Download the Learn AAC Guide (PDF)

Setting up for AAC

  • Presume competence
    We presume competence. Presuming competence affects how we make choices around Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), and how we provide opportunities and access to words, communication functions and the alphabet. Presuming competence also means that there are no prerequisite skills or age requirements to start using AAC.
  • Select a balanced AAC system
    Select a balanced AAC system, based on core words with quick access to fringe vocabulary, and the alphabet
  • Choosing a grid size
    Choose a grid size based on what the AAC user can see and touch, not based on cognitive skills, receptive language or what we think the AAC user can do.
  • Personalize vocabulary and system
    Personalize the vocabulary so the AAC user has access to important words. Customize the system settings to meet the AAC user’s needs.
  • Make AAC always available
    Make every environment set up for instant access to AAC. AAC should always be available. Consider cases, straps, paper-based copies as well as having the device charged and turned on.
  • Get the team on board
    All members of the team know about AAC and are ready and willing to be a part of AAC learning.
  • Plan for AAC throughout the day
    Look at routines and make a plan for where, when and how AAC can be integrated in the day.

Starting communication

  • Start modeling
    Point to words on the AAC system as we talk to the AAC user. Model regularly throughout the day. Model different reasons to communicate - not just requests. Model in conversations and natural interactions.
  • Activity-specific vs using balance vocabulary
    Use core words and fringe folders, rather than creating activity specific boards for everything.
  • Consider communication functions
    When we consider communication functions, we can plan and then model words that will build language and meaningful communication. We can expand an AAC user’s world beyond choice-making!
  • Build Communication Partner skills
    Communication Partners will model words on the AAC system. We wait, prompt & respond to the AAC users attempts at communication. We make comments, rather than ask questions and accept all forms of communication.
  • Engage and Interact
    Choose engaging and interesting activities, that give the AAC user motivation to communicate. Create opportunities for communication. Model on the AAC system during conversations and everyday interactions.

Building language and communication

  • Learn about core word teaching strategies
    Strategies for teaching core words can include: planning core words based on activities or communication functions, teaching using the Core Word of the week, or using the Descriptive Teaching Model.
  • Teach Grammar
    Consider ways to teach combining words and grammar to AAC users who are ready.
  • Integrating comprehensive literacy instruction
    Integrate communication learning alongside comprehensive literacy instruction for AAC users. This includes providing opportunities for learning sounds/letters, reading, spelling and writing.
  • Get practical ideas for building language
    We need to have bank of ideas and materials that support continued modeling and AAC learning. These ideas will build language and communication for AAC users.
  • Review and reflect
    Review and monitor progress. Reflect and make changes. Take videos. Try new things and continuing to push AAC without giving up!

Potential Roadblocks to success

NOTE: Every AAC user is different! Be flexible at each phase of the journey!

Download the Learn AAC Guide