaded at the following link:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Light Tech AAC App Backup

WHY:  We all know that light tech backups of AAC systems are crucial for a range of reasons:
- High tech devices can fail
- Light tech is often more visible out of doors
- Light tech is more appropriate for locations such as the beach
- Sometimes light tech just 'fits' the situation better

Families and schools using PODD (Pragmatically Organized Dynamic Displays) on high tech devices such as the Compass app typically also have a light tech version which is widely used also.  However, we have noted that individuals who use other AAC apps often do not have light tech versions.

HOW:  Below is a photo showing how my friend Shelaine has made a version of her son's customization of the  Proloquo-2-Go app.

The side view shows how a notebook can be used as a base, using duct tape and packing tape to create a folding stand.
Here is the video for how to make this stand

Video: How To Make PODD Stand

The third photo shows the Intermediate Core 60 light tech backup for Proloquo2Go.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Science for Every Kids Series - 101 Experiments books by Janice VanCleave

WHAT:  This great series includes:
- Astronomy
- Biology
- Chemistry
- Earth Science
- Food and Nutrition
- Physics

And SO many more.  Most of the books present 101 experiments, including: Materials, Procedure, Results, Why?

WHERE:  Just google Janice VanCleave.  Most of these books are available used for 1¢!  Of course, you will have to pay shipping (typically $3.99).

HOW:  It's easy to link these experiments to topics of study.  For example, we are studying Italy, and will be exploring the work of Leonardo da Vinci.  He was fascinated in studying bird's wings, and how the lift in those wings could be extrapolated to human flight.  An experiment that connects to this is Lift-Off, on pp. 134-135 of the book, Biology for Every Kid.

WHO:  These books are great for:
- General ed classrooms
- Special ed classrooms
- Literacy groups
- Homeschooling


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Download Videos From Facebook WITHOUT Software!!

Note - Do NOT do this without permission!!!!

Okay, now that I've done my 'disclaimer' . . .

This is the fastest way I've found to download a video from Facebook.

No software.

No saving urls that you will never find again.

Just download it!!

Here's the video tutorial.  Enjoy!!



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Emergent Balanced Literacy Workshop - Phoenix, September 21, 2015

Join us for a low-cost Emergent Balanced Literacy Workshop at Southwest Human Development in Phoenix.

For more information, contact me:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Animated Step by Steps - Now With Symbol Support!!

Dr. Carol Goossens has created scores of animated step by step projects that now include symbol support.  Since Dr. Goosens is both a gifted educator and illustrator, these materials are well worth the very minimal cost!

For more information, check out the posts at blogspot:


Minspeak: Pittsburgh AAC Language Seminar Series

This is a FREE series, including 2.5 days of training, lodging, and meals.

I'll be doing the September workshop, titled 'Core Language Learning:  Make It Fun and Interactive!

Space is limited so sign up now!

Pittsburgh Registration

Friday, August 14, 2015

AAC in DC - 2 Day Workshop

Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite and Dr. Gretchen Hanser

This is a two day event and you can register for either day or both. The first day of the confernce is Saturday, September 12th and the second day is Sunday, September 13th. Registration for each event is below.

 AAC In DC Registration Page

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Talking and Swimming! Light Tech Swimming Boards

Thanks to Sarah for sharing this swimming board she made for her daughter Hannah.  The language for swimming is laminated and added to a floatboard / kickboard.

We made swimming boards about 30 years ago at the Irene Wortham Center in Asheville, North Carolina when we were doing the Halliwick adapted swimming program.  http://halliwick.org/

So many students that I work with have better range of motion, better motor control, and more control over vocalizations in the water.  Also it's important and just great fun for students to have better communication while swimming!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

AAC in DC! Musselwhite & Hanser, September 12, 2015

Literacy & AAC Conference

An incredible Literacy and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) conference taught by two of the best communication people in the business, Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite, Ed.D, CCC/SLP and Dr. Gretchen Hanser, PhD, OTR
Saturday, September 12
American University, School of Education, Teaching and Health: http://www.american.edu/cas/seth/index.cfm.
AU's main campus is located at 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016.
The School of Education is at Gray Hall

Speakers Include:  Dr. Caroline Musselwhite and Dr. Gretchen Hanser

For more information, follow this link:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Literacy Research Monograph from Center for Literacy and Disability Studies

 Summer Reading!

I am often asked for research-based information regarding best practices in literacy instruction for students with significant disabilities.  This monograph, written by:  Dr. Karen Erickson, Dr. Gretchen Hanser, Dr. Penelope Hatch, and Eric Sanders is extremely helpful.

Research Based Practices Monograph

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Summer Movies: Phonics Phun + A Writing Prompt

Summer movies . . . are you ready?  Well, if you’re not, your kids probably are!!

I did a fun activity today – one of those ideas you get late at night that actually WORKS!!

Materials:  Here’s what you need:
• Photos representing trailers for 2 movies you think your student(s) would like
• Voting board + PostIts
• Letter writing prompt (below)

I picked Minions & Inside Out.  Here are screenshots that we used.

Vote by Letter:
We asked the students to vote by writing for the trailer that they wanted to watch first.  LOTS of excitement!  Students who typically aren’t excited about trying to figure out the sound/letter system were fired up!

Here are a few examples.  Most students used light tech alphabet displays to help them figure out the letters.  A few students were able to write their votes on the PostIts.  Each student then voted for their favorite movie trailer (Minion won).
-       One student chose M to represent Minion
-       One student wrote NSID to vote for Inside Out
-       One student chose MN to represent minion

As each student cast their vote (we wrote it on the PostIt for most students), we tried to figure it out, sounding it out.  Then we had each student place their PostIt under the correct photo.

We then watched both trailers (the winning one was viewed first!)

Letters to Parents:
Then we wrote the letters to parents as follows:
Movie Letter Short
1)   I modeled on the SmartBoard, using talk alouds (ex:  “Hmmmm, who do I want to go with me . . . I know, Robert!) and asking students to help me figure out some of the sounds.
2)   Then each student worked with a teacher, therapist, or aide to fill in the blanks on their letters home.  Students used their light or high tech communication systems to help with ideas as needed.  For example, Jess went to the ‘Describing’ page to pick COOL to tell what expected about the movie.
3)   Students could then find pictures or draw on their letters before putting them in backpacks to take home.

Changing This for Home Use:
If you want to do this activity at home, here are some ideas:
• Have siblings or friends participate in the voting part
• If you’re helping your child write the letter, have them write it to someone else (Dad, Grandma, older sibling, favorite aunt)


Making the Alphabet Useful . . . and FUN! Hangman!

WHAT:  I don’t think I need to tell you what Hangman is – we all know and love it! Thanks to Yvonne Adrienne Hamrick for reminding me of the power of Hangman!

WHY:  Hangman is great for helping students have FUN with the alphabet.  They can explore the alphabet and learn about letters, and where they go in building words.  Most importantly, this is an INTERACTIVE way to engage in alphabet exploration!

HOW:  Hangman can be played using:
1)   The student’s alphabet, whether light tech or high tech.  Whatever system the child is using is great.  For example:
a)    Jen uses an alphabet flipbook.  When she plays Hangman with her brother, she pics a letter, any letter.  He then puts it into the Hangman game and together, they cheer . . . or groan.  Her brother makes sure to name the letter that she picks, both from her system, and when he puts it into the game.

b)   Jesus uses the alphabet page on his iPad AAC app.  He plays Hangman with his Communication Circle.  When he picks a letter, one of his friends calls out the letter, then uses the Hangman app and types the letter in, naming it again.  The app they use is described in the Spedapps2 wiki: 

c)    Marcus plays hangman using the Melissa & Doug Travel Hangman set.  He plays with his Dad, and it’s big fun for both of them!  Every time Marcus picks a letter (using the alphabet page on his PODD), his Dad calls out the letter, then puts it into the Hangman set, calling it out again.  Marcus’s brother sometimes whispers clues to him, and Marcus is becoming adept at finding letters his brother suggests.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Modeling Core Language: A Tutorial for Beginners!!!

This post gives some simple ideas for:
• Adults who are beginners at modeling with AAC systems
• Students who are beginners at using AAC systems
• Students who are beginning communication circle partners

This was prepared for paras at a school in Brooklyn where I work, but I thought it might be helpful to others.

Please know that these sample 'scripts' are NOT for:
- SLPs or teachers who work with many students who use AAC
- parents who have been trained in modeling (ex:  people who have attended wonderful PODD training sessions).

This is for people who are working with students who have language rich systems, and don't have a clue where to start.  Hope it's helpful - let me know!
Model Core Language

Beginning Literacy Framework

The Beginning Literacy Framework was developed with the support of the Don Johnston Company to help educators:

• identify, create and modify text for beginning readers
• meet literacy goals of students with significant disabilities in their earliest stages of literacy
This document is highly relevant for teachers, parents, and therapists supporting students who are emergent readers.   Learn how to identify, create, and modify text at three levels:
- Enrichment
- Transitional
- Conventional
Download the document to learn more!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Closing the Gap Preconference: Word Study: Phonological Awareness to Phonics - A Day Without Drill (Apps Included!)

We're very excited about this preconference at the wonderful Closing the Gap Conference.  Please join us for the day!

Word Study Preconference

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Communication All Day Long! Communication Circles, Topic Setting, and MORE!

NorCal CLIPP and the CSU, Chico School of Education invite you to attend Communication All Day Long:

Speaker:  Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

When:  Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Neighborhood Church
Fellowship Hall
2801 Notre Dame Blvd.
Chico, Ca 95928

How Much:  FREE!!!  Just BYOL (Bring your own lunch!)

More Info?  E-mail:

Download Flyer Below:
 Communication All Day Flyer

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

iPad How To Handout

This handout includes the how-to activities from my recent workshops.  Hope it's helpful!

Download iPad How To Handout Here

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Whitewater, WI - Balanced Emergent Literacy, April 28, 2015

WHAT:  Full-day workshop on Emergent Balanced Literacy

WHEN:  Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 9:00 am - 3:45 pm

WHERE:  CESA # 2, Whitewater, Room 111

COST:  $125, Including lunch

Register Here

Download Flyer Here 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Monday Mean-O! Vocabulary Fun!

This is a fun way to support vocabulary development.

1) Collect words that students are struggling to understand throughout the week; share the meaning, use them in a sentence, etc, and add them to a 'New Words' list (for example, students can put a word they're struggling with on PostIts, or teachers can add them).

2) At the end of the week, review the words, and make up sheets of 6, 9, or 16 words, depending on your students.  See a sample list below (these words are collected from the book Hatchet, as abridged by Maureen D and shared at:  Tarheel Reader )

Note:  Make at lest 2 versions, with words in different places.
 3) Now play 'Mean-O'.  It's basically bingo, but calling out word meanings instead of word labels.  

4) Remember:  use the 'Musselwhite Bingo' approach:
1 Bingo = Bingo
2 Bingos = Tingo
3 Bingos = Thringo

See this post for full explanation:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Name Writing Tips

Name writing is a classic IEP goals, with too many students spending years on inauthentic tasks such as:
- tracing
- copying
- being put through hand-over-hand assistance

Dr. Gretchen Hanser and Deanna K Wagner,  and I have just published five 'tips' to support a range of activities to help students engage in authentic, interactive, and FUN opportunities for name writing, using typical pencils or alternative pencils.  The five tips are:

Sign In, Sign Up,  Sign Off Overview

Name Writing:  Sign In

Name Writing:  Sign Up

Name Writing:  Sign Off

Name Writing:  Data Collection

Connect to the tips below:

Saturday, February 7, 2015

AAC in the Desert Exhibit Hall - Phoenix, Feb 18, 2015 - FREE

Join us for the AAC in the Desert Exhibit Hall

Download Flyer Below:
AAC in the Desert Exhibit Hall

Join us for:
- Vendors
- Door Prizes
- Food
- Networking
- Silent Auction