Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) needs teamwork! Regardless of where you are in your AAC journey, getting your team on board is crucial for success.
Who makes up the team for AAC? Anyone and everyone! The AAC user is a central member of the team and should be involved as much as possible. All people who interact with the AAC user can contribute to getting AAC going. This is because communication is always happening. Every day, in almost every situation, we can use AAC. AAC users always need access to their AAC. The team can make this happen. Get everyone in the environment on board with using and supporting the AAC system. Don’t forget peers, classmates, and siblings in this!
This article will cover 10 key ways that teams can play a part in the AAC journey, by presuming competence, knowing the AAC and making it available. Also, teams need to start modeling and also develop effective communication partner skills. Lastly, teams need to work together to support each other, collect information and review and reflect on how the AAC is going.
1. Presume Competence
Team members contribute so much to the AAC learning process when they believe in the AAC user’s ability to grow! Presuming competence means each member of the team believes in the AAC user’s potential to learn. Each team member believes that the AAC user has something to say. They work together to give the AAC user the tools and support to say it.
When members of the team take this positive mindset, they will provide many opportunities for interaction, engagement and real communication.
2. Understand AAC
All team members can be involved in the AAC journey when they know about AAC. This goes beyond just knowing the basics of what AAC is. It also means learning what they can do to develop and support language using AAC.
In addition, it is essential that team members know the AAC user’s specific system. This means they take the time to get familiar with the AAC tool being used. This may involve “playing” with the vocabulary to become more confident finding words. But it should also involve building team members’ skills in customizing the AAC system. Team members should feel confident that they are able to add vocabulary and personalize the AAC system as needed.
- Get help to learn more about AssistiveWare's Proloquo2Go.
- Get help to learn more about AssistiveWare's simPODD.
- Get help to learn more about AssistiveWare's Proloquo4Text.
3. Make AAC always available
Team members work together to set up the environment so AAC is available everywhere and all the time. They make sure that the AAC system is always turned on, charged and easy to access. This may also involve team members creating paper-based boards and posters of the AAC system. Team members might even project the AAC onto whiteboards or TVs. Team members can use straps, harnesses and mounts to make the devices more portable and instantly available to use.
The most vital step for all team members is to learn to model. This means pointing to the words on the AAC system while talking to the AAC user. When the AAC user sees people in their environment using the AAC system to communicate, they will learn how they can also use their AAC to communicate. It also shows them how socially valued and powerful AAC communication can be.
All team members need to get on board with modeling. Modeling should never be done by just one or two people. Teams need to work together and encourage each other so that modeling becomes part of everyday communication with the AAC user.
If you catch a team member doing some great modeling, take a video and share it with other members of the team! Reward good modeling with prizes and awards and other incentives.
5. Working on effective communication partner skills
Team members need to learn how to become reliable and consistent communication partners to AAC users. How they support, prompt and respond to an AAC user is so important.
There are many things teams can do to build their communication partner skills. Some good places to start include:
- reviewing basic practices of timing and waiting,
- learning appropriate prompting techniques, and,
- considering how to respond to communication.
Teams should work together on these areas to develop a plan that everyone on the team can consistently use. Getting team members on the same page with these strategies ensures that AAC users get consistent information and feedback from all people in their environment.
You can work with AAC users to see how they best like to be supported by Communication Partners. Fill the checklist to record what works best.
6. Getting and providing support and training
Teams need support. Teams may need additional training, so that all members can have a shared basic understanding of AAC and AAC teaching methods. Developing a common understanding will help them to maintain momentum and keep moving forward in the AAC journey.
Some team members may come in with more experience or background knowledge. They can take a lead role in providing support and training to other team members.
All teams are different. They may need support and training in different areas. Look at our Learn AAC Guide now to identify where your team most needs more support.
You can also access support and training outside the team. Teams can utilize professional learning opportunities at conferences, workshops or online.
For more help and support for our products, go to our Help & Support section.
For more information on core words and core word materials, visit the AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom.
Teams may also wish to watch useful training videos found at these sites:
- Aided Language Stimulation Explained
- AAC in the Cloud
- Angelman Foundation Communication Training Series
- Be a Super Modeler
- Literacy for All
- Project Core Learning Modules
You may also wish to follow these useful blogs and websites:
7. Collecting information
Teams should be collecting information throughout the AAC journey. Make sure your team looks at both at what is and isn’t working for the AAC user. A good strategy is to collect videos, photos and stories, both of successes and of those situations that need some troubleshooting. These can be very useful to share within teams for support and training opportunities.
8. Reviewing and reflecting
Teams should review and reflect on the progress and current goals for the AAC user. It is very important for teams to collaborate on the next communication targets and what strategies should be used. Teams need to come together regularly to look at information that has been collected. They need to look at the environment and the communication partners to review where roadblocks or barriers may be forming. And finally, teams need to work together to ensure that there are always positive steps forward for the AAC user.
9. Safe and secure
It is the responsibility of all team members that people using AAC are safe and secure. Teams can put safeguards into place to ensure this.
10. New team members
Teams will change as new people come into the AAC user’s life and old ones leave. Good teams will have a solid plan for supporting new team members to get on board with the AAC system and strategies already in place. Written documentation and video samples can provide some good starting points. Giving new team members the chance to watch and observe others is also useful.
The next step
Developing strong team members to support AAC users is an ongoing process. You may come back to this step many times in your AAC journey. Each member of the team, including the AAC user, plays an important role in the successful implementation of AAC. Another step your team might take is to plan for AAC throughout the day.
Links & References
- Copley, J., & Ziviani, J. (2007). Use of a team-based approach to assistive technology assessment and planning for children with multiple disabilities: a pilot study. Assistive Technology, 19, 109-125.
- Romski, M., & Sevcik, R. A. (2005). Augmentative communication and early intervention: Myths and Realities. Infants and Young Children, 18, 174–185.
- Samperi, Amanda. (2019). How I Do it: Teaching the AAC helpers. [Blog post]
- Zangari, Carole. (2017). On AAC Training: Skill Building for AAC Team Members. [Blog post]
- Zangari, Carole. (2013). 5 Things to Consider About Data Collection in AAC. [Blog post]