Gail Van Tatenhove
Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication
There is an adage used by teachers in the American education system that says, “You learn to communicate before you communicate to learn.” This saying reminds us that communication skills are the foundation for learning and that naturally developing children are generally competent communicators before they enter school. They use their foundational language skills to be successful in the classroom. This adage is not typically true for students using AAC systems. These students often enter school without competent communication skills and must work on these skills, while also trying to master school subjects. The reader is challenged to assess his or her role in the language development process of children using AAC systems. Speech-language pathologists will be encouraged to go beyond the role of programming AAC devices and return to the role of “language therapist.” Educators, who spend the majority of the school day with the student, are reminded that they hold the keys to augmentative communication success in schools. Their role is critical in supporting and applying language skills in the classroom.