Assistive Technology for Communication
Lori L. Goehrig, MS CCC-SLP
What is AAC?
Students with severe speech or language difficulties who cannot use verbal speech effectively and efficiently may need another way to communicate. They may need Augmentative Alternative Communication or AAC to:
- learn language
- share information
- socialize with others
AAC can range from paper-based communication boards to high-tech voice output communication devices. Once the IEP or 504 team conducts an evaluation following the SETT Framework, they use this information to determine which communication systems to trial with the student. For those students physically unable to point or use a touchscreen, IEP and 504 teams can explore other access methods, such as:
- partner assisted scanning
- eye gaze
- head tracking
- switch control with scanning
View this video to learn about the different communication systems available to students:
Teaching Language and Communication Using AAC
Keep in mind, most students do not start communicating just because there is now a communication system in front of them.
Just as typical children require years, beginning in infancy, to become fluent talkers, students learning to communicate using an AAC system require much time and support. For students to learn to communicate using symbols, others in their environment need to communicate in symbols too. Just use the students' communication systems as you talk with them.
Check out the videos below to learn more about it. Symbols for the videos come from LessonPix Custom Learning Materials.
To explore these strategies more in-depth, visit the Project Core Website and complete the free online modules.
Where Do I Start?
Find out which words you should be teaching students on their communication systems.
Don't forget to teach students the words needed to communicate for all the reasons we all communicate, especially socializing and building relationships with others.
Adapted from Augmentative and Alternative Communication Clinic - One Kids Place - Ontario, Canada (2019)
Find out how to model and use those words on students' communication systems.
Loudon County Public Schools Assistive Technology
What Do I Actually Say?
Find out how to teach students who have not yet realized they are supposed to be communicating, or those who are still using behaviors like crying or gesturing to communicate.
Find out two strategies to enhance vocabulary development and meaningful language in context.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Find out how much prompting you should be doing. You want to inspire students to communicate, not require them to communicate.
Find out how students with vision or motor challenges can learn language and communication.
Find out how students with motor challenges can learn language and communication.
Fun Things to Talk About at Home
Find out some activities and conversations that might interest you and your child. Talk about what you and your child are seeing, hearing, doing, thinking, or feeling. Model words on your child's communication system as you interact with him. Keep modeling and eventually, your child just might say something to you.
Adapted from AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom
Find out more information about using an AAC device at home.
The Center for AAC & Autism
Find out what it means to be a good communication partner for your AAC user.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Clinic - One Kids Place - Ontario, Canada (2019)