PrAACtical Thinking 5 Things Not to Say to AAC Learners

Published on May 24th, 2013 | by Carole Zangari

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5 Things Not to Say to AAC Learners

People who are learning to express themselves with AAC need to build their self-concept as competent communicators.  One of the ways we can support that process is by being careful about the ways in which we refer to their communication. Here are a few things we try to avoid saying.

  1. “Show me [on your device].”  (Instead, build the language of communication, with directives such as “Tell me” or “Say it.”)

  2. “Press the switch.” (Instead, refer to the function that the switch is being used for. E.g., “Make it go”) See Ian Bean’s great post on this subject.

  3. “Tell me on your talker.” (If they tell you one way, and you understood the message…celebrate, reward, and encourage! If you make them repeat themselves using a different strategy, they may come to view communication using AAC as a chore. And that’s not so good for motivation…)

  4. “I know you can do it. You did it yesterday. You’re just being stubborn.” (There are lots of good reasons for inconsistency but even if that wasn’t so, there is no room for calling someone stubborn in a professional context.)

  5. “Hurry up.” (Just. Wait.)

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About the Author

Carole Zangari

Carole Zangari has been involved in the practice and teaching of AAC for over 20 years. She is a professor of speech-language pathology and has been fortunate to have been able to introduce many children and adults to the world of AAC. "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." Theodore Roosevelt



6 Responses to 5 Things Not to Say to AAC Learners

  1. Kim Marie says:

    No. 5 is my favorite sermon! :)
    Great list!

    • Carole Zangari Carole Zangari says:

      Ha! You’re in good company there, Kim! We’re preaching this all the time to our grad students; Easier said than done. :) Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Much appreciated!!

  2. OK, first, Carole I didn’t realize this was your blog! SOO funny–read it and it wasn’t until I went to comment that I realized it was you. Which makes my comment of how happy I am about this blog post as I feel myself repeating these things all the time! Thanks and good to “see” you!

    Chris
    Autism Classroom News

    • Carole Zangari Carole Zangari says:

      Hey, Chris! Thanks so much for stopping by!! How funny!! Anyway, glad the post was of interest. Do you feel like a broken record sometimes? I know I do! Looking forward to seeing you in Orlando next month. :)

  3. Kristina says:

    Great list! I’ve never commented before, but I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying this blog. This blog and facebook page are what made us try AAC and what has being guiding us through these first few months!

    I’d love to hear more about the reasons for inconsistency you mentioned in number 4. We find that what our son can say (verbally or on the talker) varies so much from day to day. It always bothers me when his therapists and teachers assume that just because he said something once he should be able to say it all the time. I’d love to hear your opinion on this in a future post.

    • Carole Zangari Carole Zangari says:

      Kristina, wow! Your comment that PrAACtical AAC blog and FB made an impact on your decision has us smiling from ear to ear!! I will write a post on the issue of inconsistency, but there are both neurological bases for it in some cases and also environmental considerations. We sometimes (wrongly) assume that the issue is one of ‘will’ (meaning they don’t want to do it) versus ‘skill’ (meaning that they do/don’t have the ability to produce a response in that moment). To be fair, I think it’s an issue that people don’t always understand so they misinterpret the child’s lack of responding as a behavioral trait. Thanks for giving me the idea to write about this. Now, if I could just free up some time…

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