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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Top 10 Traits of an AAC Classroom

Back in January, I wrote a guest post for the News2You blog in which I discussed 3 key issues in AAC implementation and support.
First, I listed the Top 10 Traits of an effective AAC classroom.  I was asked this question by an advocate during an IEP meeting.
Second, I summarized the Top 3 Issues of AAC classrooms.  They included programming, planning, and organizing.
Third, I discussed the 1st Best Thing to Do in an AAC classroom at the beginning of every year - Back. It. Up. Now.

So, because I think it is important to remember these things at the beginning of a new school year, here are my Top 10 Traits of an AAC Classroom:

1. Students who do not have sufficient verbal language skills to meet all of their communication needs have an AAC system that offers them at least basic core vocabulary.

2.  Staff are consistently using Aided Language Stimulation and modeling, and are familiar enough with the students’ systems to do so effectively.

3.  Staff redirect students to their AAC systems if they are not understood, or if they are relying on gesture and body actions when they are able to use more standard modes.

4.  Staff model and require communication for a variety of functions - not just requesting.

5.  AAC users are being taught literacy skills using effective teaching strategies.

6.  Staff repeat, affirm and then elaborate student responses.

7.  AAC skills are taught and reinforced in natural, contextual activities, not drill formats.

8.  Core vocabulary is taught, reinforced and expanded continuously, and topical materials for the classroom are modified to use core words.  Teachers are teaching descriptively, not referentially.

9.  Student narrative skills are a focus of classroom activities.

10.  Conversational interactions are a focus of classroom activities.

So, those are my top 10.  How do your rooms add up?
Start the year right for your AAC users and...
Keep on Talking.


  1. What advise do you have for teachers who see this list and burst out laughing :) That’s a lot of time taken away from academics. I definitely think this is important but I know teachers don’t all agree

  2. Try showing them how this fits IN with academics and meeting student goals. Do a structured activity with AAC users to show teachers how to work in Aided Input, find a student whose disruptive behavior you can reduce with communication. Make snack time interactive, Do what you can to provide good models for them. Remind them students can't learn the academics unless they can respond to it, access it. It can be slow going to get teacher buy-in. Take your time and let them know it's a journey - just like teaching any new content is. Go where you can make an impact and let them see it. That's how you get buy-in. Good luck!