For people using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) as an alternative to talking, they need language. Language is about words and sentences - used to speak and listen, and even read and write.
We need language so we can communicate for a wide variety of reasons. We call these reasons, communication functions. We can define communication functions as the different reasons that we communicate every day with the world around us.
AAC should give communicators words to say what they think, ask for things, tell stories and jokes, ask questions, and share what they know.
Modeling communication functions
To learn the language needed to communicate for different reasons, AAC learners need to see others do it. When modeling, we point to words on the user’s AAC system as we talk to them during day-to-day interactions. And just like we model to teach vocabulary and different ways to combine words, we also model examples of different communication functions. We can show how we can communicate different messages for different reasons using the AAC. We do this modeling regularly and reliably.
A common limitation in AAC systems and teams’ support of AAC users is focusing only on one communication function: requesting. AAC users can get really good at asking for things. They can make requests for food, favorite shows, places to go, YouTube videos, etc. Making requests is motivating for AAC users. It may be one of the first reasons they use their AAC.
However, there is far more to language and communication than just requesting. There are many more reasons to communicate. Give AAC users the words to share information, tell stories, make comments, and tell us what they think. Developing these skills makes real connections possible.