Learn about AAC with Smartbox Academy

Smartbox Academy is an online learning platform for educators and professionals supporting people with complex communication needs. There are a range of free and low-cost courses from beginner to expert, to help you get started with Smartbox products and further your knowledge of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

The SEN classroom environment is always changing. Staff members come and go, and new software is often introduced, navigating these changes can be challenging. Whether you’re introducing Grid in your classroom or have recently welcomed a pupil who uses AAC, Smartbox Academy is a valuable resource for both onboarding new team members and supporting existing staff – particularly those unfamiliar with Smartbox products.

Student using an AAC device to support communication with two teachers.

Sign up to the Academy

It’s free to sign up to the Academy and explore the courses, and new content and workshops are added throughout the year. This week, three brand-new courses have been uploaded to the Academy:

  • Supporting AAC Users and Mental Health
  • Accessible Apps
  • Voco Chat short course

> Take a tour of Smartbox Academy

Where to start

There are two learning pathways designed to help you get started with Smartbox’s communication software Grid 3 (Windows) and Grid for iPad. These courses guide you through the basics of Grid, introduce you to content for symbol and text communication, show you how to personalise the content, and provide valuable tips for supporting emerging communicators. These are self-paced courses and don’t need to be completed in one go – just exit to save your progress and return whenever you’re ready.

You’ll also find a range of video-based short courses focusing on different topics, from using access methods like switches, personalising Super Core, and learning to support gestalt communicators, to getting started with Smartbox products like Look Lab, symbol vocabulary Voco Chat and AAC device Talk Pad. These courses all take under an hour to complete, ideal to fill a gap in your day.

Pupil using an AAC device being supported by a teacher.

AAC in the classroom

The “AAC in the Classroom” course has been designed with SEN teachers and AAC specialists and backed by research, with strategies and tools to support the emerging communicators in a school environment. By the end of this course, you will know how to address the specific communication needs of different learners with AAC tools and technology, as an effective communication partner. You will also learn about different models of teaching and lesson planning, and how to apply this knowledge to support AAC users.

Young woman sitting at a desk with a laptop

Supporting AAC users and mental health

In recent years, the conversation around mental health in young people has opened up. Research indicates mental health issues are more prevalent among those with complex communication needs (Watson, Reghavendra, & Crocker, 2021). To facilitate these conversations in the classroom, we need to foster an environment where everyone is heard and can access support.

Look out for the “Supporting AAC Users and Mental Health” course with strategies to champion the well-being of AAC users. You’ll explore the pressures on young AAC users in education settings and practical tools to be an effective communication partner. This course also provides cultural considerations and suggests ways to adapt our communication accordingly. Inclusivity should be at the core of every classroom; pupils from diverse cultures and backgrounds must also be heard.

Pupil using an AAC device with a teacher.

Smartbox Academy online learning for AAC

In this Thursday Thirty session Kim from Smartbox, takes you on a tour of the platform and the different courses available, and shares more about the plans for continually developing new content.

> Watch the recording

About Smartbox Academy

The courses on Smartbox Academy are created by experts to help you learn how to best use AAC and Grid in your classroom. Smartbox also creates software and devices to help disabled people communicate and live more independently. Visit Smartbox Academy to see the full list of available courses and sign up.

> Visit Smartbox Academy

> Introducing Smartbox Academy blog