R. Michael Marker, Sanae Akaba, Nancy C. Brady, & Kathy Thiemann-Bourque
Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Little is known about how AAC use in preschool may impact language development for children with complex communication needs (e.g., children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities). We developed two surveys (a) to describe children's use of AAC in preschool classrooms, as well as the use of prompts and question asking, and augmented input by their communication partners; and (b) to describe teachers’ experience, training, and perceived support in providing AAC. We then examined the relationship between children's experience of AAC, including the use of prompts, question asking, and augmented input by their partners, and the growth of receptive and expressive language for 71 children with developmental disabilities over a two-year period. The use of AAC by peers to provide augmented input was associated with stronger language growth; the use of prompting and question asking by teachers was associated with weaker language growth. Teachers reported that they received little training regarding ways to support a child's use of AAC. Results suggest the need for further research on promoting AAC use at the preschool level, including research to promote peer interactions for AAC users.