Sunday, May 24, 2015

Is There More Than the Core? Beyond Single Words for AAC Users.

Intervention in AAC needs to continue beyond basic core vocabulary building.  As with all students who lag in language skills, such skills as syntax development, narrative structure and conversational skills need to be considered.


A variety of strategies have been explored to teach conversational skills to AAC users with severe disabilities, including several that emphasize teaching these skills in natural, genuine settings.  Social interactions are important in increasing quality of life, with access to interpersonal relationships, access to curriculum, and access to community resources.

In one intervention, Hunt et al (1988) provided students with AAC conversation books including topical photographs arranged by environment and special events.  Systematic instruction in turn-taking skills was then provided, along with typical peers with whom to interact.  In addition to increased interaction skills, students’ use of inappropriate behaviors to attract and maintain attention decreased.


Musselwhite and Burkhart provide students with structured instruction in understanding the parts of a conversation and the types of responses used in each.  Their Can We Chat program scaffolds conversations using sequenced social scripts for a variety of social interaction purposes. Scripts provide opportunities for social interactions where partners do not need to wait for messages to be constructed or formulated, but where AAC users themselves have the opportunity to create their own messages.  Even single switch users can have opportunities to engage in genuine communication that is motivating, self-initiated, and used with a variety of partners.


Westby refers to the “Oral Literate Continuum.”  It is crucial for AAC users to develop the ability to tell about an event that happened to them on the way to developing academic discourse skills.  

Here is an example of an activity I use in intervention when more practice is needed in generating utterances beyond the single word level.  SLPs use lots of pictures in therapy.  Download these two pages of picture-based practice for making phrases and sentences. (I bet you thought you were done with snow.)



Keep on talking.

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