Five Tips for Creating Accessible Conference Sessions

By Diane Nutting

Conferences are a vital part of our professional development. The opportunity to learn more about innovations in the industry, share new insights and approaches, and network with our colleagues provides inspiration and often results in new ideas, new work, and new partnerships. Creating an accessible conference session ensures that ALL our colleagues are included within these learning communities. The five tips below can aid in your planning facilitation.

1. Consider the room layout. Think about the environment you want to create for your session, and how you want your attendees to engage and/or share information with each other. Use this information to decide how you want tables and chairs arranged—taking into account the physical accessibility of the space before, after, and during the session. Once you are in the space, plan for the positioning of service providers such as sign language interpreters and real time captioning as well as the attendees utilizing those services, and keep an eye to lighting, glare, or other visual distractions in the room.

2. Create a safe space. Set the tone at the beginning of your session so that attendees feel safe to explore new ideas without the fear of making “mistakes,” or saying “the wrong thing.” Provide and accept a wide range of participation levels depending on comfort level. Encourage the use of “I” statements during discussions to frame opinions or thoughts. Create and encourage a session environment where attendees can ask for the support or clarification they need.

3. Facilitate accessible activities. Provide various entry points and participation strategies for your session activities. Make sure that hanging or displayed materials are at an appropriate and accessible height and distance for your attendees. Provide materials that can support engagement (examples: if using tennis balls for an activity, consider bean bags which can be easier to catch and grasp; provide markers that are both large and small). Make sure any handouts are designed for accessibility* (font, layout, etc.), and provide alternative formats of the materials (digital access, large print, etc.).

4. Support your slides. Design your PowerPoint so that font sizes, color schemes, and formatting aligns to accessible guidelines.* Throughout your session, be sure to audio describe any images or photos on slides, and spell out any web addresses. Avoid putting large amounts of text on the screen for attendees to read on their own; instead, read that text as part of your facilitation.

5. Make sure everyone is “heard”: Encourage one speaker at a time during discussions. If amplification is available in the room, ensure that everyone uses a microphone (including you). Repeat comments and questions, and clarify any acronyms or industry jargon/terminology that is used. Take note of participation that is only perceived visually and describe it verbally (examples: if you ask for a “show of hands,” be sure to indicate the percentage of response; if attendees are nodding their heads in response, share that information— “I see many of you nodding in agreement”).

Accessibility within conference sessions is about thinking ahead, maintaining a “read” of your session attendees, and being a flexible and creative problem solver in the moment. Even more importantly, when you take steps to ensure accessibility for your own session, your actions might very well influence the ideas of inclusion and accessibility within the overall conference environment as well!


* Resources for creating accessible materials (courtesy of Sina Bahram)


A woman with shoulder-length, wavy brown hair, wearing a red and white scarf around her neck and a red shirt.Diane Nutting works as a consultant at the intersections of disability, arts, and education—specializing in training design and facilitation, project coordination, and strategic planning. She has worked with artists and K-Adult students of all abilities as a teacher, administrator, and artistic collaborator; and also has extensive experience in conference settings as a conference coordinator, staff member, and avid session presenter.   She served for nine years as the Director of Access and Inclusion for Imagination Stage, working to provide accessible and inclusive performing arts experiences for all students, patrons, and artists.   


March 2016 VSA Webinar: “Poetry in Motion: A Poetry Dance Play for the Middle School Special Education Classroom Confirmation”

Poetry in Motion: A Poetry Dance Play for the Middle School Special Education Classroom, presented on March 8, 2016, explored lessons on how to engage a special education classroom in poetry and dance from thematic conception to culminating performance. As the roles of educators and learners in arts education continue to shift, teachers realize the limitless potential learners can have when provided with the right tools to motivate exploration and self-expression. Poetry and dance, two of the purest forms of self-expression and learning, exist in an intricate embrace of language and movement. This webinar aimed to foster an appreciation of this integration in the classroom and provide examples and practical how-to tips for your classroom.

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)

March 2016


Nawal_Muradwij-Jenny_Seham_2-24 Jenny Seham, PhD is a dancer, actress, choreographer and clinical psychologist who writes about the benefits of the arts for diverse student populations. She introduces multiple arts opportunities to her students around the world, collaborating with diverse artists, teachers, and innovators. This has led to poetry, dance, music and visual arts projects from NYC to Los Angeles and in Mexico and Ecuador. 



Nawal_Muradwij-Nawal-23 Nawal Muradwij is both an MA candidate in Clinical Psychology and a poet. Her interest in integration of arts into education as well as her own past experience reaping the emotional and learning benefits of poetry offers a unique perspective on the topic.




Summary of Discussion Topics:

  • Diverse learners and multiple art forms
    • How do I teach an art form that is not my discipline?
    • Collaborate!
    • Encourage and set aside time for partner work
  • Poetry and dance
  • Poetry Dance Play: Strategies, Instructions, and Ideas
    • Find inspiring poems and poets
      • Ex. James Berry, Maya Angelou
    • Write poetry
  • Takeaways:
    • How to maximize the potential of diverse learners by integrating multiple art forms in the classroom
    • Specific strategies, exercises, and curricula utilizing poetry and dance in special education classrooms
    • How to step outside YOUR arts or educational expertise and consider ways to include less familiar art forms in your teaching
  • Contact:

Links and Resources:

We want to know-what did you learn from this webinar?



February 2016 VSA Webinar: “Creative Control: Arts, Self-Determination, and Student-led IEPs”

Creative Control: Arts, Self-Determination, and Student-led IEPS, presented February 9, 2016, explored the challenges students face to meet their IEP goals when they’re not at the table to determine what those goals should be, how they can best work towards them, or sometimes even why they have an IEP in the first place. Arts lessons and activities – including role play, creative writing, visual art portfolios, and peer critique – provide educators with a range of possibilities for documenting and assessing student progress, and offer multiple points of entry for students to engage meaningfully in their IEP process and develop the self-determination skills necessary for success in school and in life.

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)

February 2016


N. Dearden_headshot As a Secondary Transition Specialist at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), Ms. Naté Dearden provided training to DC educators on how to promote student involvement and self-determination throughout the special education planning process. Ms. Dearden also led the Secondary Transition Community of Practice, a group of community stakeholders who advocate for improved post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities.



2016 VSA SchoolTalk webinar_Eliza Derick

Eliza Derick, Special Education Teacher, Eastern Senior High School, earned a Masters in Special Education from American University and a BA in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She has 10 years of arts-based instruction experience in special education classrooms from DCPS to The Lab School of Washington, and is certified through the DCPS Leadership Initiative For Teachers at the Advanced stage.


2016 VSA SchoolTalk webinar_Mo Thomas Mo Thomas, 8th Grade Inclusion Specialist, Two Rivers PCS, earned her B.A. in Communications from North Carolina State University, with a triple concentration in Theatre, Mass Communication/ Journalism, and Public and Interpersonal Communication.



S Oetgen_headshot Susan Oetgen, Arts & Conflict Resolution Specialist, SchoolTalk, facilitates a range of collaborative, interagency initiatives to promote self-determination and creativity in secondary transition planning with and for students with disabilities in District of Columbia schools.




Summary of Discussion Topics:

  •  Origin of Creative Arts in Student-led IEPs — April 2015
  • Takeaway 1: Student Self-Determination and Student-led IEPs
    • What is self-determination?
      • Knowing yourself, knowing what you want your future to look like and how to plan for it, and knowing the supports you will need to have control in your life
    • Research-Based Benefits:
      • Students develop stronger self-advocacy and self-determination skills which leads to self-confidence
      • Increased parent and general education teacher participation
    • Self-determination matters!
    • Impact of adult driven planning process:
      • Students don’t know they have a disability
      • Students often don’t know the reason for IEP meetings
      • Students report that they make few (if any) decisions at IEP meetings
      • Students don’t know what is expected of them during IEP meetings
    • What is a student-led IEP?
      • Meaningful participation in ALL stages of IEP development
      • Student takes a leadership and decision-making role
  • Takeaway 2: Arts = Strategies to Document and Assess Student IEP Goals
    • Role play
    • Student memoirs
    • Vocabulary rap
    • Creative projects and presentations used as mastery of IEP goals
    • Visual representations of self-awareness
  • Takeaway 3: Arts = Strategies to Cultivate Student Self-Determination and IEP Participation
    • Identity boxes
    • Vision boards
    • Artist statements
    • Spirit animals
    • Coat of arms
  • Our experience as educators

Links and Resources:

We want to know-what did you learn from this webinar?

January 2016 VSA Webinar: “Dance Across Cultural Paradigms with Bhangra—a Folk Dance from India”

Dance Across Cultural Paradigms with Bhangra—a Folk Dance from India, presented January 26, 2016, taught educators how to incorporate aspects of culture through music, language, storytelling, and attire into a dance residency for students with a variety of physical, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities. Participants learned ways to expand their toolbox of sensory and kinesthetic methods with strategies that can be applied to explore various areas of expertise. This webinar targeted all professors, teachers, artists, administrators, and paradigm shifters. The presenter, Mala Desai, offered a special invitation to experienced artists immersed in practicing traditional and folk arts from diverse cultures to expand arts learning for students with disabilities.

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)

January 2016


Mala_Desai-Mala2VSABorn in New Delhi, India, Mala Desai is a teacher of Odissi and Folk Dances from India since 1995. She is currently a Teaching Artist with Marquis Studios, on the dance faculty of Young Indian Culture Group, and Artistic Director of Mala’s School of Odissi Dance. She is also a professional NYS Licensed Social Worker and an ABA Therapist for Early Intervention services.

Summary of Discussion Topics:

  • What is “Bhangra”
  • Simplification of step
    • Side toe step with arm rolls
    • Heel dig with arm movements
    • Hop with arm movements
    • Hamstrung curl with arms swaying low and high
    • Squats and jumps with arm movements
    • Side bends with lateral stretch
  • Marquis Studios Residency
    • 10 sessions
    • 4-6 classes per day
    • Max 35 students per class
    • Co-teaching strategy when possible
    • Performance as final session
  • NYC District 75
  • Various student disabilities
  • What happens each session:
    • Greeting
    • Brief overview
    • Warm-up
    • Dance steps
    • Dancing to rhythm/music
    • Something NEW today
    • Cool-down
  • Goals: Physical movement, engage all students, participation by all students
  • Anatomical movement planes:
    • Sagittal
    • Frontal
    • Transverse
  • Count of 4
  • Stick-figures as cues and connections
  • Learning the “L”
  • Different warm-up music
    • Beats
    • Ho Jayegi Balle Balle
    • JaiHo-Treasure
  • To engage:
    • Name
    • Collaboration
    • Sensory stimulation:
      • Music
      • Tools
      • Visuals
      • Words
      • Costumes (very important for participation!)
      • Toys: scarves, o-ball, stretchy band, bells, and tambourines

Links and Resources:

We want to know-what did you learn from this webinar?

Five Tips on Encouraging Arts Learning for Young Students with Disabilities

By Jessica Pennock and Angela Steele

Artists Creating Together (ACT) and Grand Rapids-area Early Childhood Special Education programs joined forces to create an art program to meet the unique goals of the preschool population. The program was developed using research revealing the importance of arts education in brain development. This program continues to evolve and change to meet the needs of each student. Below are ACT’s top five tips learned from their work with artists and preschoolers.

  1. Make it meaningful. Art making is an intentional response to our experiences. Whatever the art form, ensure that students are learning how to ask purposeful questions about concepts they encounter every day, from community, to culture, to conflict and relationships.
  1. Celebrate choice. Oftentimes, management and standardization creeps into the arts; children are required to complete step-by-step crafts that look strikingly similar in the end. In every way possible, a child needs to own his or her work, and ultimately the idea behind it. Allowing for choice in terms of approach, media, and scale creates opportunities that challenge the child to think independently and will enrich the outcome of the piece.
  1. Provide opportunities to be proud. Students with disabilities are faced with challenging situations every day. The arts provide a unique space where children can shine; allow them to do so. Display works publically, provide specific positive feedback, and honor your young artists.
  1. Try it all. So you’re not sure if you’re up to teaching breakdancing? Not the best at drawing? Do it anyway, and do it with confidence. Open your child’s eyes to as many art forms, as many experiences, as many senses as you can possibly imagine. If you don’t know how, enlist someone that does.
  1. Stuck? Just flip it. Perhaps the most valuable advice an art teacher ever gave me came when I had been staring for an hour at my sorry-looking, in-progress wood sculpture, poking at it in a measly attempt to encourage it into a more compelling piece. “Just flip it over,” he suggested. What a difference it made—turning the piece into something I’d never imagined. Indeed, when our interactions with students prove challenging and we as leaders and educators feel we are losing our will to approach a student in a positive, uplifting way, take a mental step back and reimagine the situation from a different perspective. Teach your students to do the same.


Angela Steele headshot

Angela Steele

Angela Steele is the executive director of Artists Creating Together. She has a Master of Science in Education and experience teaching children and adults of diverse backgrounds and teaching those with special needs. One of her sons has a disability and participates in ACT programming, so she knows how transformational art education can be for individuals with disabilities. She is actively involved in supporting art and education throughout the community.


Jessica Pennock headshot

Jessica Pennock


Jessica Pennock is the Interim Program Assistant at Artists Creating Together.

Early Childhood Arts Education for Students with Disabilities

A student artist in an ACT visual art class creates a sensory bag.

A student artist in an ACT visual art class creates a sensory bag. She is measuring out the ingredients, adding them to the bag, and then mixing them through play.

Lifelong arts engagement is often mentioned with regard to arts and aging, but is equally valuable for the youngest members of society. The U.S. National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently released a report entitled The Arts in Early Childhood that examines the many benefits of arts education for the very young. At Artists Creating Together in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they have long known what the NEA study tells us: that arts participation in early childhood is strongly linked to social skills development and emotion regulation ability.


Artists Creating Together (ACT) began their Early Childhood Art Exploration program for children ages 3-5 as a partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools over fifteen years ago. According to ACT Executive Director Angela Steele, the program serves both students with more severe, multiple disabilities who will not be mainstreamed and students with disabilities in an inclusive setting. For the 2015-2016 school year, ACT has expanded the program to include two new school districts.


Students play drums in an ACT class.

A student artist in an ACT visual art class creates a sensory bag. She is measuring out the ingredients, adding them to the bag, and then mixing them through play.

In the classes for students with severe disabilities, ACT brings three local, professional teaching artists in to work with the students. One of the professionals is a visual artist who focuses on sensory art. Steele says the visual arts instruction is “…all about process and product comes second.” ACT also hires a drumming instructor who offers the students a lot of different percussion tools to utilize to make music. The third artist works with the students on creative movement and dance, implementing teaching and occupational therapy goals with movement. According to Steele, the movement comes in many forms. She says, “For some students it’s a head nod, for others it’s moving around the room with scarves. Wings, shakers, and other tools can also help facilitate movement.”


For the current school year, ACT has expanded its early childhood program to include a school with both a Montessori classroom and a special education classroom. ACT is offering its arts classes to inclusive groups of 28 students from both classrooms, with half of the students from the Montessori program and half from the special education program. These inclusive arts classes adopted a theme of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book by Eric Carle. They are exploring lessons in creative movement, visual art, drumming, dramatic play, and the art of gardening/nature.


A girl participates in an ACT creative movement class.

A student artist in an ACT visual art class creates a sensory bag. She is measuring out the ingredients, adding them to the bag, and then mixing them through play.

Steele says the large, combined classes posed an initial challenge to the teaching artists, but they are motivated by the positive student response to the inclusive setting. She shared a story about the special education students arriving in the arts classroom first, then having a hard time settling into a spot on the large circle on the floor because they are so excited. Once the Montessori students arrive, everyone has an easier time establishing routine and finding spots, as the students respond to peer models and take up peer norms.


When asked what ACT has learned over the years, Steele cites their improving student engagement and assessing growth. “Despite the fact that some students have very limited movement, there are ways we can adapt the art instruction itself so all are included – it can be through vocalizations or sounds or eye movements or not letting go of materials. So we’ve learned throughout the years how to pick up on student engagement when they are unable to communicate in the typical way,” says Steele.


ACT also looks at artistic, cognitive, and social development in every art form over the course of its engagement with each student. Every adult teacher and paraprofessional completes a program evaluation before and after each art form unit, assessing changes in the students. Steele reports that the evaluations have not only been helpful for ACT, but also to the schools for report cards.


More than anything, Steele says the biggest lesson of the Early Childhood Art Exploration program is the real impact art can have on very young students with disabilities. As the NEA study concludes, there is compelling support for a positive relationship between early childhood arts participation and the development of important social and emotional skills.

The Best of Our 2015 Blog Posts

This year has been a big one for the Office of VSA and Accessibility. We ran two incredibly successful conferences, LEAD and VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education. We also celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of VSA. Throughout it all, we’ve posted some spectacular blog posts recognizing special individuals and offered advice and tips for our readers. Here’s a list of our top 5 posts that you all have visited during this great year!

#5 Striking a Balance with Internal and External Program Evaluation

  • ArtsConnection NYC program evaluation process
  • Introduced “Spectrum Musical Theater”

#4 A Vision Embodied

  • VSA 40th Anniverary: Championing the Arts
  • Winners:
    • Niv Ashkenazi – Violinist
    • J.P. Illaramendi – Actor/Musician
    • Marquetta Johnson – Visual Artist
    • Nicole Kelly – Iowa representative in 2013 Miss America competition
    • Blessing Offor – Singer and Songwriter: 2010 VSA International Young Soloists Award Winner
    • Tami Lee Santimyer – Actress
    • Cal Sheridan – 2013 Playwright Discovery Program winner
    • Colette Young – Flautist and Pianist: 2013 VSA International Young Soloists Award winner

#3 Meet the 2015 VSA International Young Soloists Award Winners

  • 31st Anniversary of the International Young Soloists Competition
  • Winners:
    • Sophie Graf, 20 year-old harpist from San Diego, California
    • Alex Lee, 20-year-old violist from Walnut Creek, California
    • Jordan Lulloff, 21-year-old saxophonist  from Okemos, Michigan
    • Amar Moturu, a 15-year-old percussionist from Cypress, Texas

#2 Five Tips for Teaching Dance to Students with Disabilities: Teaching with PRIDE

  • Written by Jenny Seham
  • Five tips to help integrate important, intrinsic dance education values with specific methods for teaching dance to students with disabilities.
  • What is PRIDE?
    • P: Peer Partnerships
      • Dyadic learning, improvisation, interpretation and mirroring practice between partners
    • R: Routines and Rituals
      • Centering routine so teacher can observe progress in students
    • I: Improvisation
      • Give students an emotion, tempo, piece of music, or story to inspire their own dance
    • D: Dance Vocabulary
      • Gives students confidence to practice outside of class
    • E: Excellence
      • Recognize and identify individual achievement throughout class

#1 Five Tips for Working with Students with Developmental Disabilities in the Arts

  • Written by Alice Walker
  • 1. Let the child lead you!
    • Don’t have preconceptions about what a child can and cannot do
  • 2. Begin art making with a game
    • Brings about surprising competencies and talents!
  • 3. Offer students long projects rather than isolated studio lessons
    • Can be adapted to the interests and inclinations of the students
  • 4. Incorporate time for critiques and sharing
    • A constant stream of dialogue throughout art making is essential when working with children with developmental disabilities.
  • 5. Presume competence
    • American educator, Douglas Biklen, invites us to re-conceive what disability is as understood from the standard of normality.

Which post was your favorite and what would you like to see in 2016?

December 2015 VSA Webinar: “Can You Feel It?: A Tactile Approach to Music Literacy”

The music classroom is a place for all students to experience music in a variety of ways. Learning to read music can be a challenge for many students and even more difficult for students with disabilities. Can You Feel It?: A Tactile Approach to Music Literacy, presented on December 1, 2015, addressed teaching music literacy to students with disabilities using a tactile approach. The presenter, Jennifer Nichols, offered instructions and ideas for creating or altering music literacy materials for students to feel and touch to help them develop the skills used in reading music. Attendees created their own tactile representation of music containing high/low pitches and quarter note and paired eighth note rhythms using just a pen or pencil and piece of paper.

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)

December Blog Video Photo


Jennifer_Nichols-JNicholsHeadshotJennifer Nichols is a K-5 music teacher at Signal Hill Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia for Prince William County Schools. Jennifer teaches approximately 700 students including students with autism and students with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities. She received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Bowling Green State University and her Master of Music in Music Education from Boston University. Contact:

Summary of Discussion Topics:

  • Limitations of Traditional Notation
    • Typically only two-dimensional
    • Uses unfamiliar symbols
    • Requires advanced decoding and reading skills
  • Tactile Solutions
    • Create 3D music notation
    • Use familiar shapes/objects on music notation to help students read music
    • Use varying material for tactile music
  • Benefits of Tactile Music
    • Students actively engaged in reading music
    • Students can FEEL concepts in music such as pitch, rhythm and notation
  • Examples of tactile music solutions you can create (look at Presentation Slides located under “Links and Resources” to see explanations and instructions)
    • Simplified Staff
    • Writable Staff
    • Magnetic Staff
    • Student-Friendly Notation
    • Notation Vocabulary Cards
    • Adapting Existing Music
  • Other Ideas:
    • Communication board
    • Music books in larger font and Braille

Links and Resources:

Five Tips on Making Music Literacy Attainable for Students with Disabilities

By Jennifer Nichols

These five tips address teaching music literacy to students with special needs using a tactile approach. For more information on this subject, watch the recording of the VSA Webinar entitled “Can You Feel It?: A Tactile Approach to Music Literacy” from December 1, 2015 (you will be prompted to enter your name and email address before watching).

  1. Choose one concept. Music notation encompasses many concepts including pitch, rhythm, tempo, articulation, and dynamics. Focus on one concept for the student to master at a time.
  1. Use student-friendly notation. Create student-friendly notation using pictures. For example, if you are teaching the rhythm to the traditional song, “Star Light, Star Bright,” replace the note heads with star pictures or three dimensional star stickers for the students to feel and tap as they read the rhythm.
  1. Vary the materials. Using student-friendly tactile notation is key; however, not all materials work for everyone. Try using adhesive Velcro® dots in place of note heads. Some students respond better to glue dots where larger dots represent quarter notes and two smaller dots represent paired eighth notes.
  1. Use music literacy throughout the lesson. Be musical whether you are greeting the students or giving directions by speaking rhythmically and/or singing. If you choose to sing, use only two pitches to demonstrate pitch. Have students tap on a simplified, one-line staff to show when your voice is high, above the line, or low, below the line.
  1. Think of the individual. Create variations of tactile notation in order to find the material and/or method that work best for each student.


Jennifer Nichols is a kindergarten–grade 5 music teacher at Signal Hill Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia for Prince William County Schools. Jennifer teaches approximately 700 students, including students with autism and students with moderate and severe disabilities.

The Art of AAC: Creating Visual Supports to Inspire Communication and Participation During Arts Instruction

The Art of AAC: Creating Visual Supports to Inspire Communication and Participation During Arts Instruction, presented on November 24, 2015, provided the principles of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to support and differentiate arts instruction for individuals with complex communication needs. The increase in inclusive practices means that more teachers trained for general education instruction now serve students with more involved special needs. Teachers of the arts often do not receive training in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). This presentation showed participants how to choose and create visual supports to increase access and communication during arts instruction. Participants learned how to identify their students’ levels of language development, as well as how and why they communicate. Participants also learned what types of AAC supports are effective for each language level and communicative function. Finally, participants of this Webinar were taken through the process of building some basic visual supports for their arts instruction.

Click on the play button below to watch a free recording of the Webinar. (You will be prompted to enter your email address and contact information prior to viewing the Webinar.)

Video Photo



Lisa Pierce Goldstein croppedLisa Pierce-Goldstein is a speech language pathologist and autism consultant for Boston Public Schools, a guest lecturer at Boston Conservatory’s program for Teaching Music to Students with Autism and a classically trained singer. She has spent the last decade adapting arts programs for students with disabilities. Contact:



Aubrey Rubin is a speech and language pathologist for the Boston Public Aubrey RubinSchools. She has worked for Boston Public since graduating from the MGH Institute of Health Professions in 2005. Aubrey has worked in a variety of schools within the system, but has always specialized in working with students on the autism spectrum. Currently she is working at the Mattahunt School and is an autism and pragmatic language specialist and consultant within the district. Contact:

Summary of Discussion Topics:

  • AAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication
  • Complex Communication Needs:
    • Challenges with:
      • Cognitive Language
      • Speech Motor Production
      • Social Pragmatic Skills\
  • Levels of Communication:
    • Pre-Intentional Communication
    • Intentional Communication
    • Symbolic Communication
  • Functions of Communication:
    • Protesting and Refusing
    • Organization and Transitions
    • Requesting
    • Directives
    • Commenting
    • Questions
    • Social Pragmatics
  • Environmental Supports:
    • Labels
    • Visual Sequences
    • Classroom Visual Schedule
    • Choice Boards and Boxes
  • Instructional Supports:
    • Adapted books
    • Topic Boards
    • Core Vocabulary Boards
    • Quizzes
    • Song Sheets
    • Scene and Element Cues
  • Behavioral Supports:
    • Scripts
    • Social Stories
    • Individualized Student Schedules
    • Checklists
    • Countdown Boards
    • First Then Boards
    • If you don’t have a boardmaker…draw it, cut it, click it, snap it, ask for it!

Links and Resources: