Communication partner skills: Do you have them?

3 minute read • November 24, 2020

There is a lot of research about communication partner behavior and how they interact with non-speaking people and/or AAC users. We clearly see that speaking people dominate the conversations. In the on-demand training video “Communication partner skills” Part 1 and 2, part of our AAC training series, our senior Speech Pathologist Amanda Hartmann teaches tips, tricks and strategies that will help us all become successful communication partners.

Do you know what a communication partner is? Do you know what makes a successful communication partner? Do you know what an AAC user will need from a communication partner in the different stages of their learning journey? These questions, including tips, tricks, and strategies, will be discussed in our training videos, “Communication Partner Skills” Part 1 and 2, the next in line of our AAC training series, created and presented by our senior Speech Pathologist Amanda Hartmann. But what prompted Amanda to create not one but two training videos about communication partners?

“Speaking people tend to take the turn of non-speaking people.”

There is a lot of research about communication partners' behavior and how they interact with non-speaking people and/or AAC users. When we look at this research, we clearly see that speaking people dominate the conversations. Speaking people take up most of the turns and even make judgments about an AAC user's capabilities.

For these reasons, we should be observing communication partner skills and noticing how they support and respond to AAC users in a helpful and consistent way. If the communication partner is responsive, observant, and gives the AAC user time, the AAC user will rise to that and is much more likely to succeed and grow.

“The biggest challenge AAC users consistently face is the behavior of speaking people.”

We asked numerous AAC users who is their favorite person to talk to. Everybody responded that patient and respectful communication partners were their favorite person to talk to. Read what an AAC user said about their communication partner being flexible and patient:

“[my communication partner] is completely understanding of how I may switch back and forth between AAC and verbal speech. It doesn’t faze him or make him value one form of communication more than the other. He values me communicating; however, that may be. He listens.” ~ Oliver Waite, AAC user

We should all aspire to be that person: to be there for the AAC user, actively listening, observing, be flexible, meet their needs, and accept all communication. This gives an AAC user the freedom to express themselves as they prefer. And this is exactly the aim of this 2-part training video: to give people the right tools to become better listeners and supporters, to become successful communication partners.

“Everybody’s needs are different, so we need to hear that.”

The “Communication partner skills” training video is split into two parts for this exact reason - everybody’s needs are different. We may talk to younger people who are learning how to use an AAC. Sometimes we talk to adults who use AAC, and they may know their way around their communication tool. So the two groups have very different requirements.

In Part 1, we will discuss strategies around modeling, responding, and how we can best support someone learning how to use an AAC. There is time in the video to pause and practice the new strategies you are learning. Make the most of the practical ideas that can make you support an AAC learner better. In Part 2, we talk about how we can support a person that is already pretty fluent with their AAC. We want to ask how they want to be supported and what we can do for them. Part 2 is especially interesting, not only for professionals but also for people in the community in general. Everybody who is associated in any way with an AAC user should know how to support them, and they could certainly benefit from this training video.

The two training videos are available through Vimeo. You can rent them now, either separately or as a bundle.

On-demand AAC training videos

Have you watched any of our on-demand AAC training videos yet? You can pick and choose the ones that interest you, from a wide selection of topics and with new titles added every month. Rent them for 30 days and watch them in your own time and at your own pace.


Written by
Rania Mouzakiti

Communications Specialist