Hello everyone! 👋
What’s better than homemade, fresh baked cookies? Having homemade, fresh baked cookies with conversation; of course!
But what if you want to have a conversation with someone that can’t communicate in the traditional sense (verbal speech)? There are work arounds to this! They might use text, email, sign language, or gestures. Text and email are examples of AAC, or Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Most of us use AAC in our daily lives and probably didn’t even know it! We text our friends, email our co-workers, and read captions on Instagram posts. You reading the text of this blog post is me using AAC to connect and communicate with all of you! But for some people, texting and emailing aren’t sufficient.
Who are people that might need other types of AAC (like a Core Board)? Core Boards are similar tools are utilized by a variety of people ranging in age, severity of disability, and type of disability. My experience with Core Boards has been in private practice and public schools with children ages 5-22. These children (or young adults) have conditions such as Autism, Down Syndrome, and Intellectual Disability. These individuals have either no verbal speech or minimal verbal speech. AAC provides them either an alternative way to communicate or a supplemental way to improve and enhance their current verbal communication abilities. AAC isn’t just used by children with disabilities though.
You may have met adults who use AAC. When I attended the American Speech and Hearing Association’s Annual convention in November of 2018, I met a young man that utilized AAC on a daily basis. He was very skillful at using his AAC device to communicate with me, a non-familiar communication partner. He was in a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy and did not have the ability to verbally speak. However, with AAC, he was able to easily communicate with me and with others that came to the booth where he was stationed. Without AAC, he wouldn’t be able to communicate his knowledge as an AAC user or have his basic wants and needs met.
Another group of people who might use AAC are individuals with tracheostomies. A tracheostomy (or trach) is an opening at the base of what many people call the throat due to some sort of trauma in that area. The trauma could be due to being a long time smoker and developing lung cancer. It could also be due to surgery that was conducted due to abnormal physiology (bodily structure) or external trauma (like intubation, where a tube is inserted in order to provide an artificial airway for a period of time). There’s also many other reasons why someone might have a trach, but these are just a couple. These individuals may lose their ability to speak, or it may be very difficult for them to speak due to pain or discomfort. These individuals can benefit from AAC and would have the ability to communicate despite not having verbal speech.
People with conditions like the ones I mentioned above (and other cases) need something else besides text and email to communicate. This is where Core Word Boards come in! There are low-tech and high-tech versions of Core Word Boards. The ones I’m talking about that can be made easily accessible to everyone are low-tech Core Boards. Low-tech Core Boards are a tool that individuals can use to augment their communication or use for alternative communication. In order to use the Core Board to communicate, they point to each symbol with text on the page that they want to use in that communication instance. High-tech versions of Core Boards exist; they are just like the paper Core Boards except they are on a device (like an iPad) and generate speech output. Whether a person is using a low-tech or high-tech Core Board, they point or touch each symbol they need to communicate in that moment. For example, if the person needed to use the bathroom; they would point to the symbols that represent each word in that sentence “I–need–bathroom.” Or, if they want a cookie, they would point to the symbols for “I–want–cookie.”
Speaking of cookies… “Cookie” is known as a fringe word. Fringe words are words that we don’t use on a daily basis but will sometimes need to use in order to communicate a certain message. Some other fringe words that you’ll come across in the recipe for Lemon Ginger Cookies are “lemon,” “mix,” and “oven.” They are important words for this recipe, but they are not words that we would use every day (unless you’re a baker I guess!). Then, we have our Core Words. The words “I” and “want” are Core Words–words that are used on a regular basis that are high-frequency, meaning that these words are generally used on a daily basis in multiple contexts. Other words that are Core Words include “me,” “need,” and “it.” The phrase “I want cookie” is made up of two core words and one fringe word.
The cookie recipe that I made is from the blog “Sally’s Baking Addiction.” She has a variety of amazing recipes that are easy and fun to make! I’ve tried her recipes for Cinnamon Rolls, Soft Pretzels, Blueberry French Toast Casserole, and much more–I highly recommend her blog for baking enthusiasts! I’ve posted the link for her blog post about Lemon Ginger Cookies below, and those are the ones I made in my kitchen while using a Core Word Board that I created in Google Docs (YouTube video coming soon!).
I can’t rave enough about these cookies, and my family (especially my mom) couldn’t stop talking about how delicious they were! I love anything lemon flavored, and these were no exception. I’ve grown up with a lemon tree in my own backyard here in Northern California, which is how I came about to loving everything and anything lemon flavored. The lemons we grow on our tree are Eureka lemons, which are not like the ones you buy at the grocery store (usually those are Meyer lemons and are small to medium in size). The Eureka lemons are large (some even as big as a grapefruit!) and yield a lot of juice. The ginger in the cookie provides another delicious flavor for the lemon to play off of and adds just a little something to bump up your standard lemon sugar cookie. YUM!
So you might be wondering…how does one utilize a Core Word Board while baking cookies? Great question! If you have a child (no matter what age) utilizing a Core Board, bring them into the kitchen with you to help bake up these (or any) cookies! They can use their Core Board to communicate with you while baking. I just printed off a copy of my Core Board and had it in the kitchen with me, but you may want to laminate it (if possible) if you think the kitchen might get a bit messy. During each step of the cookie dough making process, the child (or individual using the Core Board) can point to related symbols to communicate different thoughts to you. The Core Board communicator can point to different symbols to communicate different messages throughout the process.
For example, if you are having them help you gather the ingredients for the recipe, you can say “I need [name of ingredient].” When you say the words, you will also point to the symbols on the Core Board. When an individual is first using a Core Board (or a communication board), it’s important to model what you want the person to do and say. If you just hand them the Core Board and say “Use this to talk!,” they might be confused or push away the Core Board. If you model how to use the Core Board and model language alongside them with the communication tool, they will be more receptive and more likely to communicate using the Core Board. It’s also important to praise the individual for using the Core Board, no matter how successful they were or how they used it. Did they point to each symbol and say every word? That’s amazing! Did they just point to the symbols but not have any verbal output? That’s amazing too! Did they only point to one symbol? That’s also amazing! The more you praise the person for using the Core Board, the more likely they are to continue to use it to communicate. You can say “Great job using your Board to communicate!” or “That was a good effort using your Board!” (or something to that effect). Using a Core Board and getting used to it is a challenging feat–so praising them for any effort, no matter how big or small; is important!
Once you have all of the ingredients gathered, you will create what is known in the culinary world as a mise en place. This is just a fancy French term for “having everything in place/having everything laid out” before beginning to cook. This will prevent making mistakes during the cooking process and will also speed up the process of cooking. You’ll first mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. This is an opportunity to have the child say: “Put it in.” You’ll say and point to each word on the Core Board and then point to the item you want them to put into the bowl. Before they place an item in the bowl, have them imitate the phrase you just modeled. Once you have all of the dry ingredients mixed, you are going to cream together the butter and granulated sugar with a stand or hand mixer. Once the butter and granulated sugar are in the mixer, you’ll model “Turn it on” and point to the mixer when you say “it.” Once the butter and sugar are creamed, you’ll add in the other wet ingredients with the phrase “put it in.” Once all of the wet ingredients are well combined, you’ll add in the mixture of dry ingredients little by little. This prevents a gummy dough and also flying flour. Once you’ve mixed the wet and dry ingredients, you will fold in the finely minced pieces of crystallized ginger. Then, you’ll roll the cookie dough into 1 inch balls and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet about 3 inches apart. When you are rolling the cookies, you can say “I/you make it” and point to the cookie dough ball. Once you get all of the cookies rolled out (it should make 2 dozen), you’ll let the dough set up in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Chilling the dough before baking helps to prevent spreading (most of the time) and ending up with one large cookie mass instead of individual cookies. During this time, you can continue to model different phrases with the Core Board! You can also chop more of the crystallized ginger to put on top of the cookies before baking and make the lemon glaze that will be drizzled over the cookies after baking and cooling.
About 10 minutes before the hour of chilling is up, preheat your oven to 350 degrees to give it ample time to come to temperature. Place the chopped ginger (a few pieces) on top of each cookie and press it in to ensure that it will stay on the cookie once baked. Once the oven is to temperature, bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes or until fully baked. The centers will be very soft (but they are baked!). Let them cool before drizzling the glaze over top.
Before eating, this is another opportunity to use the Core Board! You can model “We eat cookies” and have the child say the same. Then, after having a cookie; you can ask the child “Do you like it?” If they do, they can say “I like it!” If they don’t, they can say “Stop.” If they want another one (and you’re okay with giving them another one), they can ask for “more.”
As you have learned, there are SO many opportunities to utilize a Core Board for communication while baking up a yummy batch of cookies! If you are interested in learning more about how to make your own Core Board using Google Docs, check out my YouTube video below for a tutorial!
What I love about cooking and baking is that there are SO many opportunities to incorporate speech and language with it! I hope you enjoyed this blog post and learned something about baking and speech-language therapy!
❤️ Bridget, CCC-SLP & Kitchen Wizard