Ready or Not?

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Are there certain skills a person needs before starting to learn AAC? We used to think that was true. Sometimes people don’t start AAC because the person needs some basic skills. The team or family might say; “This person…
– doesn’t want to communicate.
– doesn’t understand “cause and effect”.
– forgets that something exists if it is not visible.
– isn’t following directions.
– isn’t matching or identifying pictures.
– doesn’t look at other people in the eye.

Our thinking has changed. We now know there are no required skills to start AAC. A person can learn many skills at the same time. If we help a person communicate, we help develop the other skills. AAC can be an important part of a person wanting to communicate.

AAC can help someone learn cause and effect. Cause and effect is a relationship between events or things. One is the result of the other. One common way to show cause and effect is with a “first – then” statement. First – wash the dishes. Then – watch TV.

Does the person forget that something exists if it is not visible? AAC can help someone learn object permanence. Typical learning of this idea happens at the same time a person is learning to communicate.

We can introduce AAC at a young age. AAC can be useful in teaching picture recognition and matching. AAC can help someone learn to follow directions.

AAC is always a choice for an individual without oral language.


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A person with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities is respected and provided choices.

Deepen Your Understanding

Who Can Benefit From AAC
The currently accepted evidence in the literature suggests that no specific skills are prerequisite for successful use of AAC in the broadest sense. AAC is an intervention approach that can be the beginning of communication development for an individual. A number of AAC options are available to begin the intervention process.

The decision to introduce AAC should be made in consultation with a team of professionals who can assist with issues specific to system/device prescription, procurement, and use. The lead professional in this endeavor will typically be the SLP. Others who might be involved include but are not limited to occupational therapists, physical therapists, rehabilitation engineers, special educators, vision specialists, audiologists, and psychologists. Finally, when considering AAC, parents and professionals must remember that there are no prerequisites to AAC use. That is, all individuals should have access to AAC systems or devices that promote effective communication.

Bottom Line: AAC is probably right for an individual when he or she presents with a severe expressive communication impairment that interferes with or prevents development and use of oral language.