Do’s and Don’ts of AAC: Pulling It All Together

In May this year we (David Niemeijer and Jane Farrall) teamed up for a presentation at the AGOSCI 2015 Conference on the Do’s and Don’ts of Implementing Real Communication Through AAC.  We strongly believe that every single one of us has a right to communicate.

Overall, we recognize that communication:

We are also aware that there are practices in AAC implementation that lead to better outcomes for every individual with complex communication needs – and, just as importantly, there are practices that lead to poorer outcomes for those same individuals. As we always focus on communication for all, we felt it was important to address both the do’s and don’ts together, since sometimes addressing only the good practices might mean the bad ones don’t get tackled too!

So, for International AAC Awareness Month this year we decided to turn the presentation into a poster so we could more easily share the key points.

Almost immediately there were questions about the poster.  In particular, the item “Don’t create custom pages for specific activities”.  This sparked a series of blog posts, expanding on different points of the Do’s and Don’ts of AAC poster, written either by the team at AssistiveWare or Jane Farrall.

Today’s blog post will pull all of these together into one resource for easier reference when used in conjunction with the poster.

 Do’s Don’ts
Do use the AAC system to talk yourself Don’t expect the AAC user to communicate without you modelling how
Do aim high Don’t demand prerequisite skills
Do use a well designed, comprehensive vocabulary e.g. core vocabulary or PODD Don’t provide an AAC system with only a handful of choices
Do provide wait time Don’t do all the talking
Do ask open-ended questions Don’t ask questions the AAC user knows you already know the answer to
Do focus on key words when modelling Don’t think you always need to model grammatically correct sentences
Do respect multi-modal communication Don’t say, “Now use your talker”
Do allow exploration and access to the whole vocabulary Don’t create custom pages for specific activities
Do make sure AAC is available all day, every day Don’t limit access to the AAC system
Do describe what you want to say using core words Don’t focus on adding lots of vocabulary

And remember – communication happens all day, every day and we are all responsible for making sure this happens for everyone.


Jane Farrall & David Niemeijer

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Comments (2)

  1. Reply

    Love the list. I’d recommend one more “do” based on (a) a lifetime of observing folks use AAC, often quite well, but finding relatively greater needs in literacy and (b) the importance of spelling to unique and personal communication needs. “Do include full access to the entire alphabet with whatever AAC system you develop from Day #1.”

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