How Do I Provide Therapy for AAC Users? Try This.

Speech-Language Pathologists often ask me how to do therapy with aac users on their caseload.  They want to know what to do and how to work with this student who is different from all of their others.  My answer often surprises them: Do the same things.

AAC users need to learn to use language just like the rest of the kids on your caseload.  What is different is the mode of their responses.  Now, it’s not quite so easy as that, of course, because, unlike your other students, AAC users can’t just rely on saying the words they have in their heads.  These students have to rely on the words they have in their aac systems - which is often not sufficient for saying what they want.

In talking about AAC evaluations, Gayle Porter often refers to the “Catch 22” of aac assessment.  That is, that we can only see what the child is doing with what he has been provided.  If we think this is all he can do then we don’t provide anything more.  If we don’t provide anything more, then he never learns more.

The next step is teaching the student where all of  the words are in the system.  And then, of course, just like we do with any of our students, we need to teach when and how to use these words.  And that is where good old-fashioned speech-language intervention comes in.

So, now I have taken 3 paragraphs to get to the point.  Which is, that many of the intervention activities we do with our other language delayed or disordered kids can be used with our aac users.  So, today I am going to give you one example.

I have a fun activity I used to do with both my students with language learning disordered and with developmental disabilities in therapy.  It’s a take on the “I Spy” type of activities.
I create a visual scene - and this can be done with any level of complexity or simplicity - full of interesting and colorful objects in no particular order or arrangement.  This is actually pretty fun to do.

The next step can be done one of 2 ways.  For students who need the help of a visual cue to get started,  make 2 copies of the scene.  One of them gets cut apart so that each of the pictures is a separate little piece.  This creates a “draw” pile from which students choose.  They keep this to themselves while they try to provide sufficient descriptive and locative information for other students - or just you - to guess what it is.

The other way to play involves letting the student(s) choose which image to describe.  One warning, though:  Some students tend to pick the same 1 or 2 items each time.  Other students in the group might catch onto this.

I have done this activity many, many times with a wide variety of students.  For AAC users, the activity focuses them on use of a variety of vocabulary.  And these words are usually all core words!  Adjectives, prepositions, verbs of function - these are all core words that should be on any AAC user’s system.

Here is a free mystery picture hunt scene for you to use.  Go here to download the whole resource, which includes the images laid out in a neat, easy-to-cut-apart  grid.  Make your own, or find another in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.

Keep on talking.


  1. What helpful information here. Cutting and pasting activities are also so good for hand eye coordination. A win win situation here.

    1. Thanks, Deann. Glad you found the information helpful.

  2. Thanks for the informative blog post. I love the "I Spy" activity.