Communication happens all day long. We talk at home, at school, at work, out and about and in the community. How does this look for someone using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)? Do they have a way to communicate in all situations?

Sadly, the reality is that often an AAC user does not have the necessary supports in place to be able to use their AAC system in different environments.

Make AAC always available

AAC needs to be available across different environments. Maybe we need cases and straps so that the AAC system can be more portable. Then AAC can be taken to the different places the AAC user goes. Perhaps we need to create a light-tech/paper-based AAC options to be used across environments.

In addition, we should plan for when AAC is not available. This includes planning for how communication might look in medical settings.

A way to ask

In some situations, an AAC user does not have their communication device. Do they have a way to ask for it?

Some strategies that can give a person a way to ask for their AAC, include:

  • Wrist bands or symbol cards to indicate that they need their AAC.
  • “Calling out” or vocalizing to get the attention of their communication partner.
  • A single-message button recorded to say “Please get my AAC system”.
  • A laminated information page that the person carries to share how they communicate, and asking someone to get their AAC system.

Working with teams

Getting all the team members on board can lead to more positive outcomes. Teams need support and training in AAC and how to work with the AAC user. Hands on practice of skills such as modeling and communication partner skills will help teams to support an AAC user better.

Practical time to plan and prepare for AAC in everyday activities will also help. Encourage and support all team members to ask questions and ask for help.

With people on board, AAC can be better supported across different environments.

Collect videos

Take videos and photos of AAC users using their system in different environments. These videos can be shown to other team members to highlight strategies that work, and even examples of things that have not worked. They are also a great way of tracking progress. Videos are a solid teaching tool - they provide real examples of AAC in action.

Overcome the Roadblock

Get AAC happening everywhere! Make AAC available and support teams to use it! There is so much to be achieved when we give a voice to AAC users!

With the help of the Learn AAC Guide you can see where you are in establishing AAC for an AAC user. This may help you overcome any roadblocks stopping you from success!

Links & references

  • Goossens, C., Crain, S., & Elder, P. (1992). Engineering the preschool environment for interactive, symbolic communication. Solana Beach, CA: Mayer – Johnson Company.
  • Hartmann, Amanda. Making a paper-based AAC book. [Blog post]
  • Hartmann, Amanda. Do's and Dont's of AAC - Access to AAC. [Blog post]
  • Romski, M., & Sevcik, R. A. (2005). Augmentative communication and early intervention: Myths and Realities. Infants and Young Children, 18, 174–185.