Share What You Know

A clipboard with checkboxes and a pencil

Who are the experts on how a person with complex needs communicates? Usually, the experts are the people who are most familiar. When a person communicates without talking, familiar people are critical. Your insight into what the person means is most likely the most accurate. You might be asked to write down what you know. You might need to share information with new support people.

There are several ways to share this essential information.

  • Your daily notes offer some insight if you remember to include comments.
  • If you have permission, you can videotape or take photos of communication examples of the person to share with the team.
  • This downloadable Personal Communication Dictionary can be completed.
  • You can create a Communication Snapshot by clicking to complete an online form. You will receive the results in an email.
  • You can use the free online Communication Matrix.
  • You can also request a Communication Evaluation by a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist. This will probably be a lengthy process and you will need to also use one of the other tools in the meantime.

All of these ideas will help us share information. You can share a person’s unique communication methods. This way we can encourage deeper connections with others. Include any Grid, Snapshot or Matrix in a person’s ISP or service notes. Sometimes, these valuable pictures get lost or buried in paperwork. This is a real shame. Think about how you can share the information with your support team.


Print Materials

Alt image for concept handout

Related Videos

This video describes the seven of levels of communication competence from the Communication Matrix, a free online tool

Deepen Your Understanding

What is a formal Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Evaluation?

An evaluation means reviewing all the ways a person currently communicates and providing ideas for enhancing communication.

AAC evaluations must be done by a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist.

Depending on the person, a lot of the information may come from friends, family members, or staff. Other times, the assessor may use activities, apps, observations, or formal tests to learn about the person’s communication strengths and challenges.


Many school districts in Pennsylvania use an assessment tool called The SETT Framework. Joy Zabala developed the SETT Framework to guide team decision making for selecting AAC/AT. SETT stands for Student, Environment, Tasks, and Tools. You can modify this framework to fit the population you work with.


Trying AAC Devices In order to ensure that the device being recommended will be a good fit, there should be a trial period. If you are considering having the communication device paid through insurance, you will need to have a trial period that includes data and anecdotes from family, teachers, therapists, etc. that show how successful the trial period was.

Communication Partners

Successful implementation of any new communication system is not simply the responsibility of the user. All those around that individual must see how their behavior and expectations impact their success. Communication Partners training can help the entire team “set the stage” for communication. Strategies may include providing choices within daily routines, not anticipating every want and need, and modeling communication with the user on their device.

  • Use the AAC device together
  • Have a conversation
  • Respond to your partner
  • Explore and don’t worry about being perfect!