Friday, May 15, 2015

What's So Different About AAC Intervention? 3 Things to know.

There are a variety of schools of thought about how to begin to provide intervention and where to begin with AAC.  

Many believe that it is necessary to start at the child’s level in order for them to develop functional communication.  While there are NO prerequisites to communication, many believe there is a logical order of developmental sequence (with the exception of many practitioners of applied behavior analysis and consistent providers of aided language stimulation).  Too often this leads to underestimation of the learner and restraints on the system provided.

1. The research shows that teaching words with a variety of uses and functions for communicating is important for AAC users to become effective communicators.  Unfortunately, too often the first thing taught to children with complex communication needs is nouns.  The focus is often on meeting basic wants and needs, or avoiding behavioral problems by providing what the child wants to ask for.  However, a close look at the child’s environment shows that, for the most part, basic needs and wants are met, and caregivers know what the child wants when it is a concrete or preferred item or activity.  As a result, the AAC user ends up being able to label items without being able to tell whether he likes them or not, wants them or not, has a problem with them or not, needs them moved, wants something different instead of them, or had one of them yesterday.


2. The second thing often taught to children with complex communication needs is specific sentence structures, whole message units, and/or specific carrier phrases.  The result is that they have little opportunity to learn language structures, little opportunity for spontaneous generation of novel utterances (SNUG), little opportunity to project their own intent upon messages, and that they have artificial sounding speech or voice output.

Some of the first phrases taught to AAC users are “I want,” and “I see.”  But how about “I don't want,” “Go away,” “Leave me alone,” “Something different,” “I need a break,” “Need help,” “He’s bugging me,” “Want to go,” or “It mine.”?


3. This growth of language development proceeds in essentially the same path in most typical language learners.  It should be the basis for AAC intervention that this path has consistency for all language learners, even while realizing that not all AAC learners will proceed on exactly the same path.  While it cannot be predicted in very young children how their language will development, it should be assumed that he will develop language “normally.”  Because learners with disabilities may end up with an ever-increasing gap between their current level of language development and that of their peers, it is crucial that intervention not maintain them at a pre-communication skills level.


What else? Effective intervention means providing structured opportunities to communicate, providing these opportunities over and over again, providing these opportunities in multiple contexts, and providing sufficient vocabulary to make these opportunities meaningful.

Now that I have my computer running again and many of my files are actually accessible, I'll be back with new posts.  So sorry I missed last week.  
I still need to reconstruct my computer documents and applications, but at least there is forward movement. Have I said, "I hate technology?"  Often.

Keep on talking with your aac users.


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